I wanted to wish my favorite player of all-time, Mike Scioscia, a very happy birthday today. Even though he wears red for that other team across town, he’ll always be wearing Dodger Blue in my heart. You see, Mike Scioscia was my childhood hero. One of these days I shall write another piece devoted to the brick wall of a catcher and now the longest tenured MLB manager currently in the game. For right now, I’d like to dedicate a moment this offseason here at Lasorda’s Lair in honor of Scioscia. Perhaps we can begin a tradition here at LL, and every November 27th will be Mike Scioscia Day.
Scioscia played for the Dodgers for 13 years after being drafted in the 1st round (19th pick) in the 1976 amateur draft. Number 14 made his debut with Los Angeles on April 20, 1980…I was only a little over one at the time.
I grew up watching the Dodgers with my brother, and Mike Scioscia was the player whom I was most fond of. He wasn’t spectacular with the bat, and he actually only accumulated a career batting average of .259, but that wasn’t why I was so fascinated with him. It was his catching skills which intrigued and entertained my young baseball mind. Early on the catcher became my favorite position on the diamond, and Mike Scioscia was the quintessential backstop near the beginning of my lifelong love story with baseball and the Dodgers.
Mike Scioscia blocked home plate like no other catcher I had ever watched play, and still to this day I am amazed at his fearless protection of home plate. When A.J. Ellis seems a bit tentative at blocking the plate, I instantly think back about Scioscia’s ability to blockade himself like a wall in order to prevent the opposing team from scoring. He would hang on to the ball with a death grip even after being barreled into by oncoming traffic. That’s such a rare skill nowadays, and after some frightening collisions catchers like Buster Posey have been ordered not to block the plate. Even though the chance of injury is there, blocking home plate is an integral part of the game that should be preserved in my opinion (as long as it’s not an intentional slide in order to purposely hurt the catcher of course).
Blocking home plate was not the only reason I like Mike Scioscia. Scott and I had the special opportunity to meet my baseball idol when we were kids, and Scioscia’s kindness and generosity towards two small Dodger fans created a memory we share and cherish to this day. It’s not common that your baseball hero invites you to spend time with him in the Dodger dugout. Even though he’s an Angel now, and a fantastic manager at that, he is still my favorite player for shaping my baseball dreams on the field and off the field as well.
Happy birthday, Mike Scioscia!