Hopkins is first female baseball scout in more than 50 years

Amanda Hopkins (AP)
Updated 18 August 2017
0

Hopkins is first female baseball scout in more than 50 years

SEATTLE: Nearly two years ago, Amanda Hopkins’ phone rang. It was a call she dreamt of receiving, one that broke barriers and made her a part of baseball history.
Almost immediately, her competitiveness took over.
“She put a sign up on her bedroom door saying, ‘Stay out, we’re opponents,’” recalled her father, Ron Hopkins, a special assistant to the general manager for the Pittsburgh Pirates. “In other words, my bedroom is off limits to you, there is info in here. I got a kick out of it.”
The 24-year-old Hopkins is now about to complete her second year as an area scout for the Seattle Mariners. Her responsibility is the Four Corners area of the Southwest, taking her to destinations like Greely, Colorado, and Hobbs, New Mexico, two of the more challenging places to get to from her base in the Phoenix area.
She is also the first full-time female baseball scout in more than 50 years, breaking through a barrier that required diligence on her end and willingness by the Mariners organization.
Yet, Hopkins does not view herself through that prism or want to be viewed as a trailblazer. She’s a scout. That’s it.
“I think if anything people are more shocked sometimes when I will go meet with a player in the office or something like that. Maybe they just know, hey the Mariners’ scout is coming in to meet with you today and they walk in and they’re like, ‘Oh.’ That kind of thing,” Hopkins said. “It’s usually more of like a shocked look. But then they’re more curious, they’re like, ‘How’d you get into this?’ And they kind of like want a brief rundown of how I got to where I am. All the players, all the coaches, are incredibly respectful to me.”
While she is believed to be the first full-time baseball scout since Edith Houghton in the middle of the 20th century, Hopkins has been around baseball since she was a child.
She traveled with her father to games, regularly making trips to the Alaskan Summer League or the Cape Cod League in summers. She would run the radar gun and pass along the speeds to her dad when she was as young as 8. It was obvious early on she possessed the same critical eye as her dad.
“She learned at an early age the difference between a curveball and a slider. As she got older it just sort of grew on her,” Ron said.
“I’d go out with my dad and they’d be like ‘Oh what do you want to do when you grow up?’ And I’d tell them, ‘I want to be a baseball scout,’” Amanda said. “It’s like this little girl telling them that and it’s like, ‘Oh that’s cute. She wants to be like her dad.’ But really, I think it was kind of like she’ll grow out of it. That’s kind of what everyone thought.”
Instead, her passion for the job only grew. She majored in psychology while playing softball at Central Washington University, yet that failed to satisfy the desire to be around baseball.
“The whole time I was in there I wanted to be a baseball scout,” Hopkins said. “And I remember probably my freshman year, sophomore year, I was like I really don’t want to do anything but that. So why am I trying to almost talk myself out of it and find a different path?“
Hopkins served as an intern in Seattle’s baseball operations department in the summer of 2014, but worked mostly with amateur scouting. A year later, she was sponsored by the Mariners to attend scout school and about a month after returning she got the offer.
“I was a little nervous myself because I knew she was going to be breaking a little bit of a barrier and she was pretty young,” said Tom McNamara, who hired Hopkins and is currently a special assistant to the general manager with the Mariners. “I went into Jerry (Dipoto’s) office and I had a lump in my throat and I said, ‘This is what I want to do.’ And he was all for it. He didn’t even hesitate.”
When she was hired in December 2015, Hopkins was reluctant to talk about her place in baseball history. She wanted more experience as a professional before speaking about a career that was just getting started.
“She was down in Arizona in the beginning and I would check on her and finally she said, ‘Tom, I’m OK. You don’t need to check on me every other day,’” McNamara recalled.
Hopkins was part of a panel earlier this week about women in baseball organized by the Mariners. She is starting to get comfortable with the history she has made. But she doesn’t want that to be her entire story in baseball.
“I have so much to learn still. This is such a profession that takes so many years to fully understand and you’re continually learning,” Hopkins said. “My dad, 40 years into scouting, is still learning something every time he goes to the park. So I definitely think that I just want to be the best area scout I can be right now. But I love the scouting aspect of it. I really think that I want to stay in the scouting side of the game.”


KSA’s martial arts heroine: ‘I got into kickboxing by coincidence, as I just wanted to join a gym’

Updated 19 March 2019
0

KSA’s martial arts heroine: ‘I got into kickboxing by coincidence, as I just wanted to join a gym’

  • Young Saudi triumphant at Open International Tournament despite just two years of training
  • Zahra Al-Qurashi took the gold in the women’s 70 kg category, beating Jordanian Heba Wasfi

JEDDAH: Zahra Al-Qurashi never expected to be where she is today: A gold medal winner in full contact kickboxing at the Open International Tournament for Clubs aged just 21. What started out as a gym class two years ago soon turned into a passion, leading to her victory in Amman on Sunday.

“I got into kickboxing by coincidence, as I just wanted to join a gym. I found the class and gave it a try, and decided to keep attending the classes,” she said. “A year ago, I joined Flagboxing Gym, and started training with my coach Grethe (Kraugerud). With her help, I developed my style and I am improving every day.”

Full contact is a discipline of kickboxing where punches and kicks must be delivered to legal areas of the body. According to the World Association for Kickboxing Organizations’ rules, it is legal to attack the front of the head and front and side of the torso, using “ankle-level foot sweeps.” It is prohibited to attack the throat, lower abdomen, back, legs, joints, back of the head and top of the shoulders.

A medal at her first international competition, then, speaks volumes about Al-Qurashi’s tenacity. She took the gold in the women’s 70 kg category, beating Jordanian Heba Wasfi.

“As soon as I entered the ring, everything went blank, I couldn’t hear or see anyone but my opponent, so I don’t really recall hearing my name even,” said Al-Qurashi. “I got a couple of really good kicks and punches, but she was a good opponent. I was in my own zone though, following every move and made sure I didn’t make mistakes.”

Zahra Al-Quraishi, 21, is already a gold medal winner at an international event despite being a virtual rookie in the demanding sport of kickboxing. (Supplied photos)

Hala Al-Hamrani, the owner of Flagboxing Gym in Jeddah, said: “I am over the moon. I have dreamt about this happening for 16 years, ever since I started coaching. My goal was to eventually provide the ladies of this country with an opportunity to compete.”

For approximately two months, Kraugerud, from Norway, oversaw Al-Qurashi’s workouts, adding more sparring, interval training and intense ring practice.

“I’ve had Zahra spar with men, who are bigger and stronger than her, to give her a sense of what to expect in the ring, to give her more confidence and make her mentally prepared,” said Kraugerud. “I was very proud of her as she entered the ring, you could see the respect for the sport reflected in her. We did a really good job at Flag, we really pushed for this together as a team. She’s young, but she’s talented and she will go far.”

Al-Hamrani, a member of the Saudi Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) Federation, added: “We got her ready by providing her with the right practice and training. It’s a dream come true and it’s very overwhelming because it was such a long process for something like this to happen. Zahra is an up-and-coming athlete who hopefully has a long future and I’m extremely excited to see what that future holds.”

Abdul Aziz Julaidan, chairman of the Saudi MMA Federation, hailed the result after a tough bout between the two competitors, and thanked Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, chairman of the General Sport Authority, for the support he had given to the team.

Upon returning to her hometown of Jeddah, Al-Qurashi was greeted by her mother. “I was hugging her and crying and mom, being mom, asked if I was crying because I got hit,” she laughed. “That was her way of saying: I’m proud of you.”