Bart Braun, a key scout and executive in the first 18 years of the Rays franchise, died suddenly Friday at his northern California home. He was 64.
Mr. Braun was one of the first two staff members hired by original Devil Rays general manager Chuck LaMar in 1995, accompanying Scott Proefrock from Atlanta to start building the franchise. Mr. Braun left the Rays to join the Phillies in 2012 to be a special assistant.
“I was blessed to be around him for all those years, not only personally but professionally,” LaMar said Saturday on a Zoom media call. “There’s so many stories you could tell about the impact Bart had in Tampa Bay. Right off the bat, when I left Atlanta (then Braves GM) John Schuerholz said I could take two people from the organization to start the expansion club. He didn’t want me to raid the organization, and rightfully so. ...
“People could understand Scott and the ability he brought in certain (administrative) areas. But in Bart’s case, he was just a talent evaluator and yet I was promoting him to be an assistant general manager. That’s how much impact I thought he could have on an entire organization in the building of the Rays.”
Mr. Braun was known for his personal manner, tireless work ethic, enthusiasm for the game and tremendous scouting ability.
“Truly one of the great talent evaluators that I will ever be around,” LaMar said. “If I had to send out one person to evaluate a young free agent player, whether that be in Latin America or that be a high school or college player, with no analytics, no video, no past reports, and it was a multimillion dollar decision, I would choose Bart Braun over anybody I’ve ever worked with. I thought he had that kind of instincts and that kind of feel for the organization.”
As hard as Mr. Braun worked, he also had more fun than most anyone in the game, a master storyteller, legendary bargain hunter, voracious eater and night owl who would greet everyone as a friend and tell anyone who asked how he was doing about “short stakes and bad breaks.‘'
“He was a lot of, lot of fun to be around,‘' said Hall of Fame executive Pat Gillick.
Proefrock had known Mr. Braun for more than 30 years and considered him one of his closest friends, talking with him as recently as Wednesday.
“I had more damn fun than the law allowed being around that guy for that period of time, and I’m going to miss him dearly,‘' Proefrock said. “The passion he had for the game — he lived and loved baseball. You could talk to him anytime — except when he’d fall asleep on you when you were driving him to Reading, Pa. (site of a Phillies minor-league team.) ... You’d be talking and you’d look over, and he’d be zonked. But he’d perk up when he got to his favorite diner. ... ?
“He just had that passion for baseball and doing what was best for the organization. No agenda, no personal agenda. He wanted to see players, wanted to give his opinion, was convicted about his opinion, didn’t care if it didn’t agree with anybody else.”
Proefrock, who now works for the Phillies, and other team officials raved about Mr. Braun’s scouting skills during the call, as well as his ability to entertain.
“A lot of the funny stories you can’t share on a call like this,” said LaMar, now a Padres official. “But he was truly a character and one that will be sorely missed.”