Meet Chandler Couch, the Orioles' scouting coordinator carving out a crucial role for herself in their draft prep
At age-24, Couch is one of a handful of women in the Orioles' front office and carries plenty of responsibility in the Orioles' growing amateur scouting department.
Trip Couch sat on one side of the University of San Diego’s ballpark last summer at last summer’s Area Code Games, evaluating baseball’s best high school prospects in his role as the University of Arizona’s recruiting coordinator.
It was also a proud father moment. Across the stadium he spotted his daughter, Chandler, who was a scouting fellow with the Orioles and wasn’t exactly on the fringes of the proceedings.
“She’s sitting up there with a bunch of agents and scouting directors and I’m just going, ‘Wow, that’s pretty impressive for a 23-year-old girl to take this ball and run with it and be accepted in this business like she is,’” Trip Couch said. “I hope she can continue it.”
For Couch, now 24 and the Orioles’ amateur scouting coordinator, that’s certainly the plan. Her role is one that keeps the club’s vital amateur scouting department operating at peak levels while still allowing her to get on the road and evaluate players, and her willingness to take on responsibilities beyond that means she’s impacting more and more areas of the rebuilding club’s baseball operations department with each day.
It’s hard to call a journey from the household of a lifelong scout and baseball coach into the game an improbable one, but for most of her life, Couch simply wasn’t interested in the game.
Her younger sister, Kendall, was the one Trip Couch described as the coach’s daughter from “Remember the Titans,” following him at every turn. Instead, Couch swam and played soccer, never showing much interest in baseball or softball.
That changed when she went to Ole Miss and her father, then at South Carolina as recruiting coordinator, connected her to the school’s baseball coaches for a student manager’s role. She enjoyed the idea of being part of a team, and wasn’t ready to give up on that. But when the staff told her about the office work that awaited her, she told them she wanted to be on the field.
Taking the role in 2016, when analytics were growing more and more prevalent in the college game, meant there was plenty to do there.
“I kind of had a unique role,” Chandler said. “I would start my day in the morning and help on the administrative tasks for our recruiting coordinator or anything that would come up – planning camps and stuff like that. I’d do that, then I’d always go out to practice in the afternoon, and I mainly worked with our pitching staff running Rapsodo during bullpens or doing TrackMan for intrasquads or games.”
She didn’t know exactly what she wanted it to translate into when it came to a career, only that she wanted to be in the game. Working with those pitch tracking and data collection instruments gave her a start, and as her responsibilities grew and she took on more and more tasks in Oxford, her father believes having grown up in a baseball household gave an example of what it would take to succeed in the game.
He mentions that with the caveat that comes with a life in baseball – that he missed a lot of his daughter’s childhood and regrets that. But he believes she at least absorbed “how much time and energy goes into being successful” in the game, then had it reinforced by the Ole Miss coaching staff of Mike Bianco, Carl Lafferty, and Mike Clement.
“Our lives are unique,” Trip Couch said. “You don’t have weekends off. She’d have friends in college who’d say, ‘Why don’t you just call in sick today,’ like they would do at the restaurant they worked at. She said, ‘It doesn’t work like that.’ There are no sick days. We work seven days a week. Wednesday is no different until Sunday, and we work until midnight and we’re right back at the ballpark.”
That’s likely where his daughter’s penchant for needing to be sent home from the baseball offices came from – she got her degree in marketing, but often tells people she simply majored in Ole Miss baseball. And like the players on the field, that’s as good an experience as any to prepare her to jump to pro ball.
Chandler and her father went to baseball’s winter meetings after the 2018 season in Las Vegas to seek an internship to get her more experience in the game, and one such connection paid off. No one she interviewed with that week had a job to offer, though eventually one came through as a video intern at a Phillies minor league affiliate.
Through that process, though, Orioles director of draft operations Brad Ciolek received a reference from a former colleague who spoke to Couch and set up an interview of his own. He was impressed enough to offer her an internship, and Couch arrived in Baltimore shortly before the 2019 draft.
