By Steve Ruman
Adam Scott had every reason to let his nerves get the best of him last Thursday at Eastwood Field.
The left-handed pitcher, out of Canandaigua, N.Y., knew he would be making his professional baseball debut that night with the Mahoning Valley Scrappers. Three weeks earlier, Scott was selected by the Cleveland Indians in the fourth round (133rd overall) of the June draft out of Wofford College.
Tonight, Scott is scheduled to pitch the middle three innings when the Scrappers play at Staten Island.
Last week, Scott was scheduled to pitch the middle three innings against Batavia, which would have put him on the mound at around 8 p.m. However, rain delayed the start of the game for two hours. When he finally did enter the contest, another storm was moving into the Valley, and his work was limited to one inning.
While the unconventional start to a pro career may have befuddled some, Scott was unfazed. He needed just 16 pitches to record a pair of strikeouts and a ground-out.
“It’s baseball, it’s just part of the game and it’s something that I’ve been preparing for my whole life,” Scott said. “You always have to be ready for the unexpected.”
Nerves of steel? Perhaps! Or, maybe it’s just the fact that Scott has already experienced so much of the unexpected, nothing can truly rain on his parade.
A self-proclaimed lifetime baseball junkie, Scott began to realize that his goal of playing college baseball was within his reach by the time he was a freshman in high school.
“Growing up, that was always my hope, I thought that playing in college was achievable, playing pro ball was a dream,” Scott said. “During my freshman year in high school, my coaches started telling me that they really thought college ball was in my future.”
Then, a pair of injuries put Scott’s baseball future in serious jeopardy. Just prior to the start of his sophomore season, Scott broke his leg when he was hit by a car [driven by a teammate] while walking to practice. Scott described the injury as “a Kevin Ware-type break, where the bone was coming out through the skin.”
A former Louisville basketball player, Ware received widespread media attention when he suffered the injury while playing in the 2013 NCAA tournament.
“It was just a freak thing, I was walking down a narrow drive, my friend thought he could get around me, I tried to duck out of the way and I sort of froze,” Scott said.
Then, just two days short of the anniversary of that injury, Scott blew out the elbow in his throwing arm. Surgery forced him to miss a second straight year of high school ball. Today, a screw still holds his elbow in place.
“Now I’m wondering if I’ll even be able to play college ball,” Scott said. “Not too many schools are going to look at a kid who misses two entire years of high school ball. I was really lucky that I was on Wofford’s radar prior to the injuries, because even after all of that they were like, ‘We recruited you as a person, we like you because of who you are and because of your character. You’re still welcome.’”
Wofford’s trust in Scott paid off. At the completion of his senior season, Scott was the NCAA Division I active leader in career strikeouts. This past spring, he led the Southern Conference in strikeouts with 137 in 101 innings and posted a 3.14 earned run average. For his career, he pitched 364 2/3 innings with 376 strikeouts and just 99 walks.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better situation than what I had at Wofford,” Scott said. “They say everything happens for a reason. Me not having many [college] options and ending up there was the best thing that could have ever happened. Just a great situation and I was surrounded with great people throughout the program.”
Scott was actually targeted by the Indians in the 2017 draft. The organization phoned during the 16th round to express an interest. Scott said thanks but no thanks, and decided to return to college for his senior year.
“My thought was that I still had a lot of room to grow, I still needed to develop as a pitcher,” Scott said. “I didn’t want to sign just for the sake of saying I played pro ball. If I’m in pro ball, it’s to make a Big League roster.
“Yeah, it was risky, I know more than anyone that an injury can end a career in a heartbeat. But I made what I thought was the best decision for my future. I was willing to live with whatever happened after that. And taking the route I did made me work even that much harder this past year. I was extremely focused.”
The fact that the Indians called a second time — and this time much higher in the draft — validated Scott’s decision.
“Things couldn’t have worked out any better,” he said. “Deep down, I was hoping that it would be the Indians that would call my name on draft day. They was so understanding last year when I told them I was going to pass [on the draft]. The entire organization values what I value. It’s a great fit.
“They made me kick my butt in gear when I passed on the draft last year. Then for them to give me a second look this year, I want to do everything humanly possible to make them know that they made the right choice.”