Pint-sized pitcher Jericho Scott – the 10-year-old from New Haven whose league gave his whole team the hook to get him off the mound – stood on the pitcher’s rubber before Saturday’s New Britain Rock Cats with a serious glimmer in his eyes.
His mother, Nicole Smith, watched from the behind first base.
“There’s too much pressure,” she said. “He’s going to throw the ball and hit the dirt.”
But Scott reared back and fired one right down the middle in a ceremonial opening pitch.
As the beaming young ballplayer walked toward the dugout, John Willi, the Rock Cats general manager, told him, “We’ve got to talk about a contract later.”
The Rock Cats players bumped fists with Scott as they praised him for his poise in dealing with the New Haven Liga Juvenil de Baseball league’s decision this month to bar the youngster from pitching. The league disbanded the whole team when Scott’s coaches refused to obey.
Before the game, Scott tossed a ball back and forth with Steven Tolleson, the Rock Cats’ second baseman. Tolleson said that Scott had some zing in his fastball but he couldn’t compare it to other youngsters.
“I should get you to sign my glove,” Tolleson told Scott. “Keep up the hard work.”
The Rock Cats invited Scott and his entire team to attend the game against the Binghamton Mets Saturday. They sent a van to New Haven to bring the players to New Britain Stadium.
“It was such an injustice that was done to your son and the whole team,” Bill Dowling, the owner of the Rock Cats, said to Scott’s parents.
Eleven players took the field with Scott, standing next to the Rock Cats players during the National Anthem and collecting autographs from most of the team.
Scott, who turned 10 last week, joined right in, collecting signatures on a ball the Rock Cats gave him, but also emerging with a sweatband and batting glove from impressed professional players.
“Can you strike me out?” asked Rock Cats infielder Felix Molina. Scott just grinned.
Scott signed at least a couple of autographs himself.
Jason Bouchard of Glastonbury handed Scott a poster and asked him to sign it for him.
Asked why, Bouchard said, “I don’t know. He can throw 45 miles an hour.”
Ed Santiago, one of Scott’s coaches, said that the entire hoopla surrounding Scott – who’s been the subject of discussion on ESPN Radio and appeared on television shows – is “just crazy.”
He said Scott is “better than average” on the mound, but not so dominating that he should have been barred from pitching.
“I threw five no-hitters,” Scott said, and once struck out 12 batters. “I never hit nobody” with a wayward pitch, which is more than most big leaguers can say.
But he played on a second baseball team this summer and wasn’t even the top pitcher, his coaches and parents said.
He said he became a good pitcher by “practice” all the time and he feels “bad” about all that’s happened.
“I think he’s overwhelmed,” said his mother.
Leroy Scott, the boy’s father, said his son can be determined.
“He taught himself to ride a bike,” the father said. “He just rode in the backyard until he stopped falling off his bike.”
Though Scott said his favorite team is the New York Yankees, it’s possible the Boston Red Sox have nothing to worry about.
“My favorite sport is basketball,” Scott said.
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at firstname.lastname@example.org