As I have stated so many times before, the best thing about my job is the friends that I make. It’s always fun to check an opposing roster and see if there are any former members of the PawSox still in action. This Spring I ran into shortstop Chris Woodward, back in the Blue Jays organization. He was with Boston for a short time a couple of seasons ago. I go back to the late ’90s with Woody, when we were together with the Syracuse Chiefs. Really, it doesn’t matter how long ago it was, if there was ever a bond, it should always be there.
In the first couple of series this season, the PawSox have faced Buffalo and Lehigh Valley. Former luminaries like Joe Thurston (2008), Hector Luna (2011) and Kevin Frandsen (2010) are all on the IronPigs roster. For Buffalo, Fernando Cabrera (2009,10) earned a save in the series finale and I spoke to him for the post game, on field interview. Certainly not the first time he earned a save at McCoy. The biggest kick for me, so far (besides chatting with “American Idol” finalist, Erika Van Pelt) was catching up with my old friend Bobby Scales, of the Bisons. Bobby played for the PawSox, under manager Ron Johnson, in 2007. Hard to imagine that it was that long ago. With his ever-present smile, Scales reflected. “It’s been a while, Steve. It’s fantastic. Pulling up here to the ballpark yesterday on the bus, even though it was late, it was a nice feeling. I really enjoyed the 2007 season here in Pawtucket R.I. Obviously, you want to be in the Big Leagues. That’s the goal. But I’ve told many people, if you’ve got to be in Triple A, Pawtucket is a great place to be.”
Scales finally realized his goal of playing Major League Baseball, with the Chicago Cubs. “Getting called up is why I play. It’s why everybody on this team plays. To get the call and for it to be real…It is a special day.” Scales says he was warmly received. “It was great, walking into the clubhouse and seeing all those guys. They all knew how long I had waited. I was 31 years old at the time. They were as happy for me as I was for myself. When I think about it, I still get the ‘warm and fuzzies’.”
Scales quest to return to the Majors has taken him to the Mets organization, where admittedly, he feels he’s fairly deep on their bench. It reminded me of 2007. Scales began the season in Pawtucket as the 24th man on the roster and wound up being one of the most important men on the club that year. He takes it all in stride. “It’s been a common theme throughout my career. It’s funny. It’s no different than any other time in my career. I’m just hoping that the opportunity comes, where ever it may be. Second, third, outfield. It doesn’t matter. I know I still have a lot to offer.”
After being the Cubs’ last cut in 2011, Scales began the season at triple A, Iowa, where he did what he always does, play well. His fate changed one day, when he was spotted by a Japanese scout. “There were these Japanese scouts in the stands and their second baseman had broken his leg. I happened to be the right guy at the right time. I was hot so they extended me an offer. The Cubs allowed me to be purchased, so I went to Sapporo, Japan and became a member of the Nippon Ham Fighters.”
While in Japan, Scales was teammates with Yu Darvish, the acclaimed pitcher signed by Texas this offseason. Scales says the 25 year old right hander is the real thing. “Stufff-wise, he’s got ‘plus’ stuff. Great fastball. Several kinds of breaking pitches. A cutter. It was devastating as he worked on it last year. He’s got the correct mindset, too. He’s a great guy and once he learns more about the culture here, he will be fantastic. Once he adapts, he’ll be dominant.”
Scales’ familiarity with Darvish helped him land another gig this offseason. With The MLB Network. “I had become friendly with Harold Reynolds. He called me to ask me about Darvish, if I had ever faced him, etc. I told him I hadn’t because we were teammates. That intrigued ‘HR’. Reynolds soon called him back and invited Scales to appear on the Network. They flew him up to Seacaucus, New Jersey, and for one night, Bobby Scales was on national television. “It was awesome. I really enjoyed the opportunity. They do a great job there. In front of the camera and behind the scenes. It was really fun.”
I reminded Bobby about where his “on air” career began. Back in 2007, Scales confided that he might like to try broadcasting when his playing days were over. He began “Weighing in with Bobby Scales”, a weekly pregame interview with one of his teammates. That spawned a cottage industry at McCoy. Since then, Jeff Natale (At Bat with Nat), Chad Paronto (Hanging with Chad) , Josh Reddick (The Chronicles of Reddick) and Tommy Hottovy (The Hott Corner) have followed in Scales’ footsteps. ” It’s good. I think it’s good that the listeners see that we are not just these baseball playing machines. We don’t just sit around all day watching TV. Guys have some depth to them. We’re funny, we’re insightful. Besides being fortunate enough to play this game, it’s nice for people to know we can think. The fans who work hard and spend their money to come to the park, get to know us on a personal level.”
Anyone who gets to know Bobby Scales on a personal level should consider themselves fortunate.