Brahma in the Windy City

Chrisitna Colucci / Roundup

A Chicago Cubs calendar, Cubs license plate, pictures of current and former players and Wrigley Field surround Bob Lofrano, athletic director, who is even wearing a Cubs visor as he sits in his office at Pierce College.

“I’m not shy about publicizing my love for the team,” he said.

A native of the windy city, Lofrano has been a Cubs fan ever since he can remember.

In 1981 he took his relationship with the Cubs to the next level when he became a special assignment scout for the team. He has worked with them ever since, 28 consecutive years.

Explaining what his job entails, Lofrano said, “I go all over the country to look at (prospective) players. I then write a report painting a picture of the players I see.”

The reports are essentially an evaluation of the player’s talents: how hard they pitch, how fast they run and what is good and bad about each individual.

The bottom line, Lofrano said, is to determine whether or not they are a match for the Cubs.

“I essentially become the eyes of the Cubs’ general manager,” he said. “They take my word and we make our trades.”

Lofrano did not earn the trust of the Cubs’ general manager overnight; his expertise is derived from an extensive history with the game of baseball.

“I began playing baseball as soon as I was old enough to pick up a ball,” he said, adding that he started out “like every boy does, playing catch with my father.”

The baseball enthusiast played all throughout high school and at Pierce in 1968 and 1969.

To “stay in the game,” he became a coach.

“I coached baseball for 35 years, 25 at Pierce and 15 at Chatsworth High School,” he explained.

Current Head Baseball Coach Joe Arnold played under Lofrano at Pierce in 1991 and 1992. He became his assistant coach for the Brahma team in 1995.  

“He is a great teacher of the game,” Arnold said. “As much as I learned from him as a player, I learned even more from him as a coach.”

Now the Athletic Director and a golf instructor at Pierce, Lofrano realizes that he is very fortunate for the time he gets to spend working with the Cubs.

“It could all be done in a second,” he said.

“My job is a full time instructor, but I dabble in something I have a great passion for,” he added.  “I’m not sure other teachers get to have that experience.”

When asked if he missed coaching the sport, Lofrano smiled and said, “My work with the Cubs still gives me my fill of baseball.”

And while it may all be work, this busy man admits balancing two jobs is great fun.

Last year he scouted the Dodgers for two weeks before the playoffs. When the season was over, the Dodgers were going to play the Cubs in Wrigley Field on Wednesday, Oct. 1.

This meant Lofrano had to be in Chicago the Tuesday before at noon, but he had a golf class to teach Monday and Wednesday mornings.

What did he do?

“I taught my Monday classes at Pierce,” he said, “took a six o’clock flight to Chicago (that same day), arrived at midnight, slept, got to Wrigley Field at noon, gave my two hour report to the general manager, took a three o’clock flight out of Chicago and was back to teach my 9:30 a.m. golf class on Wednesday.”

Steve Fuller, a full-time Cubs scout, realizes that Lofrano’s position at Pierce and with professional baseball has enabled him to get involved with many different baseball organizations, such as the Single-A, Double-A and Triple-A levels of the minor league.  

He said Lofrano has become “instrumental” and “a go-to man” with these groups.

“He knows a lot about different team’s strengths and weaknesses…and can make good decisions when it comes to drafts and trades,” Fuller said.

As far as the Cubs are concerned, Fuller claimed Lofrano has “lived and died with every good and bad thing the team has done over the years.”

 Lofrano’s dedication to the Cubs, he said, really symbolizes what the team is all about.

This summer, Lofrano will scout 12 different teams, five games per team.

A total of 60 games will take him all over what he calls “Americana” to places like Raleigh, North Carolina, Mason, Arizona, Portland, Maine, Port Charlotte, Florida, Bowling Green, Kentucky, Chattanooga, Tennessee and Montgomery, Alabama.

Some of these places he will only stay at for one night until he is out on the road again.

Every time Lofrano comes home, he says, is because he has responsibilities at Pierce.

“I have to make sure things are covered here,” he said. “I’m not going to miss my classes.”

While he admits “the traveling can be a lot” and the places he goes “are not exactly he garden spots of the world,” he said, “That is where minor league baseball is, and I love (scouting) it.”

“I love baseball,” he said.

Experiences like that at Wrigley Field right before playoffs last year make Lofrano realize how lucky he is to be involved with his passion after all this time.

“You almost pinch yourself, like this is unbelievable that I am able to do this,” he said.

“Then you have to slap yourself, like whoa, this is my job, they entrusted me to do this.”

While the Cubs did not win the first playoff game that year, Lofrano is satisfied knowing he wrote his report and did his job.

Over the years, the special assignment scout has reported on many players who have made it to the big leagues.

“Too many to name,” he said.

One he did mention, however, is the late Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart.

“I remember going out to Rancho Cucamonga specifically to watch Adenhart pitch,” he said.

“At 19-years-old, he threw somewhere in the high 90s. He had great arm strength, and threw hard, that meant he was going to be a big league pitcher.”

Pierce players throw somewhere in the mid-eighties, “between 85 and 86,” Lofrano claimed.

Though he has seen several of the college’s players while scouting the minor league, he said “Very rarely are you going to get a guy (straight to the big league) coming out of a junior college.”

Under his direction, however, Pierce sent several players to the major league including Barry Zito of the San Francisco Giants and Coco Crisp of the Boston Red Sox.

“Getting to the big leagues is one thing, staying in the big leagues is another,” Lofrano stated.

“You have to really produce,” he said. “There are always teams looking at you because you can always be included in a trade.”

“That’s where the scouts come in,” he said.

If a player is good enough that multiple teams want him, it ultimately turns into a bidding war.

“That’s baseball,” Lofrano said, “and I’m fortunate to be a part of professional baseball.”

Arnold, who took Lofrano’s place as head coach when he retired 2007, thinks baseball is lucky to have a man like this Cubs scout.

“It is impossible to fill the shoes of a man like Bob Lofrano,” he said.

Pierce College Athletic Director Bob Lofrano, holding a radar gun for measuring pitch speed, has been a special assignment scout for the Chicago Cubs since 1981. (Benson Chin / Roundup)