LOS ANGELES -- Mike Brito, the legendary international Los Angeles Dodgers scout who discovered Fernando Valenzuela and Julio Urias, among many others, died Thursday afternoon, the team announced. He was 87.
Brito -- a distinctive presence with his Panama hat, thick mustache, dark sunglasses, long cigar and bulky radar gun -- spent these past 44 years employed by the Dodgers, helping to bring in star players who resonated across multiple generations.
"I learned a lot from him talking about players and just seeing the game," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "It doesn't matter where on the map there was a baseball game -- if there was a potential prospect, Mike was going to be there and put his eyes on him."
All told, Brito signed more than 30 players who went on to play in the major leagues, including Urias, Yasiel Puig, Ismael Valdez, Antonio Osuna, Juan Castro, Dennys Reyes and, most notably, Valenzuela, who captivated the region as a Mexican-born pitcher who won a Cy Young Award and led the Dodgers to the championship in 1981.
"My heart is very heavy today," Valenzuela said in a statement. "Mike was a great man and instrumental in my success as a baseball player on and off the field. No one loved the Dodger organization more than Mike, and we will all miss him very much."
"I have no words. You changed my life Mike Brito. You and your white hat, sir. #legend #RIP," Puig wrote in a tweet Thursday night.
Brito is survived by his wife, Rosario, two daughters, Diana and Minerva, and four granddaughters. Funeral services are pending, the Dodgers said.
Born in Cuba, Brito played in the Washington Senators' minor league system and went on to play professionally in Mexico in the 1960s. He moved to L.A. in 1968, forged ties with the Dodgers as a Mexican League scout and was hired full time by then-general manager Al Campanis in 1978, the start of a run that spanned six decades.
Brito was elected to the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in 2005 and was named International Scout of the Year at Major League Baseball's winter meetings in 2014. The publication Baseball America honored his lifelong contributions to the sport by presenting him with its Tony Gwynn Award last year.