KANSAS CITY -- Almost every day before a game at Kauffman Stadium, the baseball scouts gather at one end of the press box. They sit and they talk, and very often, Art Stewart is at the center of the group, telling stories.
Stewart has a lot of stories to tell, because at 87, he's been scouting in seven decades. He's a great storyteller and that's why it's our good fortune that he's decided to put his tales in a book, "The Art of Scouting," being published on Thursday by Ascend Books.
What co-author Sam Mellinger, a Kansas City Star columnist, has done so well is capture the cadence, the spirit and the enthusiasm of Stewart. It's like you're sitting right there with the scouts, listening to ol' Art tell a story. Or two or three.
Listen to how the Royals wound up with Heisman Trophy winner Bo Jackson opting to play baseball all because a scout, Kenny Gonzales, got to know Bo so well. Almost everybody figured Jackson would go first to pro football, even when he made a pre-Draft visit to Kansas City, where he met the Royals' players including George Brett. There apparently was lingering doubt that Jackson really would play baseball.
"Everyone is nice as can be," Stewart writes, "but then as Bo is walking out of the clubhouse, George shouts from across the room, 'Good luck in football, Bo!'
"Bo stops in his tracks, storms back, and for a second there I think he's going to take a swing at George. Instead, he points a finger right at him. 'Don't you bet on it,' he says."
Then Stewart tells how he decided to take Jackson in the fourth round of the Draft that year and how Jackson and Brett became close teammates.
Brett was something of a hidden treasure when he came along in 1971. Stewart writes that the Royals were debating whether or not to take pitcher Roy Branch in that year's first round.
One of the Royals' scouts advised: "If it doesn't work out with Branch, I definitely would take that young shortstop out of El Segundo."
That young shortstop was Brett. The Royals did take Branch -- and they got Brett, too, because he was still available when their turn came in the second round.
A scout with the Royals since just after their inaugural season in 1969, Stewart tells how they just missed signing Mariano Rivera, how they got a drafted Johnny Damon to finally agree to terms, how they debated between taking Zack Greinke or Prince Fielder.
Stewart started his scouting career with the Yankees, back in the days of Mickey Mantle.
One of Stewart's favorite tales is how he got the Yankees a prized pitching prospect out of Milwaukee, Mike Jurewicz. This was in 1962, before the Draft came into being, and it involved some scouting skullduggery.
Seems an Orioles scout was sweet-talking Jurewicz and his parents one night, just before Stewart had an appointment. Eager to know what the O's offer was, Stewart walked to the back of the house, found an unlocked basement door -- and went in. Stewart could hear every word upstairs through a vent, including the $12,000 offer.
"I probably could've been arrested, but at this point, I really wanted to sign the kid," Stewart writes.
And he did, upping the ante to $15,000. Jurewicz made his Yankee Stadium debut at age 19 in 1965, but his elbow blew out and he never pitched again.
"The elbow injury robbed him of a bigger place in baseball history," Stewart said. "But the fact that the Juewiczes didn't lock their back door means I'll never forget him."
There are stories about siphoning gas from a tractor (with the farmer's help) on the way to scout a kid named Alex Rodriguez, dodging bullets at a ballpark in the Dominican and scrambling away from rattlesnakes while changing a tire in rural Kansas.
Stewart is still at it, as senior adviser to Royals general manager Dayton Moore, and when he's not off on a special assignment, he's sitting with his radar gun behind home plate at Kauffman Stadium.
"He's at every game," Brett writes in his foreword to the book, "timing every guy down to first base, putting his radar gun on every guy's fastball and curveball and changeup. He knows when you're slacking off. He's like the eye in the sky for us. It can be 40 degrees and raining, and Art is in the first row watching. It can be 100 degrees and humid, and Art is in the first row watching."
Stewart tells us there's no reason for him to stop, it's all he's ever wanted to do.
"If you're living your dream," Stewart writes, "why would you want to wake up?"