BEYOND THE BOXSCORE … GETTING TO KNOW CHICAGO CUBS IF/OF BOBBY SCALES
I am making it official right here and now. I am revving the engine of the train. I am polishing the wheels of the bright and shiny bandwagon. I am anointing myself captain of the team.
THIS IS GONNA BE THE YEAR THAT BOBBY SCALES MAKES IT TO THE BIG LEAGUES!
I mean, seriously, what more does this guy have to do?
As he heads into spring training with the Chicago Cubs as a non-roster invitee, let’s take a look at some of the facts:
Fact: Bobby Scales can hit. In 10 Minor League seasons, the last five of them spent at Triple-A, he has combined for a .285 average. He’s coming off his best pro season to date, when he hit .320 with 15 home runs and 59 RBIs at Triple-A Iowa.
Fact: Bobby Scales is undeniably versatile in the field, and his defense has gotten consistently better. Originally a second baseman when drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 14th round of 1999 out of Michigan, he added outfield to his resume in 2000 and 2001, third base in 2002 and 2003 and first base in 2007 and 2008. With Iowa last summer he played everywhere except shortstop and catcher.
Fact: The switch-hitting Bobby Scales can bat anywhere in the lineup. With Iowa he batted everywhere but third (ironic since he’s a high average contact hitter), and with Triple-A Pawtucket in 2007 he hit in every slot in the Pawsox batting order at one time or another.
Opinion: He is a great guy off the field, in the clubhouse and the community, winning his respective team’s Community Player of the Year award several times, including last summer in his first season at Iowa. He’s especially active when it comes to going out into the community to work with the kids, not surprising since his off-season job is as a substitute teacher at his alma mater, Milton High School in Alpharetta, Ga.
And he keeps things loose in the clubhouse, where, among other things, he entertains teammates (and some of the higher-ups as well) with his talent for impersonations. During his days with the Padres, he was well-known for his ability to mimic, among others, farm director Tye Waller (now the Oakland As’ bench coach) and minor league manager Tony Franklin (now the skipper for the Yankees’ Double-A Trenton Thunder), as well as Padres legend Tony Gwynn (I heard the last one and cracked up).
“My wife says that I’m the most perceptive person she’s ever seen in terms of noticing people’s mannerisms,” said Scales. “And you don’t want to offend anybody but they’re baseball guys so they have thick skin.”
Scales worked his way through the Padres system and spent all or parts of three seasons at Triple-A Portland before an amicable parting of the ways after 2005 when he explored the minor league free agent waters.
He spent 2006 with the Phillies organization, hitting .291 at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and 2007 with the Red Sox, batting .294 at Pawtucket, before signing with the Cubs prior to 2008. Scales decided to re-sign with the Cubs for 2009 on Christmas Eve, while he was on his way to the mall to buy his wife Monica one last Christmas present.
“I think I walked away from the Phillies after one year and I probably shouldn’t have, and I walked away from Boston after one year and I probably shouldn’t have, and I didn’t want that to happen a third time,” he explained. “All three of those organizations treated me like one of their own. At the time, I felt like if they wanted me in the big leagues, they would have called me up, but I realized it’s just not that cut and dried.”
Scales realized it had to work both ways, and while it’s not necessarily easy to be “patient” at age 31, it was something he needed to do.
“I realized the only way to become one of ‘their guys’ is to stay there,” he said. “I didn’t want to walk into a big league camp clubhouse and have to start all over again for a fourth straight year.”
If I haven’t convinced you yet why Bobby Scales should get his shot at the big time, maybe this Q&A will:
GotMiLB: Of what accomplishment, on or off the field, are you proudest?
Scales: For me, it’s a combination of a few things. I’m proud of the community service work done in the various places I’ve been. I believe in that. I believe in helping out, reading to the kids, because education was always number one in my house, that came from my parents. Also, honestly, I’m proud of being able t graduate from college while still performing at a high level. I think a lot of athletes take easy classes and don’t pursue their education with the same vigor as their athletic endeavors. In my house, if you didn’t handle your business in the classroom, there was no baseball.
GotMiLB: What do you think you’d be doing now if you weren’t playing baseball?
Scales: Honestly, I don’t know. Ideally, if I wasn’t playing baseball, hopefully I’d be in a position to be an athletic director at a college or university, or else in marketing with a company. I did an internship in college at Nike and got to see what was behind the swoosh.
GotMiLB: Everyone has a “hidden talent.” What’s yours?
Scales: My wife thinks my impressions are all terrible, and she doesn’t get the same joy others get out of them, but that’s probably the closest thing I have to a hidden talent.
GotMiLB: Do you have other hobbies or creative outlets aside from baseball?
Scales: I’m a golfer. I play golf until I can’t stand up straight and then play more after that.
GotMiLB: What is the worst job you’ve ever had?
Scales: My wife has her PhD from the University of Georgia and when she was in grad school I worked at the jewelry store at the mall, the one gap in my substitute teaching career. We were in Clarke County where there was only one high school so there weren’t a lot of substitute jobs available. The people I worked with at the store were awesome but the job was terrible. I had to wear a suit and tie every day and count the jewelry every morning and every night and if you’re off one earring you have to search the whole store up and down. But we did get a discount on our wedding rings.
GotMiLB: What is your guiltiest TV pleasure?
Scales: I love documentaries. My first plan going to college was to be a history major so I could go to law school and become an agent, but I realized that wasn’t for me, that I had to do something with a sports angle. But I watch the History Channel like it’s my job.
GotMiLB: What reality TV show would you kick butt on?
Scales: I would say anything with a physical challenge. Some of those “Road Rules” or “Real World” challenges, I could do well with those. I’m a good athlete and have enough smarts to figure certain things out, and I’m not going to give up.
GotMiLB: If you could trade places with one person for a day who would it be and why?
Scales: Barack Obama. As an ordinary citizen, you only see the outside. What’s it really like on the inside of that job?
GotMiLB: Who would play you in the movie of your life?
Scales: My wife asked me that question last night. She religiously watches “One Tree Hill” so I’ve gotten into it too (okay, another guilty TV pleasure). The main character has written a movie and they’re trying to cast everyone. So she looked at me and said ‘Who would play you?’ If I was older I’d go with Denzel, but she says Torii Hunter. People say I look like him, and also like DeWayne Wise. And they say my wife looks like a younger Pam Grier.
GotMiLB: If you were commissioner for a day, which one rule would you change?
Scales: That the All-Star Game counts for home field advantage in the World Series. I think that’s ridiculous. The team with the best record should have it.
GotMiLB: What is the best minor league promotion or visiting act you’ve seen? And the worst?
Scales: I still laugh at the Chicken. I’ve seen him 15,000 times and he’s still my favorite. As for the worst, we were in Toledo and they had Drew Carey Night and they kept playing “Cleveland rocks” and trying to get the crowd to sing “Cleveland rocks.” But we were in Toledo. We weren’t in Cleveland. It didn’t make sense.