Baltimore Orioles’ Luke Scott faithful to ‘planting seeds’ while hitting ‘lefties’ & ‘righties’
By JOSHUA COOLEY
Special to Florida Baptist Witness
BALTIMORE (FBW)—Aaron Cole vividly remembers the first time he met Baltimore Orioles slugger Luke Scott.
It was a cold winter morning nine years ago. Scott was a junior outfielder on the Oklahoma State University baseball team with a nose for trouble. He and Darren Heal, his best friend and teammate, loved to carouse. When the two of them got together, they were “ornery,” as Cole recalls.
Days before the meeting, Scott’s mother, Jennifer, called Cole out of the blue. She and her husband, David—residents of DeLeon, where they attended First Assembly of God church—had become Christians several years earlier and now felt a deep spiritual burden for their son. Though Luke had been reading the Bible Jennifer gave him two years earlier, there was no discernable fruit in his life.
Jennifer looked up the First Assembly of God congregation in Stillwater, just a few miles from Oklahoma State’s campus, and dialed the number. Cole, the church’s longtime senior pastor, answered her call, and after listening to her story agreed to contact Luke.
He didn’t have to. Two days later, Luke walked into the church unannounced and introduced himself: “Hi, I’m Luke Scott. My mom said I need to talk to you.”
And so began the radical spiritual transformation of one of baseball’s most outspoken Christians.
On June 9, 2001—a year and a half after he met Cole—Scott placed his faith in Christ.
“God has worked miracles in my life and brought me here, and I’m very thankful,” Scott said. “It’s the best decision I’ve ever made.”
The Orioles, it appears, made a pretty good decision by acquiring Scott. He came to Baltimore in the December 2007 blockbuster trade that sent five-time All-Star shortstop Miguel Tejada to the Houston Astros for five players. In his second full major league season last year, Scott, 30, hit .257 with 23 home runs and 65 RBI in 148 games playing mostly left field.
“I was very pleased to see the talent and the power and the ability to play every day,” said Orioles hitting coach Terry Crowley. “I don’t say that lightly. He can hit lefties, and he can hit righties.”
For Scott, the climb to everyday-player status was arduous. Drafted in 2001 by Cleveland, he spent his first three years in the minors, got traded to Houston shortly before the 2004 season and didn’t enjoy a full big-league season until age 28, when he batted .255 with 18 home runs and 64 RBI in 132 games in 2007. But the Astros, with a glut of outfield talent in Lance Berkman, Carlos Lee and Hunter Pence, considered Scott expendable.
Scott’s first season in the American League was a wild roller-coaster ride. He hit. 279 in March/April, .212 in May, .333 in June, .185 in July, .326 in August and .181 in September/October. He is hoping to rediscover his 2006 comfort zone, when he hit .336 with 10 home runs and a .621 slugging percentage in 65 games after being called up for good by Houston.
“God had a big test for me [in 2008],” said Scott, who still resides in DeLeon Springs for part of the offseason and attends his parents’ church. “It’s the same with 2007. I had an Achilles’ [heel] injury, and I kind of changed my batting stance a little. I was locked in during 2006. I haven’t felt that the last two years. I kind of miss it, but I have the potential to do so much better.”
The Orioles acknowledged the potential by avoiding arbitration and signing Scott to a one-year, $2.4 million deal in January. He is an extremely diligent player who takes notes on every pitcher he faces and religiously reviews video footage of his at-bats, looking for any helpful morsel of information.
“He’s one of those guys that when he gets hot, he can carry you for awhile,” said Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail.
But Scott’s one-year contract also sends a signal that the Orioles aren’t fully convinced that he is a long-term solution to their rebuilding project. Despite his solid play in left field last year—he only made two errors in 205 total chances—he will likely be relegated to mostly DH duties this season thanks to Baltimore’s acquisition of 24-year-old prospect Felix Pie this offseason. Nick Markakis, 25, who just signed a six-year, $66 million contract in January, is entrenched in right field, and rising star Adam Jones, 23, looks like a keeper in center.
Scott is taking everything in stride.
“I’d like to stay healthy throughout the year and maximize the potential the Lord has given me,” he said. “I’d like to get back to 2006. That would be nice. I’ve worked hard to get here.”
Spiritually speaking, Scott’s clubhouse presence is a boon to any team. He’s a faithful prayer warrior and a winsome ambassador of Christ, according to those who know him well. In fact, Scott led Cincinnati Reds center fielder Willy Taveras to the Lord when they were roommates during their time in Houston’s organization, according to Cole.
“It’s amazing to me how many people in pro baseball have been affected by Luke,” Cole said.
Chris Adomanis, the Orioles’ Baseball Chapel leader, will be relying mainly on Scott and second baseman Brian Roberts to be strong spiritual influences on the team and invite players to Bible studies.
“We are to be in the world and not of the world, and that’s what they’re doing,” Adomanis said of Scott and Roberts. “We want to really focus with those guys this year on being a witness for Christ.”
Ultimately, Scott sees this season through the lens of a biblical allegory. He is a farmer who has worked his fields and is anticipating a bountiful spiritual crop, both on the diamond and in his relationship with God.
“I’ve been planting seeds,” Scott said. “Now I’m waiting for the harvest to come. There are a lot of things I don’t understand. God’s ways are higher than mine. But whatever he wants me to do, I’ll do. He is faithful.”
Original Article: http://www.floridabaptistwitness.com/10182.article