Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Interview Part 4: Donnie Scott, Did Humble

Madison manager Donnie Scott, right, in the visitor's dugout at Kalamazoo in August 2014. (G21D Photo)
Part 1: Down the Road | Part 2: So Neat
Part 3: Curtain Call | Part 4: Did Humble

The call came at the end of the 2008 season. It also marked the end of Donnie Scott's 19-season connection to the Cincinnati Reds organization.

It was in that call that the manager of the single-A Dayton Dragons learned he wasn't being invited back to the Reds organization for 2009.

"I really didn't ask the day that it happened," Scott said of why he wasn't being brought back. "I just said 'OK.' hung up the phone and left it at that."

To onlookers, though, the origins of that call seemed to have roots going back two months, to one of the worst minor league brawls in memory, one that left a fan injured and an opposing pitcher under arrest.

It was a brawl that Scott attributed to a mistake he made, one that he said he regrets every day.

"I got into an argument with my fellow manager, Carmelo Martinez, who I consider a friend," Scott said, "and it just got away from us. That's why you've got to keep your emotions in check."

Scott has spent his time since still in the game, but managing in summer collegiate ball. He spent 2013 and 2014 as manager of the Madison Mallards of the Northwoods League.
Donnie Scott exchanges lineups before an August 2014 Northwoods League game at Kalamazoo. (G21D Photo)
It's a job he said he's happy to do and a job he enjoys. But he said he also wishes he was still in the minors.

The Greatest 21 Days caught up with Scott in August in Kalamazoo, Mich. That's where Scott's Mallards were taking on Northwoods League foe Kalamazoo Growlers.

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. His major league career was one that spanned nine years, but one where he saw time in just four individual seasons.

Scott then went on to his long minor league managerial career with the Reds and, more recently, in the Northwoods League.

Scott remembered his coaching and managerial career actually began while he was still playing. He made the majors as a player in four seasons, 1983 to 1985 and 1991. In the middle, he played largely at AAA.

The catcher was playing, but he was also working with his teammates, he recalled.

"I was really trying to help others, help pitching staffs and everything," Scott said. "I knew there was going to be a day that I was finally going to have to shut it down and I finally made that decision."

At that point in the interview one of Scott's coaches interrupted. Who did Scott want catching that night? Thaiss, Scott responded. That was University of Virginia catcher Matt Thaiss.
Madison manager Donnie Scott in the visitor's clubhouse at Kalamazoo after speaking with The Greatest 21 Days in August 2014. (G21D Photo)
Scott made it back to the majors for one last, brief stint as a September call-up for the Reds in 1991. Scott recalled Reds director of player development Jim Bowden taking care of him because he knew Scott was going to shut it down.

He said he knows he was lucky to get that call and he really didn't deserve it. The final day of that season Scott called bittersweet.

"When you make the decision to shut it down, boy, you get a lot of emotions go through your mind," Scott said.

"I was happy, but sad," he added. "But I knew I was going on, I was going to stay in the game, I was going have the opportunity to pass along things other players and help them out and help them get to the big leagues."

Scott said his experience playing is a central part of how he manages. When he has to motivate, he motivates.

For the most part, though, he just tries to be understanding and let his players play.

"That's what they're here for. They're entertaining the fans," Scott said. "It should be a fun experience. I want them to have fun out there. You're not always going to win championships. You're not always going to get three or four hits - just learning how to deal with all of it."
Madison manager Donnie Scott low-fives the Kalamazoo mascot after exchanging lineups in August 2014 at Kalamazoo. (G21D Photo)
Scott's first managerial job came in 1992 at rookie Billings. He managed there for four seasons. He also managed at single-A Charleston, high-A Sarasota and in the Gulf Coast League. He also managed five seasons at Dayton.

The brawl came July 24, 2008. Peoria was in town. MiLB.com had the description of the build up. There was a hit-by-pitch. A fielder suffered a broken leg on a collision. Dayton scored four times. Then there was another hit-by-pitch and a hard slide.

That's when interim Peoria manager Martinez got into the argument with Scott, who was coaching third base.

The rest was caught on video. As the two managers appeared to make contact, the player brawl broke out. Peoria pitcher Julio Castillo quickly came into the frame, firing a ball toward the dugout. It hit a fan. Castillo was arrested.

Scott said he was humbled. He made a mistake. He wishes it wouldn't have happened.

"I really wish I was still there and helping those guys," Scott said of the Reds. "But God had a plan for me to come here. I love the Northwoods League. I love the college kids and trying to help them get to pro ball.

"So, that's the way I look at things. I try to keep things as positive as I can," Scott added. "I do miss affiliated baseball, though, I really do."
Madison manager Donnie Scott talks with Kalamazoo skipper Joe Carbone before an August 2014 game at Kalamazoo. (G21D Photo)
Still, Scott said he's been fortunate in his long career in the game.

"I love the game," Scott said. "Like I said, the game will humble you and you have to learn how to deal with adversity and I'm trying to do the best I can."

Does he want to get back to pro ball himself?

"It would be nice," Scott said. "But I'm happy here, too. I mean, I'm really happy here. The league has treated me well."

Northwoods League president Dick Radatz, Jr., Madison owner Steve Schmitt, Madison team president Vern Stenman, Madison general manager Conor Caloia, Scott said, "these are good people."

"This reminds me of baseball the way it used to be, when I was coming up playing," Scott said.

He doesn't miss writing all the player reports, he added with a laugh. But it can also be stressful.

"As much as we're trying to help kids, we're trying to win baseball games, too," Scott said. "I like that part."

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

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