Braves honor late scout with 10th-round pick

Team selects underdog RHP Belinda, a favorite of Kerns, who died last week

Braves honor late scout with 10th-round pick

ATLANTA -- Braves scouting director Brian Bridges held true to his promise when he concluded the second day of this year's 2017 MLB Draft by honoring the memory of Gene Kerns, a beloved and accomplished scout who died last week after battling cancer.

"Gene Kerns meant a lot to baseball and he meant a lot to me," Bridges said. "I told Gene when I got the job, he would be with me the whole time I was here. Gene was an incredible baseball man."

As the Braves concluded Tuesday's portion of the Draft, they used their 10th-round selection on Jacob Belinda, a right-handed pitcher from Lock Haven University (Pa.) who had been recommended to the club after Kerns had watched him pitch this past fall.

Braves focus on arms on Day 2 of the Draft 

"Just to make that selection in the 10th round meant the most to the people that are in that room who have come in contact with Gene," Bridges said in reference to the scouts gathered in the Braves' draft room. "He's touched people all over the baseball community."

After producing a 4.72 ERA over 61 innings during this year's senior season, Belinda wasn't necessarily projected to be selected within the first 10 rounds. But this made the honor even more fitting for Kerns, who took great pride in finding diamonds in the rough like Brandon Beachy, the former Braves pitcher who was found while pitching as an undrafted free agent during a summer league in Virginia.

The Draft concludes on Wednesday, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 11-40 beginning on MLB.com at noon ET.

"Gene saw enough in me, in one mediocre meaningless inning, to petition his bosses to find a spot for me somewhere," Beachy said. "Beyond the obvious, his actions helped change my life. He called every couple of months to check in on how I was doing and took an interest in my family and their well-being as well. He was as genuine and caring as any individual I've ever known and I'm honored and grateful to be one of the many he positively affected."

Kerns was a former Phillies Minor Leaguer who won the Pioneer League batting title in 1963. During his scouting career that lasted nearly 50 years, he was credited with signing stars like the Mets' David Wright. But he seemed to take pride in finding underdogs like Belinda, the right-hander he was determined to see, even as he was weakened before learning he had cancer in the middle of April.

Though Kerns never got a chance to watch Belinda pitch this year, his recommendation led Braves Regional East Coast cross-checker Reed Dunn to travel to Pennsylvania to see the pitcher.

"He was up to 95 [mph] and had good stuff," Dunn said. "Gene and I talked about him before and after. It was just one of the many baseball experiences we shared."

Whenever Dunn, Terry Tripp or any of the other scouts visited Kerns over the past couple months as he remained bedridden, the dedicated scout talked about prospects and the need to stay in communication with Bridges about the signability of the players he had recommended.

"I told the guys in the room, 'We're all healthy and if you approach your job like Gene Kerns did, even up to the last few days of his life, the organization will be a whole lot better,"' Bridges said.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.