Friday, August 7, 2015

Interview Part 3: Scott Jeffery, Same Way

Birmingham, Ala.'s Hoover Metropolitan Stadium. Scott Jeffery made his first AA start there in 1989. (Credit: Ensign beedrill - Wikipedia)
Part 1: Great Opportunity | Part 2: Really Excited
Part 3: Same Way

Scott Jeffery remembers the newness of the stadium and the good sound system. The announcer, he recalled, was big league-sounding to him.

This was summer 1989 and it was Jeffery's first start for AA Chattanooga - two steps away from the majors. At Birmingham's still new Hoover Metropolitan Stadium, Jeffery recalled pitching poorly.

"I remember being overwhelmed by that first start," Jeffery recalled. "I'm pretty sure I got shelled in that game."

"I think," Jeffery continued, "I tried to do things that I didn't normally do. I didn't do what I had done to be so successful, once I got there. I thought I had to do something different because these players were better."

The result, Jeffery recalled, was he got behind on counts and his numbers suffered. There were some successes, but overall there was disappointment.

It wasn't until the next year that Jeffery really straightened things back out again, he recalled.

After further changes by Reds coaches to get him to throw harder, he began to throw harder. But it wasn't him. He started back at Chattanooga and he was throwing the ball all over the place. After returning to single-A Cedar Rapids, Jeffery got some simple advice from a Reds roving pitching instructor.

"He said, 'what happened?' and I told him the whole story," Jeffery recalled. "He said, 'Well, just go back to doing what you did before that made you so successful.' So that's what I did. I went back and just pitched how I did and you can see that short stint in Cedar Rapids in 1990 I just crushed people."
The scoreboard at PNC Park, home to the Scranton-Wilkes Barre Yankees in 2007. Scott Jeffery has lived in the Scranton and taught in the Scranton area for nearly 20 years. (Greatest 21 Days)
Jeffery got nine starts in that 1990 run at Cedar Rapids. He went 6-1 and posted a 1.38 ERA. He returned to Chattanooga and did better there. But it was too little, too late for the right-hander. That season in 1990, his fourth as a pro, was his last.

That career over, Jeffery went back to the other thing that had made him successful, education. He'd finished his degree and he became a teacher. That career has since led him up the teaching ranks in his adopted home state of Pennsylvania, on up to the highest job in a school district: school superintendent.

Jeffery spoke to The Greatest 21 Days recently by phone from his Scranton-area home. He covered his road to the pros, his brief career there and he talked about his educational career since.

Jeffery's first look at Chattanooga came in 1989, after a 10-2 run at single-A Cedar Rapids. That run included 10-straight victories, all in his third pro season. Jeffery got into 12 games, 11 starts, at Chattanooga. He went 4-5, with a 5.56 ERA.

Then in spring 1990, Jeffery recalled, came the change in his pitching mechanics. He threw harder, maybe 90 or 91 mph, but he was also wild. It showed in his first outings. "That wasn't me," Jeffery said.

It took Reds roving pitching instructor Rich Bombard to suggest he just go back to the way he had pitched and he found success again. He went 6-1 in nine starts at Cedar Rapids, with a 1.38 ERA.

Jeffery returned to Chattanooga and got his ERA there down to 4.10. But he also wasn't in the starting rotation anymore. The next spring, Reds farm director Howie Bedell called Jeffery into his office.

Jeffery basically was no longer in the Reds' plans, Jeffery recalled being told. He could sign with somebody else, or he could go to Chattanooga on the disabled list for a month as an insurance policy. He got a couple offers, but at lower levels.
PNC Field in Moosic, Pa., in 2007. Scott Jeffery first served as superintendent of the nearby Old Forge School District, a rival to Moosic's district. (Greatest 21 Days)
"I just said 'no thanks,'" Jeffery said to the offers of single-A. "'If I'm not meant to play baseball, I'm not meant to play baseball.'"

He went to Chattanooga for the disabled list stint. He wasn't needed and he was released.

"My wife will tell you that I took it pretty hard, initially," Jeffery said. "I firmly believed that I wanted it more than some guys on that were team that weren't doing very well. I was looking at it personally, not necessarily from a business standpoint.

"But I think back today and I say from a business standpoint I understand why decisions were made in certain ways," the current school superintendent said, "I have to make some of those decisions myself."

Still, he said, it was difficult to accept at first.

But there were also personal reasons to move on. Jeffery had just gotten married that March 1 to his wife Karey. They now have two children, age 23 and 10. He'd also finished his degree by going back to school each fall after the season was done.

Jeffery and his wife hung around in Chattanooga a little while. He then went to start his teaching career. Wanting to return to the Northeast, Jeffery sent our resumes from Washington to New York. He landed at Baltimore's Woodlawn High School, where he served as a chemistry teacher and baseball coach for five years.
Scott Jeffery more recently. (Provided)
By the time their daughter turned school age, they relocated to the Scranton area, where his wife's family was from. He joined the Abington Heights School District as a teacher and later science coordinator north of Scranton. Along the way, he coached girls softball and junior varsity baseball.

It was in 2006 that he started his move into administration as an assistant high school principal. By January 2011, he was a superintendent, taking over the Old Forge School District. In July 2013, he moved to the Lakeland School District, a district of about 1,600 students northeast of Scranton.

Jeffery said people often ask him which position along the way he liked the best. He said he can honestly say he liked them all the best.

Regarding why he got into teaching, he said he can trace that back to his stepfather and his high school baseball coach. He also had many great teachers himself. His stepfather was a guidance teacher-turned superintendent.

But his baseball coach, especially, had a role, Jeffery said. His coach at Hornell High School in his native Hornell, NY, was Lenny Caruso.

Caruso, Jeffery said, impacted him greatly. Now Jeffery's passing on that favor.

"I really think that the impact that my baseball coach had on me - that's just teaching baseball. That's really what it is," Jeffery said. "I just think his impact on me really just guided me down this way of wanting to impact children the same way he impacted me."

Part 1: Great Opportunity | Part 2: Really Excited
Part 3: Same Way

Be sure to read Part 1: Scott Jeffery, Great Opportunity

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