The baseball life of Juneau-Douglas High School alum (1989) Tim Kissner took another rotation toward full circle on Monday when the Seattle Mariners delivered a hard, no nonsense, fastball right down the middle of the sporting world, announcing Kissner as Director of International Operations for the ball club.
Kissner, 41, accepted the position Thursday.
“I am just blessed,” Kissner said yesterday as he prepared to travel to the Dominican Republic where he will spend a week getting to know Mariners’ staff there, watching players in winter-league and instructional-league games, and interviewing potential scouts. “I am really excited and to be honest, I am pretty grateful. This is a nice promotion. Being from Juneau, I have always been a Mariners fan. My first pro game was in the Kingdome.”
Kissner stated he was eight years old when he attended that first Seattle game in 1979. The Mariners were playing the Milwaukee Brewers.
“I remember there was a bench clearing brawl,” Kissner laughed. “And Dave Kingman played for the Mariners. I think everyone in Juneau was a Mariners fan.”
Kissner replaces highly regard Bob Engle, who resigned on Oct. 5, and will over see all the Mariners international scouting operations, including all international scouts, Kissner will also work hand-in-hand with the Mariners Player Development department once international players are signed.
The Mariners also have a domestic scouting department that looks for amateur players in the United States for the June draft.
Kissner will be in charge of all Seattle scouting outside the amateur draft, working towards the July 2 international signing day when 16-year-olds can be signed outside the U.S. and Canada.
“The time of year will dictate where I am going,” Kissner said. “Most winter baseball will be in Latin America. Everything we are doing kind of revolves around scouting the young 15-year-olds who will be 16 on the signing day. But if a find a 17 year-old in Venezuela, the Dominican or Panama or wherever, we can sign them whenever we like.”
International scouts can sign players over age 16 at any time, unlike the domestic Major League amateur draft. Kissner will oversee a staff of around 20 scouts and will have the final decision on signing.
Mariners’ scouts in the Pacific Rim and Europe, including Japan, Taiwan, Korea, Australia, Panama, Mexico, Venezuela, Dominican Republic, and Europe will answer to Kissner.
Winter and the beginning of Spring will find Kissner mostly in Latin America. Summer will involve Europe and Asia. He will watch amateur and pro leagues in Japan. Winter could also find him in Australia.
“Really it depends on the time of year and what is going on and where,” Kissner said. “I have a few frequent flyer programs for sure.”
Kissner is no stranger to overseas scouting. From 2000-2010 he worked for the Philadelphia Phillies, at first scouting the Northwest and Southern California. He became the Phillies Pacific Rim coordinator, scouting in Japan, Taiwan, Korea, Australia, mainland China and Latin America and had success signing players. In 2008 alone Kissner spent 100 nights in Asia on scouting trips. He also won a World Series ring as a scout with the Phillies that year.
“Regardless which team you work for, the mass percentage of players will come from Latin America,” Kissner stated.
In 2011-2012 Kissner took a step up, becoming the Chicago Cubs West Coast Supervisor, or crosschecker, and would sort through extensive lists of players covering the 16 western states, and meshing them into a master list for the MLB draft.
Kissner stated in an earlier Empire interview that to sign and scout the best available players in the U.S., “You have to dream a lot of the time when watching 18-year-old high school kids, you have to dream and you can’t be afraid to make mistakes.
Kissner will now dream on a much larger playing field. According to Kissner, players are known for various attributes, specific to different countries.
In Japan and Korea, for instance, players are advanced at an extremely young age because they practice so much. That, however, does not give them as much potential or upside as a 15-year-old in Venezuela or the Dominican Republic where unstructured play is more work out based.
“So these kids have these very good raw tools,” Kissner said. “But in terms of playing the game we have to do a lot of developing and teaching them the game. Whereas in Asia they are very polished.”
Players signed will almost always go to Seattle’s baseball academies in the Dominican Republic or Venezuela. Most MLB clubs have academies in the DR. The Major League Baseball entity has academies in Australia and Italy where signed players from all 30 MLB teams can stay to work on skills.
“When they are 16-years-old they are by no means ready to come to the United States,” Kissner stated.
Young international players are taught English and the ins and outs of the game so they can adjust to the cultural differences.
“It is a whole new world for them,” Kissner said. “Not only do they have professional baseball to deal with but it is a new cultural experience they are assimilating in.”
Seattle Mariners Executive Vice President and General Manager of Baseball Operations Jack Zduriencik stated that Kissner is “A high-energy guy and a nice addition to our organization, with a strong ability to evaluate and supervise, paired with a very strong work ethic.”
Kissner was born in Homer and grew up in Alaska’s capital city. After graduating from JDHS Kissner attended Mendocino Junior College and then Oregon State University as a baseball player.
After a stint with Anchorage’s Glacier Pilots in 1991-92, Kissner went on to coach at the University of Kansas. In 1997 he threw batting practice for the St. Louis Cardinals and interviewed with their farm team director. In 1999 Kissner began his scouting career with the Cleveland Indians as an area scout.
“You just try to take one step at a time,” Kissner said. “When I first started scouting I was very content being an area scout. The longer you do it the more you learn. I have been very happy in every position I have had. I felt really honored that the Mariners wanted to talk to the Cubs about me, and really flattered when they offered me the job.”
Kissner stated the best part of his new position was being in charge of a department and being able to sign players at any time.
“That is why anyone gets into scouting.,” Kissner said. “You want to sign good players and hopefully watch them develop and get to the big leagues. You have a responsibility and you can have a great deal of impact on the organization.”
Kissner has lived in Kirkland, Washington since 2008, just a short ride along the interstate, across Lake Washington, to Safeco Field nestled on the shores of Puget Sound in downtown Seattle.
It is not the same ballpark the eight-year-old Kissner watched his first game in, but it is the same organization.
“Safeco is just 20 minutes away,” Kissner said. “I think I have office space there, or I may share an office. Most of my time will definitely be spent traveling anyway and, really, the baseball field and the baseball game are your office for the most part... and that is kind of a neat thing. My only aspiration has been to make a career in baseball.”