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Great Article on Luke Scott (Statesman)

Discussion in 'Houston Astros' started by DaDakota, Aug 29, 2005.

  1. DaDakota

    DaDakota If you want to know, just ask!
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    UbTTUWUXUTUZTZU\UWU_U]UZUaUaUcTYWYWZV&urcm=y]Luke Scott article

    The gospel, according to Luke
    He has his Bible and he has his journals — details of his life as a hitter. Therein lie the passages that Luke Scott believes keep him on the right path . . . and circling the basepaths.
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    Luke Scott has had a roller-coaster season, filled with milestones and setbacks. Lately, he's clicking.

    Express left fielder Luke Scott reads the Bible while team trainer Otis Freer warms up his shoulder muscles before a recent game at Dell Diamond in Round Rock. The gospel, according to Luke, is rather simple: Work hard, play hard, and God will reward him.

    Scott also keeps a detailed record of his at-bats in his journals, which are inscribed with a version of Colossians 3:23 — 'Whatever you do, work at with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not men.'

    As the September roster expansion nears, Scott hopes the Houston Astros have noticed that his batting average has risen 69 points since early July and he leads the Express in home runs.

    ROUND ROCK — He comes to the ballpark at half-past 1 and hangs a bag on a hook in his stall.

    The clubhouse is empty. Luke Scott pulls a Round Rock Express shirt over his shoulder, the one with the kanji tattoo. He rubs a block of pine tar on his bat in the silence and sees the notebooks on the shelf above his cleats. On the hook, his bag sags with the weight of the only thing in it: a Bible.

    The night before was something else, another miracle at Dell Diamond. Scott goes 4 for 5 against Albuquerque and pops his 28th home run of the year, his fifth in seven days. He learns he's been named Player of the Week in the Pacific Coast League. He's reminded of something in John 3:21 — "What he has done has been done through God."

    Some seasons ago, when Scott earned an honor for the way he pummeled a baseball, he accepted the credit as his alone.

    Then he bought a few beers to celebrate. Often he bought too many, got too loud, raised too much redneck hell and, to complete the affair, committed certain acts that go unendorsed in the passages he's underlined in Colossians and Ephesians and John.

    That was another Luke Scott — the pre-born-again. "Before I was saved," the Express outfielder says.

    When he plays well now, he describes himself as anointed, as if the palm of God rests gently on his back.

    Scott opens familiar books with worn, comforting pages. He searches his Bible because, he explains, he knows that something special awaits if he remains faithful and true. "I believe it is in baseball," Scott says. He jots in the notebooks that sit above his spikes.

    Every night, before bed and before his visit with his Lord, Scott begins a new passage in the journals he started keeping after he joined the Cleveland Indians organization in 2001. He writes the name of the team and the pitcher he faced. He describes each pitch, notes whether it was a curve or a fastball or a slider low and away. He marks whether a pitcher comes over the top or at an angle. He assesses himself as a hitter.

    "Be ready."

    "Swing bat."

    "Keep trying."

    "Relax."

    Those journals chronicle the statistics that describe a young career — everything but the heartbreaks of an earnest ballplayer. Sentiment is hard to put into words anyway, and what's the point in dwelling on history when you know you've still got time, talent and, most important of all, faith?

    Baseball can be a cruel game. No one knows that better than minor-league scrappers such as Scott, who was summoned to the big leagues at the age of 26.

    There was no better hitter in spring training for the Houston Astros this year. The Astros never expected Scott to make the roster, but then he hit .393 and paced the club with seven home runs and 20 RBIs. After the Astros told Scott he'd be suiting up in the big leagues in April, Scott went numb.

    "It's amazing what the Lord can do," he says.

    Wearing No. 30, Scott batted fifth for the Astros on a sunny opening day at Minute Maid Park, a longshot in left field from a gritty neighborhood near Daytona, Fla. He got no hits. Less than a month later, he concluded his first tour of the National League. His 6-for-39 performance resulted in an underwhelming return to the Express, a team he played for in 2004.

    It's all there. It's all in the journals.

    What isn't in Scott's journals could fill a book of its own. His journey — from Single-A ball up to the big leagues and its $300,000 contract, back down again to the Express — can't be told in pitch counts, release points or reminders to swing at strikes.

    But it can, the ballplayer believes, be found in the other important volume in his life.

