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Mudville: June 22, 2024 8:15 am PDT

Scott Pose

"Baseball owes you nothing, so I am thrilled to be a part of it.”

When the first seeds of BallNine were planted in November of 2019, they were done so with the idea that every big leaguer had their story to share and we were going to provide a multi-media platform for those players to do so.

In the three years since, we have come across people with some interesting experiences and places in history, which brings us to Scott Pose, who played in 202 games across four Major League seasons.

Pose not only has an incredible tale of perseverance as an undersized 34th round draft pick who hit his way up to the majors in just four minor league seasons, but he also has some interesting experiences along the way.

His major league playing career began as the very first batter in Florida Marlins team history and ended with him playing the role of Matt Crane in Kevin Costner’s movie For the Love of the Game.

Not a traditional path by any means.

These days, you’ll find him as a baseball announcer on the Big Ten Network and calling home games for the Durham Bulls.

Non-traditional paths usually birth the best baseball stories, so please join us as we go Spitballin’ with Scott Pose.

Thanks for joining us Mr. Pose! Looking forward to hearing your stories. Let’s start out back in your childhood. What was baseball like for you growing up as a kid?

I was a severely undersized kid, but I loved sports. I had an older brother and he taught me everything. He was an equipment manager in high school and would listen to what the coaches said and taught that to me. During summers in the late 1970s in Des Moines, we lived baseball and played Wiffle Ball. We became Yankees fans, but when we played Wiffle Ball, he was always the Yankees lineup because he was older. I had to be the Royals. As a result, I could still tell you both lineups from back then. I was fortunate enough to make an All-Star team in Little League in Iowa and we ended up three games away from Williamsport. It was an exciting time and I learned early that you didn’t have to be a behemoth to play baseball. I was always the same type of player from Little League to the majors; a leadoff hitter who hit singles. At that time, baseball valued that. Maybe not so much today.

How did you develop from an undersized kid from Iowa who loved baseball into someone who was able to pursue the sport professionally?

I was 4’11” and 88 pounds when I was a freshman in high school at 14. I graduated high school at 145 pounds and was hoping for a chance to continue playing but I was a late bloomer. I had a good senior year, but even as a junior, I didn’t start on varsity on Opening Day. I earned playing time by putting the ball in play and then had a good senior year. I wanted to play in college, but I was afraid I’d be stuck somewhere if I went as a walk-on and didn’t make the team. I went to Iowa Western Community College under the condition that the coach would let me leave after a year. We were on a trip to Oklahoma and the University of Arkansas needed a leadoff hitter. They saw me when they were scouting some other player. Miracles happened and they had a scholarship available. They asked me if I wanted to come and I took it.

You got through the minors pretty quick, especially for a 34th round draft pick. You started out in Rookie Ball in 1989 and by 1991 had some time in AAA. You had some great seasons moving up. What helped you succeed in the minor leagues?

I’ve always erred on the side of work. My family will tell you I am certifiably crazy. I liked the challenge and grind of the minors. It suited my personality. I got drafted late, but it was a chance and that was all I was looking for. I will also tell you that during my time in the minor leagues, I had two expansions that helped me. That’s never lost on me. That created an additional 100 major league jobs that were never there. We could make the case that I fit in that bottom 100 and there are statisticians that will tell you the same when you start looking at WAR. I appreciate that I was born at the right time and was grateful for the chance to play, but I also have respect for the players who didn’t have the opportunity who became before me. I was grateful for every chance that I got, but it was directly proportional to my perceived ability. I knew my leash was going to be shorter than most. Whatever the numbers say, I wouldn’t change anything about my career for anything. That’s because of the friends that I made, the players that I played with and against and the experience that I had.

In 1993 you were in Spring Training with the Marlins in their very first season in franchise history never having played in the Majors before. Can you talk about coming over to the Marlins and then your expectations that Spring?

It was what I was used to. Every Spring Training I had to do well just to stay around. I was a 34th round draft pick and thankfully they don’t have placards over your head saying what round you’re drafted in. You can either play or you can’t. I always counted on that and was grateful for the chance. When I played in the fall league in 1992, I went and thanked my coaches for everything they did that season and they told me I might get a call because the Rule 5 Draft was happening and they heard there was some interest in me. On my drive back, I stopped at a pay phone and called home. My parents told me I had been drafted by the Marlins and put on a major league roster. I was thrilled. Then a few weeks later, Rene Lacheman called and congratulated me. He said there was another player penciled in to my spot, but I was going to be given a chance to compete.

