CEDAR RAPIDS — Everyone knows who he is. He doesn’t have a very common last name.
Yes, Matt Scioscia of the Cedar Rapids Kernels is the son of Los Angeles Angels Manager Mike Scioscia.
But the 23-year-old catcher-first baseman doesn’t expect any favors because of that. He knows he’s going to have to earn his own way in professional baseball.
“I guess early on in my baseball career, when I was in high school, I felt a little bit of pressure,” Matt Scioscia said Wednesday afternoon, after a Kernels workout at Veterans Memorial Stadium. ”It was like ‘Hey, man, I’ve got to live up to everything he did.’ He was a first-round draft pick, I went to college. My rise (to pro ball) hasn’t been anything like his was, so I guess I’ve just learned to focus on my path toward everything.
“When it comes down to it, though, it’s baseball. It’s the same game I’ve always played. All that other stuff outside of it, people are going to say what they’re going to say. But it’s just the game of baseball, and you’ve got to approach it the same way every day.”
Scioscia was selected by the Angels out of high school in Westlake Village, Calif., but decided to attend Notre Dame instead, the rare California kid who goes to the Midwest to play college baseball. The Angels took him again in the 45th round last June, and he made his pro debut in the Arizona Rookie League.
His early role with the Kernels is of the utility variety. He’ll play a little first base, catch some and get at-bats at designated hitter.
“You just hope for an opportunity, not only for us, but all of your kids,” Mike Scioscia said last June. ”I think that’s what we hope for. That they can try to do something that they really enjoy doing.”
“Honestly, I was kind of excited just to get a chance anywhere,” Matt Scioscia said. “Coming out of high school, I was drafted by the Angels but chose to go to Notre Dame … I kind of had an open mind going into the draft last year, but this is a great organization. With my dad already being there, it was kind of easy to (enter it).”
The younger Scioscia was asked if he has gotten any advice from his father about playing pro ball. Mike Scioscia played in the major leagues with the Dodgers from 1980-92 and was a career .259 hitter.
“I guess the greatest thing my dad has done is with the mental side of everything,” Matt said. “He has told me to keep my head down and try and stay focused. I think the most important thing he said is to just try and keep a level head about everything. Not getting too high, not getting too low. I guess that’s kind of been his managing style, too. Just kind of that even keel. He had such a long (playing) career, I think that translated into coaching for him. And that’s what he’s trying to instill in me.”
Scioscia isn’t the first son of a successful big league manager to play in the Midwest League in recent years. Toby Gardenhire, son of Minnesota Twins Manager Ron, was with the Beloit Snappers in 2006 and recently saw his playing career end after seven seasons in the Twins organization.
Toby has gotten into the coaching profession, in his first season at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. Matt Scioscia said he sees a future in baseball, even if the playing thing doesn’t work out.
“You know, I feel like I was kind of born into this,” he said. “I mean, I love watching college football and things like that. But I always seem to gravitate toward baseball.”