Earlier this month, former Fort Wayne Wizard, Bobby Scales made his Major League Debut after more than a decade in the minor leagues without as much as one at-bat in the MLB level. At the time, the call-up was expected to last mere days as he filled in as a utility infielder during some injuries. When Aramis Ramirez dislocated his shoulder, Scales got the assurance of a longer look.
And apparently, the stars remain in alignment. He got called up when staff ace, Carlos Zambrano went down to injury. Then he got an extended stay when Ramirez got hurt. That same day, Cubs GM Jim Hendry traded Joey Gathright to the Orioles in return for Ryan Freel – which could have meant Scales was on his way back to Triple-A Iowa. However, Freel was damaged goods, bowing out to a hamstring injury the night he was to make his Cubs debut.
Scales first career hit came off of reigning NL Cy Young Award winner, Tim Lincecum. Since then, he’s proven he belongs in the Majors. And others are starting to take notice.
Coming into today’s game, Scales led National League rookies in batting average and on base percentage with a .429 mark in both categories. After today’s game in which he went 2-4 with a walk and two runs scored, he’s hitting .444 with a .474 OBP . He’s also slugging .833.
Oh, and by the way, he now has a six-game hitting streak; just one short the longest for a Cubs player to start a career since Jerome Walton did it back in 1989. As you might remember, Walton was named the National League Rookie of the Year that year.
On May 12th, Scales hit his first Major League home run against the visiting San Diego Padres, the team who drafted him in the 14th round back in 1999. Scales was as surprised as anyone, and appeared humbled while keeping things in perspective as he was interviewed following the game:
That home run was a pinch hit. His first career pinch hit was a triple.
Scales persistence has almost become this season’s equivelant of last season’s Josh Hamilton Story. Bloggers who don’t even typically blog about baseball are lauding Scale’s character. It’s become an inspiring story of hope and redemption. And through it all, Scales remains grounded yet confident in his abilities:
“I don’t know how long I’m going to be here, so go ahead and get one mark on the board,” said Scales . . . I knew for a fact that I could play here. That never wavered. Whether you get opportunities or not, that’s not up to me. There are guys I know — good players that had better numbers than me — who never got a chance for whatever reason.”
I am glad that Bobby Scales stuck it out. From people I have spoken with and even some of the commenters of this blog have told me that he is genuinely one of the nicest guys anyone will ever meet and is certainly deserving of what he is achieving right now.
But I remain fixated on that statement, “who never got a chance for whatever reason.” Maybe it’s the cynic in me, but when I hear this story, tremendous as it is, I wonder if Scales (and those others of whom he speaks) would have been up four or five years earlier had baseball not been in the midst of the now infamous “steroid era”.
Scales probably was not inferring the injustice of that era, and I am not trying to put words into his motuh, but I think specifically to another former Fort Wayne Wizard, Dan Naulty, who was man enough to come clean about his experiences with HGH and the like:
I had cheated my way right onto the team that year by using steroids, human growth hormone and amphetamines. I was watching my so-called friends leave big-league camp, beginning another grueling year in the minors, while I kept sticking needles in my butt and patting them on the back as they were dismissed. . . I took a roster spot of another athlete who was competing naturally. This causes a domino effect on all the levels below – someone loses their job and the financial security of that job. Then they’re on to another small minor-league town where their children have to move schools again. Their wives are being put through another disappointing year of loneliness while their husband keeps trying to make it to the major leagues.
Naulty was a member of the 1999 New York Yankees World Series team. As fate would have it, that was pretty much the end of his big league career. If you want to read more about Nautly’s experiences, click here. It’s a fascinating story that is simply overlooked or swept under the rug by pretty much all the sports talking heads in mainstream media.
So forgive if I think of all the “Bobby Scales” of the baseball world when I read about all the “Dan Naulty” like players that also inhabited it. I think about how many had given up their dreams of hitting the Major Leagues because they weren’t quite good enough to crack the roster of a team that probably had players who took shortcuts. Not to mention the veterans who got pushed out the door in favor of up and coming sluggers with less experience but much inflated exuberance.
We’ll never know how many players were juicing and we’ll never know how many other players missed out becuase of the shortcuts those other players too, but watching Bobby Scales makes me smile. I suspect we’ll see more like him in the coming years. Last year saw the White Sox bring up 30-year-old DeWayne Wise and there may be others of which I have no knowledge. Could it be that the youth movements might now require a little more seasoning?
Maybe – as far as baseball and the new “steroid free” era are concerned – 30 is the new 27!
More Bobby Scales:
- Bobby Scales makes Cubs debut after 11 seasons in minors (Chicago Sun Times)
- Bobby Scales: What Major League Baseball Should Be About (Bleacher Report)
- Bobby Scales’ Inspirational Story (Bleacher Report)
- Bobby Scales in the house for Cubs (Chicago Tribune)
- Bobby Scales weighs in on big-league experience (Chicago Tribune)
Related BBIFW Posts on Bobby Scales: