For the love of the game
Since the 1998 baseball season, the sport I love has been on a downward spiral at the professional level. Impending Congressional hearings regarding steroid use in baseball will further darken the game.
Gone is the ability of baseball fans to compare numbers of players from different generations since the game has been forever stained by the unfair advantage generated by substance abuse.
I have been an American Legion Baseball Coach for Post 127 in Orange for approximately 14 years. The game, at that level, is basically clean and the worst that can be said is that sometimes players dip tobacco.
The love of the game is not as present, even at that level, as it once was. Sometimes players at that level emulate professional players and are concerned about their image and about the glory that they can obtain from playing the game.
I was in that frame of mind when on a Sunday, during the Christmas vacation, there was a knock at my door and I answered the door to find Scott Meyer there wanting to watch football.
We sat down and spent the afternoon together with his friend and my scorekeeper Scott Apuzzo and with Dave Dest a former Legion player who also came over to watch football that day.
I asked Scott Meyer how he liked playing in the Minors. As you probably know, Meyer played at Amity High School, played Legion baseball for Post 127, pitched for Division I powerhouse Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas and was drafted in the 24th round of the draft by the Chicago Cubs.
Scott Meyer is a big, unassuming kid with a smile on his face who loves the game of baseball. During all the years I have watched him play and coached him, he never did anything other than respect the game and respect the organizations for whom he played.
Likewise, his parents were quiet and unassuming and never talked about their son's obvious athletic ability.
They cheered quietly for him and his teammates and always supported his coaches. During that Sunday afternoon, Scott did not want to talk about his accomplishments in the Minors, he didn't want me to write an article about how great he was doing.
I knew he had pitched for the Cubs rookie club in Arizona and was promoted during their season to their High A Club in Daytona. I knew from the computer, having checked Scott's statistics periodically and having listened to a couple of his games during a computer broadcast, that he had a 3.50 ERA and had performed quite well garnering almost as many strikeouts as innings pitched.
He had coached Legion with our organization the year before he signed since he had hurt his arm while pitching for Lamar and took the summer off to rehab.
I had never had a more fun summer with Scotty on the coaching staff. That year, we went to the finals in the State Tournament in Legion and our post-game trips to Dunkin' Donuts after an exciting victory provided laughs and moments that I shall never forget.
Back to that Sunday afternoon, all Scotty would tell me is that he prayed that he would be promoted this year.
He told me that his greatest thrill was striking out a Major League ballplayer who was rehabing at the Single A level and he said what he wanted more than anything was to throw just one pitch in the Major Leagues.
I knew he had signed for not much money and had not really negotiated a signing bonus since he just wanted to enjoy the game he loved.
Scotty has always downplayed his abilities and never really liked talking about his accomplishments. He was a team player who gave his all.
He was somewhat orthodox in his field demeanor and mechanics, but his God-given abilities made him perform at a very high level. In college, at Lamar, he was clocked at 96 mph. and told me that, post-surgery, his speed was back up to 92 m.p.h., but that they did not want him to throw as hard as he once had because they had taught him
Despite a thousand questions I asked him that afternoon, that was the only information I could get from him. I was happy he had come over that Sunday since he reaffirmed what a wonderful game baseball was and I was able to enjoy talking to someone who loved the game as much as I do and who was not playing it for glory, but only for the love of the game.
I can tell you from following it at the professional level and from dealing with some parents through the years as a Legion Coach, that that is not as prevalent as it once was. It is, however, what makes coaches come back and coach and it is what the game is all about.
In this muddled and foggy world of today's baseball, if you are looking for someone to root for, Scott Meyer would be a perfect subject. You can follow Scotty on MILB.com during the season.
His parents Dawn and Marty live in Orange. They are quietly proud of Scotty. They should be because he is a wonderful kid.
Robert C. Mirto is a resident of Orange