What better subject for an Oregon Baseball Campaign interview than one of Oregon’s best-known baseball stars, Scott Brosius? A man born and raised in Oregon and who still calls the state home?
Our plan from very early on included getting a “stamp of approval” from some of the region’s most visible baseball stars, and Scott Brosius has always been at the top of our list. Unfortunately, we weren’t the only ones seeking an audience with Scott since his retirement from the bigs last year. And for some reason, the little people who called Scott “Daddy” took precedence over your friendly neighborhood baseball geeks at OBC. (If we had called Scott that, he probably wouldn’t have spoken with us at all, but that’s another story.) So rather than dog a man who had stated publicly that he wanted to take some time off, we pursued other prey…until now. It may have taken us a little longer to make contact with the Yankee third baseman, but we think it was worth the wait.
Born in Hillsboro, Scott attended Rex Putnam High School in Milwaukie and Linfield College in McMinnville, where he continues to do volunteer work. He debuted with the Oakland A’s in 1991, but never made his mark in the Bay Area. In 1998, however, when he was traded to the Yankees for Kenny Rodgers, his career changed for the better. As he says, playing on baseball’s biggest stage was like a shot in the arm, and he completely turned his game around, jumping from .203 to .300 in one year. His greatest personal accomplishments on the field came during the 1998 World Series (when he was voted the World Series MVP) and again in the 2001 World Series, with his spectacular home run against Arizona’s Byung-Hyun Kim.
For a man who batted at the bottom of the lineup for the Yankees and yet stole the spotlight from the team’s stars in a number of spectacular World Series moments, Scott is protective of his privacy, but he wasn’t too busy to talk to us about kids in the dugout. Or submarines, sushi, steroids, and superstar salaries. He retired last year to spend more time with his family in McMinnville in the heart of Yamhill County, Oregon’s wine country. Home to the Spruce Goose and McMenamin’s Hotel Oregon, McMinnville is not unlike its most famous citizen….
A cool guy on the hot corner.
Life after the bigs
OBC: It’s probably been years since you’ve been home much during baseball season. How are you adjusting to life after a Major League Baseball career?
Brosius: Life since I have been home has really felt quite natural. We have stayed very busy, even busier at times than we thought we would. We have been able to get much more active in our local church, and anyone with kids playing sports understands the taxi service getting them around town.
OBC: What do you most like about being a “former” major leaguer?
Brosius: The thing I enjoy the most right now is having no road trips. I just love being able to tuck my kids into bed each night and feel like I’m actively involved in their daily lives.
OBC: We just saw a number of players’ kids in the dugout in this 2002 World Series. Did you ever bring your kids to games? What was their reaction? Was it, “Ho-hum, this is where Dad works in October: Yankee Stadium”? Or did they understand the magnitude of where they were and what you were doing?
Brosius: I think my kids were young enough that they did not quite understand everything that was going on. By my last couple of years, my oldest daughters knew what the World Series was, but that was about it. Growing up in that situation, they never knew anything different. So it was never a big deal for them to come to the ballpark. It was all they ever knew. My son David just saw the players in the clubhouse for what they were. They were just other players and friends of mine. They would watch some of the games if the weather was nice, but mostly went into the playroom to play with the other players’ children.
In the clubhouse
OBC: Your career really took off after you left the A’s and went to the Yankees. Was there something different about playing in New York that worked in your favor?
Brosius: Coming off a terrible year in Oakland, I saw the trade to New York as a tremendous break and a great opportunity. After years of losing in Oakland, it was energizing to know I was going to a team that had a chance to win. To me, I always felt there was something different about being a Yankee. With all the tradition and winning, it was like a shot of adrenaline for me.
OBC: With two outs in the bottom of the ninth of Game 5 of the 2001 World Series, you hit game-tying homer off Byung-Hyun Kim, the Diamondbacks’ submarine pitcher. How do you pick up a submarine ball compared to a natural “over the top” pitch? Is there a set of standard release points that help you determine the type of pitch being thrown?
Brosius: The submarine pitchers can be a challenge. It is definitely helpful to see as many pitches as possible to pick up the release point. Most pitchers throw over the top, so you are looking around their ear for the release point. With the submariner, you look around the knees, and it’s not natural to do so at first.
OBC: After all you accomplished in MLB, what is your fondest memory of playing in the bigs? Was it the late game heroics in the World Series? Or was it something simpler like your first game or your first hit? Or a great defensive play?
Brosius: There are a few memories that stand out. A player never forgets his first game in the major leagues. It’s finally living that dream, so that is a special one for me. The first World Series in ‘98 will always stand out for me. The first time is always the most special, because you are finally doing what every other player dreams of also. The other three trips to the series are also special, as well as the All-Star game in 1998.
OBC: As a Major League Baseball player, you got to experience, on a regular basis, what every red-blooded American male craves: Free food buffets. What was the food like in the Yankee clubhouse? Did you guys pig out? What does a typical MLB food platter look like?