What was that initial Spring Training like for everyone in a new organization?It was an exciting time because everything was new. It was all these people from different organizations fighting for spots. All I tried to do was get a hit here or there. I got hot and had a good spring. Chuck Carr didn’t have such a good spring, so I became a fly in the ointment. I wasn’t supposed to make the team, but there wasn’t a lot they could do about it because the numbers said differently. As the spring went on, it became a war of attrition. I would come in after every game and think that they might call me into the office and tell me, “Thanks, but no thanks.” That never happened, but I also never got called into the office to say that I had made the team. There were a few of us that just didn’t know. Towards the end of Spring Training, we played the Royals and got on a plane to head to Miami. I had come up with Trevor Hoffman and he was in that situation too. We were on that plane and looked at each other and said, “I guess we made it if we’re on this plane.”

Everyone always thinks it’s the 5-for-5 day where you hit some doubles and stole a bunch of bases. But it came down to running out ground balls and hustling that got me to the Yankees.

That’s pretty incredible. Did there ever end up being a conversation about it?

We got to Florida and we had a practice. Rene Lacheman called Chuck Carr and I into the office and said, “Scott Pose is going to be our starting centerfielder on Opening Day.” I was floored. I was just glad to make the team. It was kind of prophetic, but he said to me, “Keep doing what you’re doing and you’re going to play.” What I was doing was hitting .400. I played in the first six games and had a hit in each. I was hitting .300 and they called me in after Easter Sunday. They told me I wasn’t going to start because Bud Black was pitching and he was a lefty. I started the next two days and didn’t get any hits, but I didn’t strike out. After that, I never started again. I had a couple of pinch hit appearances and five days later I was sent down and taken off the roster. That was a tough lesson to learn.

You weren’t kidding when you said you had a short leash! Before you were sent down though, you actually had the very first at bat in Marlins franchise history. What’s it like having that place in history?

It was just a function of where I hit in the lineup. It wasn’t like they said, “You’re Mr. Marlin and you’re going to hit first.” I just happened to be there, but I was grateful to be there. There were four or five of us making our debuts. I wasn’t nervous, but I had a lump in my throat. I had a lot of surreal moments that day. Before the game I had Cookie Rojas telling me where I should shade Darryl Strawberry and Eric Davis. These were guys I grew up watching and now I was playing against them; that was wild. Then in the offensive meeting and they were talking about Orel Hershiser. I was just thinking, “What did I do to get here?” These were guys I grew up idolizing, but I focused on the game once it started.

When they announced the lineups on the field, I got goosebumps. I just wanted the game to start so I could get some normalcy. We went out on defense and Charlie Hough struck out the side. It was great and the crowd was going crazy. I grabbed my bat and went out into the on deck circle. I was in the box and looked out at Orel Hershiser. He was staring at the ground for what seemed to be a very long time. I think it was how he gathered himself. He lifted his head up and stared into the plate. That immediately got my attention because it reminded me of my older brother trying to intimidate me in the backyard. Then it became a game because he got my dander up. It was a 2-1 count and I got a sinker. I hit it off Hershiser’s glove and it went to Jody Reed. It was a close play at first and I beat it. I looked up at the scoreboard and they flashed “hit.” Then they changed it to an error, but I got a hit my next at bat, which was a 55-hopper through the infield.

March 3, 1998: Outfielder Scott Pose of the New York Yankees in action during a spring training game against the Houston Astros at the Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee, Florida. (Credit: Andy Lyons /Allsport)

Such and awesome memory to have. You mentioned being sent down and it took a while to get back up after being the Opening Day starter in center. From 1994 through part of 1997, you played AAA for five different franchises. How hard was it to persevere through that?

Nick Capra gave me some good advice. He had a similar experience and he said to me, “If you have a uniform, you have a chance.” He was exactly right. I blindly resolved that if I had a uniform, I was going to play hard and hope someone would notice me. I was going to continue to play until they ripped the uniform off me. I had what I thought was a horrible year in 1996. I hit .272 in AAA and the kind of player I was, if I wasn’t hitting .300 nobody was going to want me. I told my wife that if I didn’t get a major league offer, I was probably done. Two major league offers came in and one was from the Yankees, so I took it.

It’s pretty incredible that of all the teams to give you a chance, it was the Yankees who were right in the middle of their dynasty.

I couldn’t figure out why the Yankees wanted me. I had played in Syracuse and we had played against Columbus and Stump Merrill was their manager. One of the very first days of batting practice, Stump Merrill called me over and asked if I knew why I was there. I said, “I have no idea.” He told me I was there because of him. He said the previous year we had played them in April and I hit a ground ball to second base. They couldn’t believe my time down to first. He then said that they played us in August and we were 35 games under .500. I hit another grounder and ran the same time down to first. He said that if I played that hard all the time, I could always play for him. Think about that. Everyone always thinks it’s the 5-for-5 day where you hit some doubles and stole a bunch of bases. But it came down to running out ground balls and hustling that got me to the Yankees.

