Dodgers scout Mike Brito, known to fans for smoking a cigar and holding a radar gun in the seats behind home plate at Dodger Stadium, has passed away at the age of 87. (Photo Courtesy of the Los Angeles Dodgers)

LOS ANGELES (CNS) – Dodgers scout Mike Brito, best known for discovering Fernando Valenzuela in 1979 when he was an 18-year-old pitching in the Mexican League, died today at age 87, the team announced.

Brito was a catcher in the Washington Senators’ minor league system from 1955-61, reaching the Triple-A level and later played professionally in Mexico from 1961-66. Brito moved to Los Angeles in 1968 and, through his work as a Mexican League scout, became associated with the Dodgers and then-general manager Al Campanis.

Campanis hired Brito full time in 1978, and the first player he signed was former Dodger pitcher Bobby Castillo. In 1979, Brito persuaded Campanis to sign Valenzuela, who rapidly became the most successful Mexican-born pitcher in baseball history, winning the 1981 Rookie of the Year and Cy Young awards while leading the Dodgers to a World Series championship.

Brito was long a familiar face to Dodger fans for wearing a Panama hat and smoking a cigar while holding a radar gun in the seats behind home plate at Dodger Stadium to measure the speed of pitches. He was most recently at Dodger Stadium during the team’s last homestand.

“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.”

Brito is survived by his wife, Rosario, daughters Diana and Minerva and four granddaughters.