Sunday, September 14, 2014

Interview Part 1: Donnie Scott, Down the Road

Madison Mallards manager Donnie Scott meets Kalamazoo manager Joe Carbone before an August 2014 Northwoods League game at Kalamazoo. (G21D Photo)
Part 1: Down the Road | Part 2: So Neat
Part 3: Curtain Call | Part 4: Did Humble

KALAMAZOO, Mich. - Donnie Scott didn't think he really deserved that call up, but he thanked the Reds organization every day he was there.

This was September 1991 and Scott was back in the major leagues for the first time in six years. He'd seen time in three other seasons, but not since 1985.

"I learned some things about it, I got to see what the big leagues were about again," Scott told The Greatest 21 Days in an interview last month. "I think the reason was that I could pass that along to the players I was going to end up coaching down the road."

Scott's coaching career continued in 2014, just not with the Reds. His tenure with Cincinnati ended up lasting 17 seasons as a manager and coordinator. He managed in rookie ball. He managed in single-A  He also served as a minor league field coordinator.

But it was at single-A, in what ended up being his final season in the Reds organization, that Scott said he learned another important lesson: Emotions have to be kept in check.
Madison manager Donnie Scott coaching third at Kalamazoo in August 2014. Scott spent 17 seasons managing and coordinating in the Reds organization.
This was the game between the Peoria Chiefs and the Scott's Dayton Dragons in June 2008, the one that included one of the worst brawls in minor league memory. A fan seriously injured and an opposing player was arrested for injuring that fan.

"If I could take anything back in the game, it would have been that day," Scott said. "I made a mistake and I just wish it wouldn't have happened."

It was an argument between Scott and the opposing manager that blew up beyond anything either likely could have imagined. Scott finished out the season, but he wasn't asked back.

"If there's anything that I learned," Scott said, "it really humbled me. Being away from the Reds now, it's on my mind every day."

Scott has been away from the Reds, but he's continued managing. The Greatest 21 Days caught up with Scott in August in Kalamazoo, Mich. That's where Scott's Madison Mallards were taking on the Kalamazoo Growlers in the collegiate Northwoods League.

From the visitor's clubhouse at Kalamazoo's Homer Stryker Field, Scott recounted his career, starting with growing up learning to switch-hit in Florida. He also told of signing his first pro contract and making the majors. He made the bigs, then had to wait an entire winter for a second shot at his first major league hit.

Scott's major league career was one that spanned nine years, but one where he saw time in just four individual seasons. Along the way, he hit home runs from both sides of the plate in the same game, all after he was supposed to have been taken out.

He also ended up on the wrong side of a perfect game, Scott's catching proving crucial to the only run scored in the game.

Scott then went on to his long minor league managerial career with the Reds. Since then, though, he's found a home coaching college kids in the summer, in the Northwoods League. This past summer was his second with Madison. In 2011, he coached Battle Creek and won league Manager of the Year honors.
Madison manager Donnie Scott, right, in the visitor's dugout at Kalamazoo in August 2014. (G21D Photo)
Scott grew up in Tampa, Fla. He got involved in the game through his father and his two older brothers. The kids played Little League and their father was their coach.

Beyond that, though, it was simply watching the game on TV that made baseball the game that Scott wanted to play.

"It was actually because of watching the Game of the Week every Saturday that got me hooked on baseball," Scott recalled. "Tony Kubek and Joe Garagiola and all that. That's what kind of got me watching big league games on Saturday. I couldn't miss them."

He'd watch the games and then go out and play himself.

On the field, Scott recalled starting to have success by age 12 in Little League. It was around that time that he started experimenting with a skill that would serve him well later, switch-hitting.

Scott's father owned some batting cages and he started trying it. But it wasn't until his senior year that he really focused on it. By then, scouts were looking, he recalled. They suggested the trying to hit from the other side of the plate.

He also started catching that year, he recalled. "That was a lot, trying both things at the same time," he said.

Learning to switch-hit, Scott said, wasn't easy.

"I went through a lot of hard times with it," Scott said. "But I had a guy tell me one time, 'If you can get over the first three serious times you want to quit switch-hitting, you're going to be a switch-hitter.'"
A Madison Mallard takes a swing at a Kalamazoo offering in August 2014. Donnie Scott managed Madison in 2014. (G21D Photo)
He got past those. And he became a switch hitter.

Still, he recalled, there were times later that the thoughts of going back right-handed crossed his mind. But not for long.

"I'd go back hitting right-handed, get jammed once or twice, and I'd go back to switch-hitting," Scott said.

Scott recalled going to his first pro camp when he was 13. There, he met Reds scout George Zuraw. They then stayed in touch as Scott got older.

In high school, Scott drew enough attention from scouts to expect to be taken high in the draft. He ended up being taken in the second round, directly out of Catholic High School in Tampa.

The team that took him, though, wasn't expected. He was drafted by the Rangers. He also had it in his mind that he might even go first round. But he didn't care. He was a pro.

"The second round came around and I got a phone call," Scott recalled. "I was the happiest guy on the planet.

"At the time, I expected it," Scott added. "But now I look back, it was quite an honor."

As a pro, Scott used his catching and switch-hitting skills to make a steady climb to the majors. Once in the majors, he used his switch-hitting skills to launch two home runs in the same game, one from each side of the plate. (Go to Part 2)

Part 1: Down the Road | Part 2: So Neat
Part 3: Curtain Call | Part 4: Did Humble

Go to Part 2: Donnie Scott, So Neat

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