How To Reach The Big Leagues

Scott Brosius(The article originally appeared in the January 4, 2013 edition of Collegiate Baseball.)

By LOU PAVLOVICH, JR.
Editor/Collegiate Baseball
© 2013 Collegiate Baseball

McMINNVILLE, Ore. — Linfield College Head Coach Scott Brosius is one of the great treasures of college baseball.

The former 11-year Major Leaguer played seven seasons for the Oakland A’s managed by Tony La Russa and his final four years with the New York Yankees under manager Joe Torre as a third baseman, outfielder and first baseman.

He won three World Series titles with the Yankees in 1998, 1999 and 2000.

Brosius was a Golden Glove award recipient and was named Most Valuable Player during the 1998 World Series and played in the 1998 All-Star Game. What makes his story intriguing is that he played for Linfield College for three seasons and was only drafted in the 20th round in 1987 by Oakland. But through an incredible work ethic, he moved his way up the minor league system and eventually became a starter in the Major Leagues.

As a freshman at Linfield in 1985, he only batted .194 over 20 games and had the gumption of telling then Head Coach Scott Carnahan that his intention was to play pro baseball and wanted to know what he needed to do to play at that level.

His ascent to the highest levels of pro baseball is a remarkable story. He defied the odds to play Major League baseball and jumped past numerous higher draft picks and then played for several amazing ball clubs with the Yankees.

When he retired as a player, he returned home to Oregon and helped Carnahan at Linfield College for a few years. Then he became the head coach five years ago and has posted a 158-64 record with three conference titles.

If that wasn’t enough, he has led the USA Baseball 18 and under National Team to two gold medals the last two years. The first was at the 2011 Pan American Championships in Cartagena, Columbia which earned him USA Baseball Coach of The Year.

Last summer, he led Team USA to the 18 and under World Championship in Seoul, South Korea with essentially a new team that was an underdog to win the title.

The following is a special question and answer session with Brosius:

Collegiate Baseball (CB): You played for two of the best Major League managers in history with Tony La Russa at Oakland and Joe Torre with the Yankees. What did you learn from these two gentlemen when putting together your highly successful coaching style?

Scott Brosius (SB): I feel that you learn from everybody you are around in baseball. And that started from Scott Carnahan when I was here at Linfield College. As I went through the minor leagues, I had a manager by the name of Jeff Nelson who I had for three years. Tony La Russa and Joe Torre also had a big impact on me as well. For example, Tony La Russa was very prepared and extremely meticulous as he thought through every angle. Joe Torre’s interpersonal skills were amazing. He had the ability to say the right things at the right time to players and to the team. For me, I soaked up everything every coach has told me through the years and applied them to my style today.

CB: You have played with some incredible athletes over the years on the Major League level. Beyond talent, what has allowed these people to reach the top their profession?

SB: The first thing everybody believes is that these athletes are supremely talented. Maybe that might be the case, but there are a whole lot of talented players out there. And there are a bunch of talented players who never reach the Big Leagues. Or they don’t have the same type of careers in the Major Leagues when they get there. What separates the elite are a couple of things. The first is how they prepare. They have really dedicated their lives to becoming great players, and they have a crazy, strong will to succeed. They are very competitive. If you look at a Derek Jeter with the Yankees, his will to win is incredible. The ability to focus and being committed to help the team are other key areas. These athletes possess a lot of the intangibles that moves way beyond the physical ability of the player. Desire, work ethic, focus and things like that certainly stand out. One of the things I talk to my players at Linfield College about is that with some of the greatest players, such as Derek Jeter, Roger Clemens, and Ricky Henderson during my Oakland days, among many others, is that you never saw them have negative self talk. They had such a strong belief in themselves that even after a tough game or tough at-bat or whatever, it never came out in terms of being down on themselves. They were always looking toward the next play or next game with a belief they could get it done.

CB: You pretty much described yourself as a baseball player with the comments above. You were a 20th round draft pick out of Linfield College in 1987 and played in the Big Leagues for 11 years. How were you able to have such a great career in Major League baseball when so many players who were drafted ahead of you never were able to come close to your level of success?

SB: I felt you had to have a certain level of talent to play at the Big League level. But it was such a passion for me that I believed I was capable of playing at the level I did. It becomes a singular focus. Being from a smaller college and being a lower draft pick, you are told that you can’t plenty of times. But there has to be something inside you that dismisses this talk as you move forward toward your goal of playing in the Major Leagues. When somebody said I couldn’t, it became a bigger drive and bigger push to succeed. For me, nobody was ever going to talk me out of the idea of playing in the Big Leagues some day.