Brosius: The food was pretty decent most of the time. It was mostly takeout from the local restaurants in the area, so we had our good days and our bad days. Most of the time guys would eat for more of a snack than as a real meal, just enough to last until we could get to the restaurant without starving.
OBC: Did they ever serve anything strange or exotic, like shawarma or tofudebeest?
Brosius: We never had anything real wild. Sushi was as far is it went. (And that was fine with me!)
OBC: What would you say to college or minor league baseball players who see the use of steroids as their only chance to break into the bigs?
Brosius: I would stress to those players looking into steroids to think really seriously about what they are doing. They are risking injuries and permanent health problems for something that really doesn’t improve their chances of getting to the bigs. There are more players who don’t use steroids than there are who do. So using them is no surefire way of getting there.
OBC: Have you seen things–suspicious things, such as a sudden dramatic increase from one season to the next–that led you to believe a player might be “cheating”? How does someone know when a player is juicing? What signs do you look for?
Brosius: The most obvious thing for me to look at is weight gain. When I was in the minor leagues, I started lifting seriously for the first time. I had a full six months off and lifted six days a week and gained a total of 12 pounds. I couldn’t have lifted much harder than I did. When I see a player come back after a much shorter off-season having gained 20 pounds or more, I know from personal experience he needed “help” to do that.
OBC: Do you think baseball will get more serious about drug-testing, or is this a topic both the union and the owners want to keep low-profile?
Brosius: I don’t know much about the latest drug-testing agreement. I think it would be great if some of these players would step up and volunteer to get tested. When they come out clean, that would do wonders in cleaning up the image of the players.
OBC: You played for both the Athletics and Yankees, two teams that seem locked at the opposite ends of the team payroll scale, with the A’s on the low end and the Yanks at the top; yet both teams have made it to the postseason several times in the last ten years. And this year the low- to middle-salary Twins, A’s, Angels, and Giants made the post-season. What does this say about the argument that only high-salary teams can compete?
Brosius: While money is an issue, I don’t think it is the only issue that determines whether a team will win or not. There are many teams with high payrolls who lose, while others with lower payrolls win. So there must be some good decisions that go with the spending. I believe a team will win only if the owners and management are committed to doing just that.
OBC: If it’s more of a management issue, should “small market” teams pay more (attention and money) to their managerial staffs than to free agents? If you don’t have a lucrative TV contract, you can’t spend what you don’t have.
Brosius: While there is no question some teams are more limited than others, that is only part of the issue. The second involves an owner’s willingness to win. Everybody talks about Steinbrenner and how much money he has. It’s true, he has a lot. But he also makes the decision to spend it. His money is guaranteed through television deals just like with other owners, so he could put it in his pocket if he chose to. Say what you want about him, but he chooses to try to win.
OBC: Are you saying some owners choose not to win? That would explain the Orioles, I guess….
Brosius: There are owners out there who would rather lose games and guarantee money in their pockets than spend money that is available. It is my understanding that certain teams–the Expos for example–were spending less on players than they were receiving in revenue sharing. They were taking the money and putting it in their pockets. That seems to go against the idea of revenue sharing.
OBC: What is the feeling between superstars who make far above the league average and those players who are just happy to get a cup of coffee?
Brosius: As far as players are concerned, money is not as big an issue as people think. There are always exceptions, but most take the attitude that if they do their job, then the money will take care of itself.
OBC: Are players just “regular guys”? How are they different (apart from their physical talents) from the rest of society?
Brosius: Players are no different from anyone else. Most have a level head on their shoulders, but some don’t. It’s that way everywhere in society, but you only hear about the ones making trouble.
OBC: You could live anywhere, but you have obviously chosen to stay in Oregon, where you grew up. What’s special about Oregon?
Brosius: The main reason I choose to live in Oregon is because it is where I grew up and it is where my family and friends live. I could live anywhere, but it would not be enjoyable without the people I love around me.
OBC: Did you ever talk about the state to teammates?
Brosius: I always talk up Oregon to the other players. We only went as close as Seattle, but when we got off the plane there, I would tell the guys to take a breath because they were finally getting clean air!
OBC: Have you ever invited them “home” or shown them around the state? What was their impression of Oregon before they came and what about afterward?
Brosius: Only one player ever came with me to McMinnville, and I got the feeling he enjoyed the area. But being from Southern California, the pace was a little slow for him.
OBC: You pick up your cellphone to call your wife to tell her you’ll be home late, but you somehow join a party line with Bud Selig and a couple other owners instead. Bud mistakes you for someone else and asks you, “Well, Carl, which league should we put Portland in–National or American?” What do you tell him and why? Which league do you think would be best, not only for the city and state, but for the region as a whole?
Brosius: I guess if Portland where to get a team, it would make more sense for it to be one from the National League, but I don’t think anyone would complain if an American League team came to Portland! I think we would be thrilled to get any team.