    Scott opens his Bible. He pages to John.

    He reads, following along with a finger. Without looking up he shakes his head. "I'm not worried."

    It's not that Scott believes that God takes sides in a baseball game. It's not that God wants Scott to bang balls over the fence. When Scott talks about his faith, he describes a belief in obedience to what he reads in his Bible, which tells him, in so many words, that if he works hard, prays hard and plays hard, God will — through God's will — reward him. God will anoint the ballplayer Luke Scott.

    The journals. The Bible. Those are where the slugger traces his past and maps his future.

    Those books? They burn with personal truth.

    Scott trotted to left on Opening Day wearing an irrepressible grin. He heard his family and friends in the seats at Minute Maid Park and saw a banner with his name on it. He glanced up. The roof was open. The sky was blue and cloudless to the heavens.

    On his hand was a baseball glove with his name stitched in cursive. Scott used it to hide the tears in his eyes.

    He took a quick, appreciative inventory of his life. There he was — a 210-pound, 6-footer who looked like Charlie Sheen in "Major League," a slugger who loved to launch the long ball and took pride in graceful defense — roaming the outfield in the major leagues. Scott thought about all those sprints he ran down his street in Florida, all the high school and college games he played. He thought about all the faith he kept when his career seemed to detour.

    "Tests," Scott calls them.

    He crouched as the first game of the 2005 season began. The Cardinals' Jim Edmonds slammed a home run over his head. When he faced Chris Carpenter in the second inning, Scott struck out. He barely could breathe in the batter's box. He showered after the game with a fuller appreciation for the different speed of Major League Baseball.

    The rookie went 0 for 3 that game, a day he'd dreamed about since his mother asked her 8-year-old son what he wanted to be when he grew into a man.

    The two of them were driving some Florida road in fern country, Jennifer Scott remembers. She wanted to talk with him about school, why he didn't seem to take it as seriously as he did baseball. Her family wasn't religious at the time, but when Luke told her he wanted to play in the pros, "God stopped me right there."

    She wanted to tell Luke about long odds. Instead, "I looked at him and said, 'You know what? Somebody has to be a professional baseball player. Why not you?' "

    The mother encouraged her son to chase that mighty ambition till he caught it or it outran him. She told him to apply his all-or-nothing baseball gusto to history and math. Get a scholarship, Jennifer Scott urged her son. See how far you can go.

    There was plenty of temptation working against Luke Scott. The neighborhood bred drug use and petty crime, and there were some gunshots. Scott played schoolyard ball with kids who ended up dead or in jail. When his father found out he'd thrown an orange at a delivery truck, nearly causing a traffic calamity, he made the boy wash the truck regularly for six months.

    "The driver said, 'He's got a great arm,' " David Scott says. David made sure his son had a greater respect for consequences.

    Luke toiled every summer with his father, a working man who laid bricks for a wage. Luke pushed a 350-pound wheelbarrow through sugar sand, labor "that'll make a man of you quick," his father says. The strain gave Luke strong arms, powerful legs and the idea that baseball was more enjoyable than brick masonry could ever be.

    At the end of his senior year at DeLand High, a Florida junior college gave him a scholarship.

    Scott played two years there. He transferred to Oklahoma State, crossing the Eastern time zone for the first time in his life. He and Darren Heal, a catcher for the Cowboys, rented a place that saw its share of indiscretion — wall-shaking parties, intoxicant excess, casual sins of the flesh.

    "We had our fun," Heal says.

    But something was working against that, too. Before Scott arrived in Stillwater, his mother called a minister at a church near the campus. She asked Aaron Cole, pastor of the First Assembly of God church, to watch over her son.

    "Feed his growth," Jennifer Scott says she told Cole. "He needs somebody to feed him besides his mom."

    Scott and Cole met every week or so for the two seasons Scott spent with the Cowboys. They prayed about an arm injury, batting slumps, the strain of balancing college classes and varsity baseball. They prayed over the choices Scott made when no one was looking.

    "Luke was pulling away from that," Cole says.

    A new Luke Scott returned for his senior season at Oklahoma State. His earring was gone. His language was cleaner. His life was a lot less loud.

    He pledged himself to abstinence, a 5-year-old practice he says he continues today. With the help of a Christian physical trainer, he cleansed his body — through diet, prayer and reps with the weights. "I shut down distractions in my life," Scott says.

