Astros scout Rusty Pendergrass has built a stellar reputation throughout Major League Baseball over the years with his credibility and skill for spotting major league-caliber talent on the high school and collegiate level.
As the Texas area scout for the Astros’ organization, he’s been responsible for the signing of All-Stars Hunter Pence and Ben Zobrist (Tampa Bay Rays), as well as Matt Albers, Philip Barzilla, Koby Clemens, Collin DeLome, Troy Patton, Mark Saccomanno and Ross Seaton.
Last season, Pendergrass signed former St. Pius (Texas) High School and Texas A&M right-hander Scott Migl as a 34th-round pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft and undrafted right-hander R.J. Alaniz of Juarez-Lincoln (Texas) High School at a tryout camp in August.
In recognition of his standout work, Pendergrass was honored last Saturday by being named the 2010 Red Murff Scout of the Year at the Texas High School Coaches Association’s annual banquet in Waco, Texas.
“It’s a great honor to receive the award,” Pendergrass said via a phone interview. “Murff was a great scout and friend to me. He was a great man who would tell me about players. I would stop by the Tyler, Texas nursing home where he lived later in his life to visit.”
Murff holds a significant place in baseball history as the New York Mets scout who signed Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan. When the legendary right-hander gave his 1999 Hall of Fame induction speech, he made reference to his friendship with Murff.
The presentation of the award added even more significant meaning to Pendergrass.
“At the banquet, Roger Clemens, Koby Clemens and my good friend, David Sitton, the president of the Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association, were there to give me the award,” he said. “I’ve known Roger for years and I signed Koby. Also, I’ve known David ever since he was 13-years-old. We’re just so happy that he’s okay and alive today.”
Sitton, the head baseball coach at Humble High School, was involved in a near fatal motorcycle accident at the 6900 block of FM 1960 in Atascocita, Texas on Jan. 12, 2009 when an oncoming SUV unexpectedly turned left and hit him.
He sustained several injuries, including brain trauma, a cracked pelvis and multiple hand and face fractures. Through prayers and the loving support of family and friends, Sitton made a miraculous recovery and hopes to be back on the field with Humble for the 2010 season.
Pendergrass also credits the Astros’ organization for their support.
“The Houston Astros have been tremendous by putting me in position to do well,” he said. “It’s a great organization with great people who are always supportive of me in my job. I love signing big leaguers and it’s been a good year for me watching Hunter Pence and Ben Zobrist emerge as All-Stars.”
Since the hiring of assistant general manager of scouting Bobby Heck on Oct. 24, 2007, the Astros have managed to sign 32 of its 52 draft picks in 2008, as well as an astonishing 35 out of 51 in 2009.
With the demands of being a big league scout, Pendergrass, who resides in Missouri City, Texas, still enjoys hitting the road and signing difference-making prospects that can help the Astros win in the long-run.
“I love my job,” Pendergrass added. “It can be a long time away from home driving in the car, but it’s worth it. The goal of the organization is to get the Astros back to the World Series and it’s our job as scouts to sign talent.”