After establishing himself as one of John Schuerholz’s most valuable amateur scouts during the 1990s, Roy Clark mentored Brian Bridges, a man whose fingerprints will be linked to what could be the Braves’ next stretch of success.
Unfortunately for Bridges and Clark, they won’t be around to reap the rewards of the efforts they made while running the Braves’ amateur scouting department during the organization’s recent rebuild.
Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos confirmed he dismissed Bridges (director of scouting) and Clark (senior advisor) from their respective positions on Wednesday. The decision comes approximately three months after both signed a one-year extension through the 2019 season.
“The plan was for them to be here,” Anthopoulos said. “The more I thought about it over the holidays, I decided I wanted to make this change. It’s not fair to have them work and prepare for this year’s [MLB Draft] and then cut them loose after the Draft.”
Bridges was in the Atlanta airport when he received the news Wednesday afternoon. Other than expressing his love for the Braves and his many friends throughout the organization, he chose not to immediately comment on the decision.
“I’m heartbroken,” the Georgia native said. “There aren’t too many times you get a chance to work for the team you grew up following and have the opportunity to be around the quality of people the Braves possess. I never played in the big leagues. But I worked for a big league organization that had big league people. I wish the Braves nothing but the best.”
Anthopoulos said the decision was not directly linked to last year’s MLB investigation of amateur draft improprieties made under the previous front-office regime. He also indicated his decision was not influenced by the Braves not signing last year’s first-round pick, Carter Stewart, a left-handed high school pitcher whose wrist became a medical concern after he was taken with the eighth overall pick.
While Anthopoulos was highly complimentary of both men, he spent much more time with Bridges, who joined the Braves in 2007 and became the scouting director after the ’14 season, when John Coppolella and John Hart began running Atlanta’s baseball operations department.
Bridges played an instrumental role in the selection of Jason Heyward and is credited with the signings of Craig Kimbrel, Alex Wood and Mike Minor. He has run each of Atlanta’s past four Drafts. His first year as the scouting director was 2015, when the Braves took Kolby Allard, Mike Soroka, Austin Riley, Lucas Herbert and A.J. Minter.
“[Bridges] is a pro and a great human being,” Anthopoulos said. “As an evaluator and a scout, he’s one of the best I’ve ever been around.”
Unfortunately for the Braves, the timing leaves them without two of the game’s best scouts, just five months before they are slated to have the ninth and 21st overall picks in this year’s Draft.
Clark made his mark on the Braves’ organization throughout the 1990s and remained with the club through 2009. He then had stints with the Nationals and Dodgers before Coppolella and Hart lured him back to Atlanta to serve as a special assistant to the GM after the ’14 season.
Clark maintained that title until the latter portion of 2017, when Coppolella demoted him to the role of special advisor. This seemed to be in response to a disagreement over the ’17 Draft in which Clark and Bridges had lobbied for Austin Beck, while Coppolella wanted Keston Hiura taken with the fifth-overall selection.
Once Draft day unfolded, the Braves took advantage of the unexpected chance to take Kyle Wright. Still, while those pre-Draft discussions had lingering effects, they never weakened the indelible bond Bridges shares with Clark.
“He’s why I am where I am today,” Bridges said. “He influenced my life and many other lives of people from the Braves organization. I am thankful for all he has done for me. He gave me a chance to experience what was my dream job.”