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Washington Nationals news & notes: Danny Haas on meeting Mike Rizzo; taking over as scouting director in D.C.

Notes and quotes from the Nationals’ new scouting director’s press conference at the Winter Meetings...

Danny Haas, 47, was hired as the VP of Amateur Scouting (aka the Scouting Director) by the Nationals back in early October, as part of Washington’s front office shake-up, after serving as a special assignment scout for Arizona’s D-backs from 2019-2023.

Haas worked as a national crosschecker with Baltimore’s Orioles (2012-2014), before the O’s promoted the one-time Boston Red Sox’ prospect, who’d wrapped up his playing days back in 2001, and then quickly transitioned to scouting, to a role as a, “special assistant to the executive vice president of baseball operations (2015-18).”

It was during his playing days though, he first met Nationals’ GM and President of Baseball Ops Mike Rizzo, who’s now his boss in the nation’s capital.

The details of that first meeting?

“Probably at a Midwest League, low-A baseball game,” Haas told reporters when he spoke at the Winter Meetings back in early December.

“He was there with his son, and I gave him some bats and balls. [Rizzo] was a scout for the Red Sox and I was a player for the Red Sox in the minor leagues. So definitely Battle Creek, Michigan, I think it would be.”

How did he think Rizzo assessed him as a player at the time?

“Ooh,” Haas laughed, “he couldn’t have — I hope he thinks I’m a better scout than I was a player, for sure.”

The opportunity to join Rizzo and work with him in Washington to help get the Nationals back to fielding competitive big league teams was one Haas could not pass up.

“It’s always been a bit of a personal dream,” to work with Rizzo, Haas said.

“I’ve known him since 1997. I was 22 years old. I played with some of the players that he signed. And then he actually tried to get me with the D-backs when I was with the Red Sox. So the connection goes way back with my dad and so forth. I’ve known him for a long time. Lot of respect for him, what he’s done with the D-backs and with the Nats, and I’m looking forward to the challenge here.”

“I think it’a humbling and it’s exciting,” Rizzo said of Haas’s comments about wanting to work together.

“If you can bring in a person as sought after as him, with his skill set and his reputation in the game, it’s exciting that he felt so strongly about coming here because of the way we take care of our business.”

I’ve known a lot of the Nats’ guys for some time now,” Haas said of his new coworkers, “… and looking forward to contributing and getting back to winning.”

Haas’s hiring was announced along with the news the club brought in Brad Ciolek as Senior Director of Amateur Scouting while also hiring Reed Dunn as the new Assistant Director and National Crosschecker in Amateur Scouting.

Rizzo said at the Winter Meetings he wanted to see Haas and the other front office hires continue do what they did to get the jobs as they get acclimated and get to work in D.C.

“I think we’re going to let him be him,” the GM said of Haas. “You know what I mean?

“Always our employment goals are hire great people and let them do their job. And I think we’ve shown that we’ve done that in the past, and I think when you have the track record of Danny and Brad and Reed and those guys — I think you brought them in to do their thing so we’re going to let them do their thing.

“Obviously it’s a team effort and we’ll all have input on it, but we brought him in here for a reason.”

“We’re very collaborative,” Haas said of how things will work in future draft rooms.

“This job has gotten to where it’s bigger than one person, for sure. So you’ve got to weigh all your voices.

“At the end of the day, somebody has to make the call. But it’s a big process with a lot of input from a lot of folks.”

Rizzo served as the scouting director in Arizona from 2000-2006, before he signed on in Washington’s front office, first as an assistant to the former GM, before he eventually took over as the General Manager in ‘09.

He knows where the buck stops when it’s finally time to make draft picks.

“I think we’ll have more people making the decisions,” he said.

“I think at the top, Danny runs the department, but there are several assistants and several people who are going to have a lot of influence on the way we draft.”

The final calls will be made by the scouting director though, and Rizzo knows better than to interfere there.

“Yeah, I didn’t like them interfering in my drafts and that’s why I don’t interfere very much in these drafts,” Rizzo said.

“The amateur scouting season is a dynamic in and of itself, and it takes a special eye to see— it’s different scouting than international scouting, professional scouting, so it’s a very distinct skill set that you need to have.”

“The delicate balance you have as a President and GM,” he added, “… is to let go of the control of the reins and trust your people.”