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Thursday, September 6, 2012

Tim Scott Interview, Part 1, Started Throwing

Former major league pitcher Tim Scott at Fresno's Chukchansi Park in July 2012. Scott played in seven big league seasons and has gone on to coach his son in high school. (G21D Photo)
Part 1: Started Throwing | Part 2: Wasn't Enough

FRESNO, CA - Tim Scott didn't recall being nervous, but he was anxious.

He'd been called up to the Padres a week earlier, but this game against the Reds at Cincinnati's Riverfront Stadium was his first.

Called in in the fourth inning, the reliever Scott made sure to put everything in the hands of his catcher, Benito Santiago.

"He came out and I said, 'hey, I'm going to start throwing what you put down," Scott recalled to The Greatest 21 Days, referring to the catcher's pitch signs.

A changeup, curve and fastball later, all called by the veteran Santiago, and Scott had his first major league strikeout against the first batter he pitched to in the majors.

"I struck the first guy out I faced on three pitches," Scott recalled, "that's something I'll always remember."

Scott went on strike out 252 more batters in a career that spanned seven big league seasons. He spoke with The Greatest 21 Days in late July at Chukchansi Park in Fresno, Scott traveling to the game with his wife Niki from their hometown of Hanford.
Tim Scott's son Preston Scott has followed his father into the game, headed to Fresno State this fall. (Photo Provided)
Scott grew up in Hanford, earning a second round selection out of high school there. He went on to debut in the majors in 1991 at age 24 and then become an integral part of the 1994 Montreal Expos bullpen, the team that had the best record in baseball when the strike came.

It was injuries and age that finally forced him from the game. Then, after a period away, Scott returned to coach his son Preston Scott in high school, serving as head coach of the Hanford High School team.

Now, as Preston Scott heads off to college this fall to pursue his own baseball dreams, the father has thoughts of maybe getting back into it himself, as a coach or even a scout.

Tim Scott grew up in Hanford, playing ball with his father and quickly getting into organized ball. "I just had a passion for it and stuck with it ever since," Scott said.

By the time he was 15, he actually started getting good. That was also the year his Babe Ruth team made the Babe Ruth World Series in New Hampshire.
Visalia's Recreation Park in July 2012. Tim Scott grew up 20 miles from Visalia in Hanford, Ca. He also played at Recreation Park in 1988 as a member of the visiting Bakersfield Dodgers. (G21D Photo)
"I was throwing in the 90s at 14-15 years old," Scott recalled, "So once we got back there and started getting to a bigger stage as far as that World Series, I think that's where people started seeing me. After that, I started having scouts come out to ballgames my junior and senior years."

"So that World Series in Babe Ruth kind of put me on the map."

As the games went on, and Scott got closer to graduation, he kept seeing the scouts and had an inclination that something special might happen.

As the draft approached, teams started calling directly. But he didn't know exactly where he was going to go in the draft, or how high.

It turned out he went to the Dodgers, in the second round, as a 17-year-old.

"That was perfect," Scott recalled. "I was a Dodger fan growing up, so that was like a dream come true for me."

Soon he was on his way to Great Falls, Mont, in the rookie Pioneer League.

He was also in for the big transition from high school ball to the pros. In high school, Scott recalled being able to set hitters down with the simple speed of his pitches. In the pros, that was no longer the case.

"I thought I could do the same thing at a professional level," Scott said. "I found out different in a hurry."

"You had to really start learning how to pitch, change speeds, hit locations. You couldn't just rear back and try to throw it by everybody."

He also had to deal with the mental aspect of being away from home for the first time. For the first couple months he was homesick.
Fresno Grizzlies pitcher Clayton Tanner delivers to the plate at the Pacific Coast League city's  Chukchansi Park in July 2012. Tim Scott played in the Pacific Coast League from 1990 to 1992, with Albuquerque and Las Vegas. (G21D Photo)
"There were a lot of times that I wanted to get on a bus and come home because of the fact that I was homesick," Scott recalled. "But once I started figuring things out, started getting more of a feel how to pitch, started havign some success, having some fun, I started saying this is what I wanted to do."

And he started having success, or at least enough for the Dodgers to protect him and put him on the 40-man roster after his third season. His progress, though, was soon slowed, Tommy John surgery setting him back a year and a half.

He was back on the field full time in 1988, at single-A Bakersfield. He also wasn't a starter anymore, he was a reliever.

"Something clicked in the bullpen and I started doing really well," Scott recalled. "I started climbing the ladder really quick."

At Bakersfield, he got into 36 games, with a 3.64 ERA. He made AA San Antonio for his first full season in 1989, getting into 48 games, with a 3.71 ERA. He split 1990 between San Antonio and AAA Albuquerque, what turned out to be his final year in the Dodgers system.

The next year, though, he signed with the Padres, the team that would bring him to the big leagues.

Go to Part 2, Tim Scott, Wasn't Enough

Part 1: Started Throwing | Part 2: Wasn't Enough

Note: This was the ninth of 10 interviews picked up on The Greatest 21 Days' late July 2012 trip to central and southern California.

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