Love to hear that kind of a story! That Yankees team was absolutely stacked. What was it like playing with so many superstars?

It was very clear from the start when Joe Torre gave us a speech in Spring Training. He said that you can say what you want about George Steinbrenner, but he will do whatever it takes for us to win. The expectation here is that we win the World Series. It’s not getting to the playoffs, it’s winning the World Series. He said, “We don’t care who does it, so check your ego at the door and find a way to win each and every day so we could win the World Series.” There were stars there, but nobody cared who got it done. They just found a way to get it done. We just tried to get guys on, get them over and get them in. The players policed themselves about making that happen. I knew what was expected of me, so I wasn’t going to let those guys down. That’s why those teams won. It can be said that I was on the only team sandwiched in between all the World Series winners that didn’t win, so it was my fault. But it was a pretty good run and they were all very helpful with me. They only cared about winning and passing on that knowledge and that was an absolute thrill.          

Scott Pose #38 of the New York Yankees looks on during batting practice before a game against the Cleveland Indians on July 1, 1997 at Yankee Stadium in New York City. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

You were also a member of the Yankees in Hollywood, playing Matt Crane, the second-to-last out in Kevin Costner’s perfect game in For the Love of the Game. How did you get involved with that?

I was with the Yankees in 1997 and signed back in 1998 hoping to be in the same role. They went on to win 125 games that year and they didn’t need a lot of help. They had young players like Ricky Ledee coming up, so they didn’t really need me. By September, I was putting up decent numbers in Columbus and my agent said he was going to call the Yankees to ask if another team needed me in the majors if they’d let me go. He called me back and said, “I don’t have a major league job for you, but how would you like to be in a movie?” I was told they were going to film a movie in Yankee Stadium and they needed players, so I said I would.

I found out after the fact that Kevin Costner had this script and went to George Steinbrenner to pitch it. George said that if it was filmed in Yankee Stadium, he wanted to have final approval on who the players were. The Tigers did the same thing, so the extras in the movie are minor leaguers from the Yankees and Detroit. They had me send in a head shot and assigned me to play Matt Crane, who was a pinch hitter in the ninth.

What was it like filming your role?

They started filming the day after the Yankees clinched in San Diego. For six weeks, all of us minor leaguers were there. It was a lot of hurry up and wait. We’d film scenes at the stadium and then work out in the weight room or just hang around. For one of my scenes they asked me if I could hit a ball down the third base line. I said, “I’m a professional. I hope so. Just throw one on the outside part of the plate.” They put a camera on the shortstop side of the mound. I had 15 feet between the line and camera to work with. Before they threw the ball, I asked how much the camera was worth. They said don’t worry about it. They threw the ball and I hit it about a foot-and-a-half to the left of the camera and it was the shot they used in the movie on the first take. Right after that shot, they put plexiglass in front of the camera. It was like a $100,000 camera.

What was it like seeing yourself in the movie when it finally came out?

It was an interesting experience. We had no idea how the movie was gonna turn out. We assumed it was going to be like Bull Durham where you see baseball all throughout the movie. We didn’t find out it was a love story with baseball sprinkled in until we saw the movie. It was a neat experience. My wife and son got to come up. I have pictures of my son running the bases. He got to meet John C. Reilly. I tell everybody that I got paid to do what I did for 14 years—pretend to be a baseball player!

This has been great! Thanks for sharing so many great stories. Just one last question for you. What are your reflections when you look back at that 4’11” high school kid who loved baseball and then think about everything you’ve been able to accomplish in the game?

I’m incredibly lucky. I may have been undersized, but I appreciate the good and bad times I had in baseball. I’ve met the most interesting people and it’s probably been the greatest professional experience of my life. I’m thankful that I had a chance. Baseball owes you nothing, so I am thrilled to be a part of it. I’ve had some advocates who have been behind me the whole way and it starts with my parents and wife. Then the scout that signed me and coaches who believed in me. I am grateful for every one of them and just love the game of baseball.

Rocco is a baseball writer with too much time on his hands who lives in the dusty corners of Baseball Reference. He was one half of the battery for the 1986 Belleville Recreation Farm League Champion Indians. He likes early 20th century baseball nicknames, pullover polyester jerseys and Old Hoss Radbourn. He works as a College Athletics Director and his second book was released in April of 2021.

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