At 17, Matt Doughty believed he had reached the pinnacle of his baseball career.
That was eight years ago, when the Roanoke native was selected for an autumn showcase event for high school players. He struck out twice. His team got crushed.
The performance itself, though, was secondary, because he got to put on his spikes and take the field at Salem Memorial Ballpark.
“I thought playing on this field was the coolest thing I would ever do,” Doughty said last Thursday, after watching the Salem Red Sox and Lynchburg Hillcats take batting practice at Haley Toyota Field. “If you would have told 17-year-old me that I would be here scouting trade prospects for a major league club in the future, I definitely would have pinched myself then — and now.”
Yes, there have been a few higher points for him since that showcase.
Doughty dogpiled with teammates in Omaha after winning the 2015 College World Series title as a walk-on relief pitcher at UVa. He spent a year interning in MLB’s offices in New York City. He received a World Series ring from the Washington Nationals after their championship in 2019. He communicated regularly with manager Joe Girardi while spending last summer with the Philadelphia Phillies.
And now the game has taken the 25-year-old North Cross graduate across the country to Seattle — a city he’d never visited before December — where he’s a first-year scouting analyst for the Mariners.
“It’s funny all the things I’ve lucked into over my baseball career,” Doughty said. “I guess when you’re around the game long enough, it kind of happens like that.”
The son of Virginia Hall of Fame sportswriter Doug Doughty, Matt stayed with his parents last week as he spent three nights scouting potential trade targets for the Mariners. He arrived early for BP, then sat behind the plate with his radar gun and his notebook to evaluate prospects on the Salem and Lynchburg rosters.
The trip was a change of pace for Doughty, who primarily conducts video scouting, advance scouting and administrative duties with the big-league club.
“This was an opportunity to kind of recalibrate my eyes as to projecting guys for the future,” he said. “Just seeing different levels of players, different positions, and just anybody that would pop as to somebody we would like to acquire down the line or just get more information on.”
Doughty’s playing career ended after that triumphant 2015 season — his freshman year at UVa. A wave of new recruits came in, and the submarining pitcher was told there was no room for him on the roster.
“If I’m being honest, I knew I had a limited future playing the game,” Doughty said. “I just loved the game so much that it was part of my calling that I wanted to find a way to impact it other than playing after it was over.”
After earning his UVa degree in public policy and leadership in 2018, Doughty landed an internship at the commissioner’s office in New York. The contacts he made there helped him break in with the Nationals, who sent him to their Double-A affiliate in Harrisburg in a scouting and analytics role.
Big names such as Trevor Rosenthal, Michael A. Taylor and Ryan Zimmerman (a fellow UVa alum and Doughty’s favorite player as a kid) came through Harrisburg that summer on rehab assignments.
When the Nats won the World Series, they sent him a ring.
“That’s very nice, but I had completely minimal impact on that,” Doughty said with a laugh. “I got a ring, but I really think that was a nice gesture by the ownership for their first championship that they gave one to everybody in the organization. But at the same time, that’s what makes great organizations, is that they treat people on the lowest rung of the ladder with the same type of respect as the executives.”
Last year, Doughty was with the Phillies, using analytics to aid the team’s base running and catchers’ defense. Seeing his efforts quantified with results on the field fed his competitive nature.
“What I do now is not necessarily the same thing,” he said. “But I think you have to kind of have that killer instinct in the player-acquisition world, the scouting world, to try to uncover that next gem or find the next guy that’s going to help you win a title with your current organization.”
The job requires sacrifice and long hours, but there’s nothing Doughty would rather be doing. On Thursday, he fit right in with the other scouts — several of whom have been doing this for decades.
“The scouting community is a really interesting one,” Doughty said. “Everybody is incredibly friendly. Everybody’s willing to impart wisdom from doing it for a long time, and I’m very thankful for that.
“I’ve been imparting local restaurant recommendations or where to stay next time they’re trying to get a hotel here. So at least I can bring something to the table for them.”
He also can say something they probably can’t: He played on that field once.
It was great, but it’s only gotten better.
Contact sports columnist Aaron McFarling at 540-981-3423 or firstname.lastname@example.org.