She remembers now how few people were around compared to now – and how much work they had for her to do. There weren’t draft analyst positions formalized yet, but there were people doing that work, and she helped in that area breaking down data, analyzing video, and talking to the team’s scouts. She also had the unenviable task of organizing the medical process for draftees, which she admits is “kind of a nightmare, trying to hunt all these kids down for things.
“It’s like a full-time job itself, so I was basically spearheading that,” Couch said. “It was interesting. I walked in and had no idea what went into that, and kind of learned on the fly. … It was a pretty wide range of jobs I was doing at the beginning, but it was good experience.”
Her father told her to do the jobs no one wanted to do and do them well, and she’d find herself getting more and more tasks. That chance eventually came with the Orioles. Couch applied after that 2019 season for the MLB Diversity Fellowship with the idea they would bring her back through that program, and all went according to plan until the COVID-19 pandemic hit. She graduated that spring, but was sidelined through the June draft and didn’t get to come to Baltimore until July.
She spent the rest of that year, plus 2021, impacting every avenue of the department. Along with the team doctors and medical coordinator Dave Walker, Couch helped streamline the draft medical process. She continued to work alongside scouting analysts Hendrik Herz, Alex Tarandek, and Chad Tatum to compile video reports and break down players to enhance the team’s scouting reports. She also got the chance to scout in-person, which led to the opportunities to work alongside her father at events like the Area Code Games and the annual wood bat showcase in Jupiter, Florida.
Couch’s father marvels at how she can weave between groups of younger scouts and her father’s generation of baseball lifers, welcomed by each set in a way the latter group can be loath to do when it comes to newcomers.
“I tell my wife, ‘It’s really cool to watch her kind of be accepted by all these guys in what was, at one time, almost exclusively a man’s world,’” Trip Couch said.
Couch, who the Orioles hired full-time this offseason before the end of her fellowship, is coming into the game at a time when women are pushing higher in baseball front offices, and in an offseason where more and more women are taking on-field roles in player development.
On the scouting side, she said women are “definitely not as prevalent” as those areas of the game, with maybe four or five women in similar roles to hers across the game. One, fellow Ole Miss grad Sydney Malone, has a similar title with the Tampa Bay Rays.
Fortunately for her, she has an example to follow within the Orioles’ front office in director of baseball development Eve Rosenbaum, hired in 2019 to lead projects that ensure continuity and communication across all facets of baseball operations.
Add in Couch’s responsibilities in minor league administration and involvement in this year’s international signing deadline, and there’s certainly an aspect of Rosenbaum’s diverse experience within the front office that’s being recreated.
“They’ve kind of let me get my foot in the door with a bunch of other departments as well,” Couch said. “It makes me a more diverse candidate. There’s really no one better that I could learn from than Eve. She’s such a role model for me, so getting to work with her every day is awesome.”
She has already shown that getting a foot in the door is one thing, and keeping it there is another. Even as she was trying to break into the pro game with her father’s contacts as a starting point, Trip Couch always warned his daughter how difficult it was to earn one of those opportunities and stay in the game. The latter is what has impressed him the most.
“She just had an interesting path at a young age to get to where she is as a female, and I really can’t be more proud of what she’s doing,” he said. “I’m proud of her, but I’m also thankful to those coaches at Ole Miss who gave her an opportunity and gave her a lot of responsibility, and thankful for Brad and [executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias] and [assistant general manager Sig Mejdal] and all those guys in Baltimore.
“I knew Mike when he was a scout, I was a scout, but that had zero to do with her getting that job, really. She got this one on her own, and it’s like anything else, in any business. Getting the opportunity is one thing. Making something of the opportunity is completely different. That’s what I’m proud of her for. A lot of people get opportunities and let it slip through their fingers, and she didn’t.”
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