CB: Scott Carnahan told me that when you came to Linfield College as a freshman, you were about 165 pounds and skinny. You hit .194 during your first season at Linfield in 1985 over 20 games. At the end of season meeting with Carnahan, you explained to him that your goal was to play at the next level in pro baseball. Scott gave you a formula for improving yourself so that you could attain your dream some day. Carahan said you busted your rear end lifting weights and doing everything you could do to make yourself better, not only at Linfield, but through the minor league system and then Major Leagues.

SB: From the time I was 4-5 years old, being a professional player was all that I wanted to be. When I was in high school, I wanted to have the opportunity to keep playing. And as I got into college, that thought process impacted every decision I made. Every decision I made would make me a better player or not. I wanted more than anything to have the opportunity to be a professional player. My goal was to be drafted. Once I had the opportunity in pro baseball, and the same could be said for high school and college baseball, I didn’t want to look back when it was all said and done and wonder what would have been if I had worked harder. I never wanted to look back with any type of regret. I put it all on the table. And for the most part, I did work very hard. It certainly wasn’t handed to me coming through the minor leagues. I had to earn everything I got through my entire career.

CB: I’m sure during your baseball playing career you saw certain athletes who didn’t work at their craft and had perfect body types or were extremely gifted that didn’t work hard at making themselves better. And you probably saw a few high draft picks that had been handed everything they had during their life because of their God given ability. Did it bother you when you saw athletes who thought they never had to do anything to get better?

SB: There is only one athlete who a baseball player needs to pay attention to. And that’s yourself. So many people get caught up in the minor leagues as they look around and watch who is above them in the organization. Or they are worried about decisions being made and if they are getting screwed. I always felt that all I could control was how I played and prepared. And I couldn’t control the other things. The decisions made were out of my hands. So why spend time being concerned about them? Like I said, simply be focused on doing your own job and make sure you are prepared. The second part of that is that you have to play the game with an overall confidence. But you can never believe you are good enough. You must have that drive to get better. That’s why I mentioned these other great players earlier and how they went about their business. There is a reason why they are great. They just didn’t reach a level and were comfortable with it. They were always working to get better. You’re right. Some of these guys come through high school and college and been told how great they are. But there is so much more to learn at the professional level. And once you get to the Big League level, there is a bunch to learn there as well because the game becomes a lot more mental. It’s who can adjust from pitch to pitch. Attitude almost becomes more important than the physical side, because everybody around you is physically good.

CB: You have become quite a baseball coach and been highly successful, not only at Linfield College, but as head coach for Team USA’s 18 and under squad during the last two summers. Jim Lawler, the pitching coach on those two teams, told me that you inspired the players to play tough, hard-nosed baseball since pro rules were being utilized. Specifically, Jim said that against Taiwan, they had a professional player who had signed for $2 million and was hit in the shoulder by one of your pitchers with possibly a purpose to it. According to Jim, he said Team USA rallied around that moment and won the game. Then against Japan the next day, your ball club was behind 3-0. On a ball hit to the outfield, the Japanese catcher received the throw and blocked home plate as your runner knocked him over. Team USA ultimately won the game. In no way were you trying to have your athletes play dirty. You simply wanted them to play hard like you should with pro rules. Prior to these two games, you had a bunch of individual players.

SB: The big, overriding message to the team was that there were a lot of things done internationally that kids didn’t understand because many had never played by pro rules before. Until you experience it, you don’t understand the scope of what your kids will play against. And the truth of the matter is that the kids we got are the best of the best at the high school level. They are used to going from showcase to showcase where the competition is not the No. 1 thing. It is to showcase your ability. And winning games is not ultimately priority. It is showing how well you can take a BP and how hard you can throw and different things like that to increase draft status or major college looks. We asked the kids as members of Team USA to rise above all the situations that arise in international competition. But there comes a point where it’s OK to bow your neck and fight back a little bit. I felt the team needed to come together. When you get the opportunity, you play hard and take this. You don’t just hope that it happens. So slide hard and break up potential double plays. If a guy is in your way, take him out because you’re allowed to do that. We felt our players had to go out and earn a championship together. They almost needed permission to go out and play hard. You have to go out and stake your own claim and compete to send a message. At that point, they became the aggressors and took the championship. We had a couple of plays at home plate on back-to-back nights where the catcher for our opponent was receiving the ball and blocking the plate. And it was perfectly appropriate for our runners to be aggressive in those situations. Instead of sliding around the catchers on those two plays, our runners ran through the catcher both times. There is something within all of us where there is a deep desire to just compete at that gritty kind of level.

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