    "It was dramatic," observes Tom Holliday, Scott's head coach at OSU and now an assistant at Texas.

    "I think he saw peace within himself his senior year. I think he saw everything was better coming from a positive perspective in his life. By being at peace, he played better. He was able to leave the field after an 0-for-4 without having the idea that he had to drown or drink away that 0-for-4. He no longer had to run and hide."

    June 26, 2004.

    Midland.

    In his fourth at-bat with the Double-A Express, Scott slaps a double.

    "Hands cleared hips," he writes.

    Two days later, he takes a 1-1 pitch over the wall against Little Rock for his first home run in the Texas League.

    Scott begins to feel it again.

    Anointed.

    Those meetings with the minister in Stillwater began to fill an "emptiness" in his life, Scott says.

    After college, he was baptized in the First Assembly of God church in his hometown, an occasion he can't talk about today without his eyes misting. He told the small gathering from the baptismal fount that he needed a purpose beyond picking up the seams on a splitter.

    "He wanted his life to count," remembers Mike Modica, the pastor who performed the ceremony.

    Through faith, Scott says, he accepts the triumphs and slumps that an aspiring major-leaguer is bound to encounter. He prays in the morning for the will to be obedient. He asks for blessings as he buttons his jersey. At night, Scott goes to sleep having a conversation with God.

    "Lord, give me your best. Give me the best that you're willing to give me."

    Scott's journey in professional baseball began when Cleveland took him in the ninth round of the 2001 draft. An injury kept him from baseball until 2002, when he began his ascent to Double-A Akron. He hit .273 in 2003 for the Aeros of the Eastern League.

    A year later, he and Willy Taveras, the fleet center fielder now starting for the Astros, were traded to Houston. The Astros put Taveras in Round Rock and Scott in Salem, Va. — the Astros' outpost in the Single-A Carolina League.

    The demotion dazed him. "It doesn't make sense," he recalls thinking at the time.

    "But it wasn't meant to be understood in man's terms," he says now, clearly relishing the mystery of it all. "That's the way God had planned it. There was something he wanted me to learn. Or someone he wanted me to reach. God was teaching me: OK, situations are tough. But you've got to understand that I'm in control, and I can change them just like that."

    The anointing comes and goes, Scott says. He recalls feeling its quiet presence at the end of last season, after he climbed back into Double-A ball, when he pounded home run after home run for the Express, through the final games, into the playoffs. It remained with him through summer like the armor of God.

    And when he made the trip to spring training, Scott says, the anointment followed with him.

    "My strength was renewed. My spirit was revived. I had everything that I could dream of," Scott says. "I felt like I could hit everybody and I did."

    March 20.

    The Florida Marlins.

    Against Ismael Valdez: 3 for 4.

    "Good job."

    March 21.

    The Detroit Tigers.

    Against Mike Maroth: 2 for 2.

    "Relaxed."

    March 23.

    The Philadelphia Phillies.

    Scott took his stance against Billy Wagner. He says he heard a voice: "Watch and see what happens."

    Scott homered and hit a double that scored three runs.

    March 26.

    The New York Yankees.

    Scott took his stance against Kevin Brown. "Lord," he thought, "I'm excited today."

    Two doubles.

    And then:

    March 31.

    The Atlanta Braves.

    Scott took his stance in his second at-bat against John Smoltz and knew that something was gone.

    Don't leave me now, he said.

    Lord, where are you?

    In his last three at-bats of spring training, Scott struck out.

    April 5.

    St. Louis Cardinals.

    Opening Day.

    Scott parked his black Nissan Maxima, the one he bought with his big-league salary, in the players' lot under the stadium. He walked the hallway to the clubhouse.

    It occurred to him that it was the same hallway that Roger Clemens and Jeff Bagwell walked. Andy Pettite and Craig Biggio.

    He put on his uniform. He admired himself in the mirror. "I looked at the back and it had my name on it," Scott says. "I said, 'Man, a big-league uniform, and it's mine. Oh my goodness. Thank you, Lord.' " Scott promised to think of God every time he put it on.

    It lasted 25 days. He went 0 for 6 in the series with the Cardinals. When the Reds came to town, Scott laced a triple onto the berm in center, one of two hits he notched in his third game with the Astros. He kept the ball. He kept the bat, too. And yet . . .

