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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Interview Part 2: Scott Economy, Opening Day

The 1988 Billings Mustangs, including Scott Economy. (Photo Provided)
Part 1: The Adrenaline | Part 2: Opening Day

Scott Economy recalled at first being kind of mad. This was his second professional season and the Reds minor leaguer was being sent back to rookie Billings.

But the first-year reliever was being sent back as a second-year starter - Billings' Opening Day starter. That, Economy quickly learned, meant something.

"When somebody explained it to me that you're the Opening Day starter - I really didn't know that the starters were the top prospects in the organization," Economy said. "They wanted to get you more innings, more experience on the mound.

"When I found that out," Economy said, "I was like 'OK, I get this.'"

This was June 1988 and the start of the Pioneer League team's short season. As it turned out, though, Economy never got the chance to show exactly what he could do.

It was before that first start, as the pitcher Economy was taking batting practice, that he suffered the first of two major injuries. This injury would slow his career. The second injury, which came two seasons later, helped end it.

Before that Opening Day game, the pitcher Economy took batting practice. He wasn't a bad hitter. During this batting practice, Economy swung and he ended up pulling his hip flexor muscle.

"I went out to warm up in the bullpen and I'm like 'oh my God, something's not right there,'" Economy said. "You can't push off your back leg, you're using all your arm."

Economy pitched through it. He attributed that to his pitching coach, who he said advised him that the opportunity to be a starter was too great to not to try and go forward.
Old Veterans Memorial Stadium in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Scott Economy played at Veterans Memorial in 1989 and 1990. Photo is from New Veterans Memorial Stadium gift shop wall in April 2012.
Through 14 outings, the result was a swollen elbow and his numbers suffered. He also got shut down early and, by 1989, he'd lost his starting spot.

After his second injury, suffered in the off-season between 1989 and 1990, his career was essentially over. It was over having made two stops over four seasons, rookie Billings and single-A Cedar Rapids.

Economy spoke with The Greatest 21 Days recently from his home in Ohio. Economy covered his career from growing up outside of Cleveland to college in Virginia and then his four seasons with the Reds.

His professional career began in 1987, taken by Cincinnati in the 21st round of the draft out of James Madison University.

Economy's first stop was Billings. He pitched mostly as a reliever, getting 17 outings and one start. He picked up four wins and two saves.

He recalled the highlights of that first year being the fans asking for autographs and getting interviewed by newspapers.

"I don't miss the long bus trips," Economy said. "But the friends and the guys I met, it's kind of like a fraternity."

After that first season, Economy had pitched well enough to get invited to instructional league. He went and he got to pitch in front of Reds brass again.

The result was the return to Billings, but move to the starting rotation. After the muscle injury, Economy ended with an inflated 4.90 ERA. But it wasn't all bad. He recalled striking out future major leaguers Jose Offerman and Eric Karros, both of whom played for Great Falls that year.
Pohlman Field in Beloit, Wisc., in 2014. Scott Economy's Cedar Rapids Reds played at Pohlman in 1989. (Greatest 21 Days)
Economy returned in 1989 from the hip injury. His destination was single-A Cedar Rapids in the Midwest League. He got into 32 games for the Reds, starting two. He won five games, saved four and had an improved 2.66 ERA.

In the offseason, Economy worked to finish his degree at Ohio State. He also got into a pickup basketball game with some other local pro players who were in town. Economy dunked the ball and felt a twinge in his shoulder.

"I kept working out in the winter, went to spring training and it was still bothering me," Economy said. "Then that whole next year in Cedar Rapids - nothing."

He went into that spring training on the AAA roster. He left it back at Cedar Rapids.

He got into only four games all year, 7.1 innings. He rehabbed, but nothing stuck. There were also disputes over treatment. Economy wanted a cortisone shot at one point, but didn't get it.

He went home to rehab mid-season, came back and got the shot. He got into one game at Waterloo and struck out the side on 12 pitches, he recalled.

"It was tough sitting there and not being able to contribute," Economy said. "When I got the cortisone shot and struck out the side at Waterloo, I thought everything was great."

Three days later, when he went to warm up, the shoulder pain was back. He ended up having rotator cuff surgery. There was a dispute there, too.

Reds farm director Howie Bedell wanted him to have it in Iowa, Economy said. Economy didn't know that doctor. He and his agent wanted it done in Ohio by the team doctor of the Indians.
The result, Economy believes, was he rubbed Bedell the wrong way. After rehabbing through the winter, Bedell released Economy two weeks before spring training.

"My heart sunk," Economy said. "I got the pink slip and was like 'what am I going to do?'"

Economy had been coming back slowly and he was throwing well. The release, so soon before spring training, accelerated his personal timetable and it didn't work out.

He set about traveling around Florida taking Advil by the handful to try and show something to teams. He got to spend some time in spring camp with the Brewers, but that didn't last.

"It was tough when you couldn't show anything and you couldn't get signed by anybody," Economy said, "the point where nobody wants you, it was really a tough time in my life."

He spent his final time on the mound in Venezuela. He managed to get signed by Cocadrilos in Caracas. He played there for a little while, but his velocity wasn't there. That ended it.

Economy has since returned home to the Cleveland area. He's sold cars and worked in construction. Mostly he's worked in sales. His parents helped him along by making him finish his degree, he recalled.

While some of Economy's teammates went on to make the majors, Economy's career ended after four seasons.

"I don't think they were any better than me," Economy said with a laugh. "They all made it to the big leagues. To this day it still bothers me, but it's kind of good to talk about it every once in a while."

Part 1: The Adrenaline | Part 2: Opening Day

Be sure to read Part 1: Scott Economy, The Adrenaline

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