It was the first time I’d asked anyone this question, but it seemed appropriate for a 29-year-old international scout for a Major League Baseball team who happens to be crazy about fishing. “Would you rather catch a 700-pound blue marlin or win a World Series?”
But before Astrid deGruchy can answer, I up the ante. “Let’s make it a grander,” I say, “a World Series victory or a 1,000-pound blue marlin?”
“That’s like a Sophie’s Choice question,” deGruchy says, referring to the 1982 movie in which actress Meryl Streep has to live with a life-altering decision she makes involving her two children. My question obviously isn’t on that level, but deGruchy hems and haws for a few moments. “I believe the chances of catching a 1,000-pound blue marlin are less than they are for winning a World Series,” says deGruchy, who scouted international players for the Pittsburgh Pirates for three years, often in the Dominican Republic. So? “I would say the blue marlin.”
It’s a moot point today, given that deGruchy recently left her job with the Pirates for one with the MLB Network, where she is doing scouting analysis and appearing on a show called The Rundown. She should be a good fit, having worked eight years in baseball operations, where the articulate, headstrong deGruchy helped lower the barrier for other women following her into a sport traditionally dominated by men. “She’s very persistent,” says Elizabeth deGruchy, her mother. “She goes forward and always tries for the top.”
In many ways, the Peruvian-born deGruchy is part of a quintessential American success story. When Astrid was 5 years old, her mother moved her and her older sister from Peru to Astoria, Queens, in New York City, in pursuit of a new life. “She came to the States with no money,” deGruchy says of her mother. “She took a chance just for us to have a better life. We had nothing to our name. She had to work 60 hours a week to make ends meet.”
A few years later, Elizabeth met Ken deGruchy, who owned a plumbing company on Long Island and loves to fish. They fell in love and married. “I didn’t know what baseball or fishing was like until I met my stepdad,” deGruchy says. “He became my best friend. That’s where the love of fishing came from. He always made it fun.” The family has grown to three sisters and two brothers.
There are photos of a young, smiling deGruchy holding a nice fluke caught on her father’s 25-foot Grady-White Sailfish, which they often fished in Gardiners Bay. She was about 8 at the time. And there are several photos of deGruchy holding nice striped bass, including a 50-pounder taken off the South Shore of Long Island.
DeGruchy moved to Florida last year, where the fishing certainly agrees with her. She’s dating Brandon Storin, a captain who runs backcountry charters full time out of Bud N’ Mary’s Marina in Islamorada. Since the move, she’s caught tarpon, permit, bonefish, snook and a deep-drop 130-pound swordfish that she took on a rough day with an electric reel. “I call it moving to the fishing big leagues,” she says. “I love the Keys and the laid-back lifestyle.”
DeGruchy is smart and determined, and she credits her education with opening the door to a job in the big leagues. “You have to hold your own talking about baseball,” she says. “Don’t give people a reason to say no.”
She did her undergraduate work at Saint John’s University, then went to MLB’s Scout School and finished her education with a Master of Sports Law and Business from Arizona State University. She also received a business analytics certificate from Harvard Business School.
You get an idea of the depth of her fandom when you see the number “9” and the phrase “The Kid” tattooed behind her right shoulder. The ink is in honor of Red Sox great Ted Williams, who was an amazing hitter and angler. “The more I read about him, the more I got to like him,” she says. “He cared so much about being the best.”
Her ambitious bucket list for the remainder of this year includes a blue marlin, a giant bluefin tuna and hand-cranking a large cubera snapper. DeGruchy likes catching tarpon, but adds, “Striped bass will always have a special place in my heart. It taught me a lot of different techniques.”
Ken deGruchy speaks of how strong-willed his daughter is. “She doesn’t take no for an answer,” he says. “And she’s the kind of person who wants the ball.”
The elder deGruchy used to coach little league and travel baseball and recently moved the family to Harkers Island, North Carolina, to be closer to fishing. An old-school football guy, he says he ran a hard baseball practice, too. Astrid would often accompany her father to practices and games. Ken remembers the time he benched the team’s best player for missing practice. “She thought I was crazy,” he recalls. “She said, ‘What are you nuts? You’re not playing Vinny?’ I said you have to put the effort in. That’s a hard lesson, but she learned it.”
DeGruchy brings the same determination to fishing that she brought to softball and track when she was in high school. Her father would often drive to the east end of Long Island on Friday evenings and spend the weekend on the boat. His sons liked to fish, but not from Friday to Sunday. “Astrid is the type of person who did stuff,” her father recalls. “So she came with me.”
A few years ago, deGruchy told her father, “Dad, I want to catch a 50-pound striper.” The pair ran from Long Island to Block Island on a rough day, with waves breaking over the bow of his 25-foot Carolina Classic. They put in at Great Salt Pond, with a plan to fish after midnight. Conditions were rough, and Ken was having second thoughts but had faith in his boat.
“We’re doing it,” Astrid firmly told her father. “That’s her,” Ken says. Drifting eels in 5- to- 6-foot seas and 25 knots of wind at 1 a.m., Astrid caught a 51-pound striper and her father a 47-pounder.
Astrid’s success has not surprised her parents. “She looks for the top job and goes for it,” her father says. “She’s really good at networking, too.”
Don’t be surprised if you see more of Astrid deGruchy in the future, in baseball and in fishing, perhaps on a television show.