Grand Island native Terry Wetzel has had a long, successful career as a Major League Baseball scout.
The Grand Island Senior High graduate has earned several scout of the year awards and been inducted into three different halls of fame, including the Professional Baseball Scouts Hall of Fame in 2018.
And he’s also been a part of organizations that have reached the World Series in each of his stops, something that is no guarantee when only one franchise out of 30 claims baseball’s biggest prize every year.
Wetzel achieved his World Series trifecta last week when the Washington Nationals claimed their first championship. Wetzel is the special assistant to the general manager and president of baseball operations for the Nationals.
“You didn’t think this would happen when we started 19-31, but it’s an unbelievable feeling,” Wetzel said. “We knew that we had a good team, but we didn’t start the year out well.
“Winning a World Series is a great feeling. I’ve been doing this for 30-some years, and it doesn’t happen often.”
Wetzel got his first taste of being part of a World Series winning organization early in his career. After starting out with the Kansas City Royals in 1983, he was part of that organization’s scouting staff when it won the title in ‘85.
That was also a memorable ride for Wetzel. The Royals trailed Toronto 2-0 in the American League Championship Series before falling behind St. Louis 2-0 and 3-1 in the World Series.
Wetzel — a Concordia University graduate who got his masters of education in educational psychology from Valparaiso University — went on to become part of the Colorado Rockies organization for 14 years, including when the Rox made their lone World Series appearance in 2007.
He has been in his current position with Washington for the past six years.
“It has been great,” he said. “(Nationals’ general manager) Mike Rizzo puts a strong emphasis on scouting and player development. I hated to leave Colorado, but when (Washington) asked for permission to interview me, I knew it would be a special opportunity.”
Wetzel has his hand in many areas of scouting, from evaluating major league and amateur players to doing advance scouting on future opponents. For the playoffs, he was part of the Nationals’ scouting staff that focused on the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals.
Once the World Series began, Wetzel could only watch. The Overland Park, Kansas, resident was in the nation’s capital for games 3-5.
And it was a World Series that proved that anything can happen in baseball. The home fans didn’t leave happy once in the seven-game series with the visitors winning each time out.
“That’s been the talk of all the people nationally,” Wetzel said. “It has never happened before in any sport, and it probably won’t happen again. It was surprising especially with how well the Astros had played at home.”
It was a nerve-wracking postseason for anyone association with the Nationals. The first World Series title came only after the team went 5-0 in elimination games and kept finding a way to come from behind.
Wetzel appreciates being able to contribute to a championship team and said he’ll never take this for granted.
“I’m very fortunate,” he said. “Some people play, coach or scout in baseball for 30-plus years and never get to a World Series. I’ve been part of organizations that have won it twice, and I got there with the Rockies in ‘07 even though we didn’t win it.
“It’s a great honor to even get into the playoffs. Over the years, Washington has won 97 or 98 games but then things happen and we’ve lost in the first round.”
The excitement from this championshp will continue throughout the offseason, although there is still plenty of work to be done for someone in Wetzel’s postion.
“It slows down a little during the offseason, but there are still winter league games in Latin American, the Dominican and Puerto Rico to scout,” he said. “The major league meetings are in December. We’ll try to do our best to reload and figure out the best free agents to focus on.”
Dale Miller is a sports writer for the Independent.