    He felt incomplete, like the armor had turned to silk. He called his parents in Florida.

    "It's left me," said Luke.

    "Hang tight," said his father.

    His mother said, "I don't believe that God would bring you this far to drop you."

    After a 3-for-4 game in New York on April 14, Scott made 20 consecutive outs for the Astros. His average stalled at .154. He had no home runs. He had twice as many strikeouts as hits. When Astros Manager Phil Garner summoned him to his office, Scott saw Tim Purpura, the team's general manager, waiting for him. Garner closed the door.

    "I knew," Scott says.

    Scott returned to Round Rock, which became Houston's Triple-A affiliate this year. He joined Brooks Conrad and Todd Self and Tommy Whiteman from the Double-A club in 2004. This time, Scott felt no anointment, no calm. He heard no voice tell him to watch what happens next.

    The man who sparkled last year in an Express jersey found Triple-A as frustrating as the major leagues. But Scott said his prayers. He took his rips in the cage. He carried his Bible to the clubhouse and hung it on the hook. He kept his turmoil to himself. Years ago, before his summertime baptism in Florida, Scott might have let rage consume him. But no more.

    "He's turned into the man he wants to be," says Conrad. "That's something we can all learn from."

    The team went on the road late in July. In Oklahoma, something changed.

    Pitches slowed down. His swings seemed as sharp as a sword. He pounded some hits in Omaha. He cleared the fences in Memphis. And he found himself writing the same words that gave him peace and hope when he was the best hitter in springtime baseball.

    "Good job."

    "Relaxed."

    "Trusted hands."

    "Turned it loose."

    The Express returned and so did Scott's anointment. At the Aug. 2 home game with Salt Lake, he hit three home runs. He'd never hit three home runs in the same game. His second of the night sailed over the Salt Lake bullpen and rolled up on the Fun Zone where kids shoot hoops. He tried for a fourth. He managed a double.

    "Lord," Scott says he prayed that night, "I just want to stop and thank you for today."

    He described the fun he had doing something he'd never done, how it tied an Express club record.

    "I believe there's more of that to come. In the big leagues. And I'll enjoy that even more."

    As the September roster expansion nears, Scott hopes the Astros have noticed his summer.

    His batting average has risen 69 points since early July. He leads the team in home runs. He is convinced that more good is in store, "and that tends to quiet you down."

    His 16 games in the majors seem so long ago, when "he tried to get a little too perfect," says Astros hitting coach Gary Gaetti. "The game picks up a little bit. He suffered a rookie setback. That's normal."

    Years ago, Gaetti became a born-again Christian, an event that brought attention to faith in the clubhouse of the Minnesota Twins. Gaetti and Scott didn't talk about God when the two were together at the beginning of the season, but Gaetti did notice Scott's journals, inscribed with a version of Colossians 3:23 — "Whatever you do, work at with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not men."

    "You know that the true test comes when things are not going good," Gaetti says. "He went through that here."

    Today, as the clock in the Express clubhouse approaches 3 p.m., Scott places the Bible back in his bag.

    He picks a few bats from the box above his locker. He walks toward the clubhouse door and out toward the field, where he'll recite 2 Corinthians 10:5 before he takes his first at bat. He puts on his hat. Under the bill, in black marker, it reads: "God's Team."

    "When I play a game, it's like I have an ongoing conversation with the Lord," Scott says.

    Hours later, he hits his third home run in three games, his 29th of the year. And he believes that God is with him again, when he needs his God the most.

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------

    How can you not root for this guy.....call him up NOW !!

    And Mad Max...Jesus had bad hair..

    :)

    DD
     
  2. Aceshigh7

    Aceshigh7 Contributing Member

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    I wish they would call him up. He did poorly but looks like he's turned it around. One thing I noticed when he was up here, fundamentally speaking, he has a perfect looking swing, it kind of reminds me of Beltran's.
     
  3. Howyalikemenow

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    Pull him up, are you kidding... with Lamb batting .206? You can't replace that left-hitting power. ;)

    Go ahead, give Luke another shot.
     
  4. PhiSlammaJamma

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    "It just didn't feel right not too swing."
     
  5. MadMax

    MadMax Contributing Member

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    i love it!! :)
     

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