May 23, 2013
CLAREMONT, Calif. — I really miss John Scolinos.
He was possibly the greatest human being ever involved in college baseball and passed away at the age of 91 in 2009.
He led Cal Poly Pomona to three national championships (1976, 1980 and 1983) in 30 years and retired in 1991 as the winningest coach in NCAA Division II history.
Scolinos was named NCAA Division II Coach of the Century by Collegiate Baseball for not only his coaching ability but the influence he had on thousands of baseball coaches across the nation and athletes who played for him.
Prior to becoming Pomona’s head coach, he spent 14 seasons at Pepperdine University where his teams went 376-213. His all-time record in 44 years of coaching was 1,198-949.
Scolinos’ overall record is highly misleading since his teams always played the best teams in Southern California and Arizona, including all the top NCAA Division I teams.
This giant in the profession influenced more coaches than possibly any skipper has in the history of the game with the way he broke down the game during clinic sessions — often in front of standing room only crowds at American Baseball Coaches Association conventions with audiences approaching 4,000.
And after almost every presentation, he would be given a standing ovation from the crowd.
Here are some of those priceless lessons coaches learned from Scolinos through the years that Collegiate Baseball has collected.
“On days when nothing goes right, I call them ‘jock games,’ ” said Scolinos.
“That’s when all the defense does is throw their jocks out there, the hitters get faked out of their jocks, and the pitchers get their jocks knocked off.
“If a team gets in a jock contest, they don’t have a chance.”
About the type of ball players there are in the game:
“There are a lot of puppy dogs and hot dogs with a few bull dogs scattered among the group. We want the bulldogs.”
Possibly the greatest moment I have of Coach Scolinos was as at the 1990 American Baseball Coaches Association Convention in New Orleans where he gave a clinic in front of thousands of coaches discussing the finer points of hitting. He sternly told coaches in attendance they should never allow players to have their heads in their jocks.
To demonstrate the point, he quickly pulled a jock strap over his forehead. Every coach in attendance howled with laughter. But Coach Scolinos made his point.
This legendary skipper has always been a fascinating person to study at baseball clinics. Most coaches over the age of 50 have a set system for teaching all aspects of baseball and rarely change. But every clinic I ever saw Coach Scolinos at, he was always sitting in the first row gleaning information from hundreds of clinicians over the years. Even at the age of 72 during the 1990 convention in New Orleans, he was learning from others in the game.
Years ago, I interviewed former Cal. Poly Pomona assistant coach Steve Osaki who explained in detail Scolinos’ other legendary clinic sessions.
“At clinics, he was well known for giving his talk on handshakes to demonstrate fielding mistakes,” said Osaki.
“The first one was the halitosis handshake. Coach Scolinos and another coach would each shake hands but turn their heads away to demonstrate how a fielder turns his head away from the ball. The next one was the political handshake. Coach Scolinos would walk up to another coach on stage and extend his hand.
“Just prior to a handshake taking place between the two, Coach Scolinos would slip his hand back and flip his glove.
“The third demonstration was the mafia handshake. Two people were shoulder to shoulder embracing each other in a handshake as Coach Scolinos says, ‘Let’s make a deal.’
“Then comes the Japanese handshake. Two people walk up and bow to each other signifying the player who lets the ball roll through his legs.
“The final one was the best way to field called the American handshake. You look your opponent right in the eye with arms not locked and shake.”