Longtime Cubs scout from Winfield was heart and soul of staff
A couple years back, the Chicago Cubs drafted a kid out of Indiana University.
When a few of us media types saw the name of the scout who recommended the kid, we figured he had a chance.
That kid's name was Kyle Schwarber, and the scout who recommended him was Stan Zielinski.
The Cubs on Thursday announced that Zielinski had died overnight Wednesday into Thursday at his home in Winfield. He was 64.
Zielinski, a scout for the last 38 years, worked for the Cubs since 2001 and was inducted Dec. 10 into the Midwest Scouts Association Hall of Fame for career excellence on during a ceremony at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City. He most recently served as the Cubs area scout for Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Zielinski was named the organization's scout of the year during the club's annual scouting meetings last January.
A testament to his quality as a scout, Zielinski's Cubs career spanned two baseball regimes, one headed by Andy MacPhail and Jim Hendry to the current front office headed by Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer.
"Stan was an incredible scout and an unfailingly kind person," Epstein said in a statement put out by the Cubs. "For many of us, working closely with Stan was a highlight of being with the Cubs. He has been a big part of the heart and soul of the Cubs scouting staff for more than 15 years; without Stan we certainly would not have won the World Series. The impact he made on this organization and his co-workers will continue to live on.
"Together we grieve his loss, and we extend our deepest condolences to Stan's wife, Holly, his children, Zach and Anna, the entire Zielinski family, and Stan's many friends and colleagues."
Those of us around the Cubs for many years rarely saw Zielinski. He was always busy scouting talent for the organization. When Zielinski did make a rare visit to Wrigley Field, he was always humble (as is the case with most scouts), never wanting credit.
But as the Cubs also pointed out in their news release, some of Zielinski's finds over the years included the likes of Cliff Floyd, a first-rounder of the Montreal Expos during Stan's days with that organization. Zielinski also was instrumental in the Cubs drafting pitcher Jeff Samardzija in 2006.
Stan's influence wasn't only limited to the draft. When the Cubs and Hendry were in the process of trading popular infielder-outfielder Mark DeRosa to Cleveland after the 2008 season, Zielinski was vocal in his belief that the Cubs should ask for pitcher Chris Archer as part of the return package. Hendry acquired Archer and subsequently traded him to Tampa Bay, but he went on to be an all-star for the Rays.
As for Schwarber, he already has turned into a folk hero for Cubs fans, largely because of his batting exploits during the 2015 postseason and his comeback from last April's knee surgery, a comeback that culminated in Schwarber defying the medical odds and playing in the World Series this past fall.
Zielinski grew up in Northbrook, attended Loyola Academy and played college baseball at St. Mary's College in Winona, Minnesota. In addition to scouting for the Cubs and Expos, he also scouted for the Marlins.