Scott Exits Unique Experience As Syracuse Mets Manager
As Syracuse Mets manager for the 2023 Triple-A baseball season, Dick Scott looks back at his six-month journey in Central New York as a 'unique experience.'
The season has been over for nearly one month. When the team busses pulled into the parking lot of NBT Bank Stadium, after returning from the club's final regular season game of its fifth season owned and operated by the New York Mets from PNC Field in Moosic, PA, players and on-field staff would soon be heading home for the winter.
The 7-3 loss to the Scranton'Wilkes-Barre RailRiders (New York Yankees affiliate) saw the Mets tally a 61-85 record. Beyond the numbers, players developed skills, some promoted to the Major League club, others traded, some released, others rehabbing injuries. In total, more than 300 transactions were completed by New York, with Syracuse.
Such is the life of minor league baseball.
The purveyor of the Syracuse roster that began in late March and concluded in Northeastern Pennsylvania on September 24 was skipper Dick Scott.
This past season was Scott's first opportunity to lead a squad at the Triple-A level. There would be no Governor's Cup won by the Mets. The Norfolk (VA) Tides won the International League East, and would claim the Triple-A National Championship in Las Vegas, with a win over the Los Angeles Dodgers' top farm club - Oklahoma City.
However, from a player development view, there is much success from the Mets' recent season to feel positive about, as the colder temperatures settle in. Soon, snow will cover the tarp laid on Syracuse's playing surface.
Brett Baty, Francisco Alverez, Ronny Mauricio, and Mark Vientos, all prize prospects of New York's future, grew their game in Syracuse. Overseeing their development was Scott. For Scott, being behind the bench in 2023 was the first since 1997, when working in the Arizona Diamondbacks (Midwest League) system.
"Triple-A is a unique place to manage. It's a place where you have players who are ready for the major leagues. You deal with lots of roster changes. You have other challenges like having to hold back on using pitchers because the big league club will be needing them," said Scott during a recent phone conversation from his home in Maine.
Just as there is an opening in New York for the Mets' managerial job, according to Scott, at this time it's to soon to speculate on his future within the organization. His six-hour drive home from Syracuse to the northeasternmost U.S. state is one that Scott looked forward to. This is where he grew up. His family is there. Good-byes were said to his coaching staff in Syracuse. Off-seasons have long been routine for Scott.
Having put in 10 minor league seasons playing for nine different clubs (some multiple times) with three games called-up to wear an Oakland uniform in 1989, Scott knows the grind of surviving and succeeding in baseball's developmental leagues. This is what made him an ideal fit to work in Central New York this past season.
Plus, NBT Bank Stadium is no stranger to Scott. During Syracuse's 30-year affiliation with the Toronto Blue Jays as their Triple-A affiliate, Scott was employed by the Canadian big league club in their player development department, and made multiple trips to Syracuse.
"Back then, the field had Astroturf. The ballpark appeared very generic; a sterile-looking stadium," Scott, who was presented a World Series Championship ring for being with the A's during their 1989 season, recalls. "The grass transformation and all the upgrades done to the stadium have made it nice looking. Jason (Syracuse GM Jason Smorol) and John (stadium turf management director John Stewart) do a great job with the club."
Scott makes it a point to claim what an excellent playing surface Syracuse and visiting clubs that come to NBT Bank Stadium are treated to. Calling the surface in 'spectacular shape', with all the practicing and in-game use, Scott points out that it's not a given that the players will have the best grounds to compete on. But, in Syracuse, Scott emphasizes that the turf was always in top shape.
Scott compliments what his club spent a majority of their time in at the home ballpark. Again, the upgrades from his time as farm director with Toronto passing through Syracuse are what blew Scott's expectations away, while traveling up from Florida, at the conclusion of spring training to Syracuse.
" What an excellent clubhouse the guys have. The separate areas for the players and coaches, the two indoor hitting cages, this is important, good working environments for all of us."
Another key element to Scott and his guiding the development of the Mets in Syracuse is the travel schedule. The six-day schedule, as he views it, greatly aids players health. There's better food and diets are better followed, than when looking back more than decades ago.
"I think, when I was with Toronto, the clubhouse had peanut butter and crackers," Scott tells.
With Syracuse's season concluding a week before the MLB schedule ended, Scott didn't head for Citi Field in New York City, to spend the season's final games there. Having been Mets' manager Terry Collins' bench coach for the 2016 and 2017 seasons, Citi Field is not new to Scott. Years back, minor league baseball ended Labor Day Weekend. Then, for the final month of the MLB season, in most cases the Triple-A skipper spent the final month in the MLB dugout. Then there could be as many as 15 players called up. This is no longer the case.
Anyone who has ever spent time in the minors understands how difficult it is. There are lots of struggles. Aside from working on their game, over the last 15 years, as Scott points out, social media is a hurdle players deal with.
"They (players) see what fans are saying about them. It's part of my job to get them to trust me, and for me to offer encouragement."
During workouts, Scott reveals that his favorite time to connect with his pitchers is during batting practice. When the hurlers are shagging balls, this is when he gets to shoot the breeze with them; where he connects with them.
Armed with a club stacked with top prospects and veterans, at the start of the 2023 season, Scott proudly remembers his club starting the season at 10-3. Then, Alverez was called up to New York. Pitcher David Peterson goes to the big leagues. The skipper remembers his roster changing very fast. The first half of the season, Syracuse posted a 33-41 record. After the four-day all-star break in mid-July, the Mets registered a 28-44 record.
As for his World Series A's ring, Scott doesn't know when the last time it was that he looked at it. He has a second ring, too. When the Arizona Diamondbacks won the 2001 World Series, Scott was a scout with the organization. The rings are for Scott's two sons, Ryan and Zach, to figure out who will get which one.
"In the majors, it's 100% about winning. In the minors, it's developing and winning," Scott claims.
For now, Scott gets to relax and enjoy another winter in New England. He's earned it. Baseball will be calling soon enough.
Don Laible is a freelance sportswriter from the Mohawk Valley, now living in Florida. He has reported on professional baseball and hockey for print, radio, and on the web since the 1980's. His columns are featured weekly at WIBX950.com. Don can be contacted via email at Don@icechipsdiamonddust.com.
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