April 22, 2011


Always locked and loaded: Luke Scott's free-speaking ways may draw concern, but not to those who know him (Amy K. Nelson, 4/20/11, ESPN.com)

The reason I'm even here at this shooting range in late February during baseball's spring training, holding this gun, is that Scott is the left fielder for the Baltimore Orioles, and I'm trying to understand him better. Scott is one of baseball's most complex characters. His questions about President Barack Obama's U.S. citizenship put him in headlines during an otherwise-quiet offseason. He speaks bluntly and with heavy opinions. He's fluent in Spanish and loves Latin culture, but in the clubhouse, he'll make potentially inflammatory comments to a Latino player who is his best friend -- throwing plantain chips at him to keep him in line. He wears religion on his sleeve.

Given all that, the simple assumption is that Scott is a right-wing nut, a borderline racist and a loudmouth redneck ballplayer who should keep his mouth shut.

But it's not that simple. Luke Scott will require a deeper line of thinking. [...]

Scott talks about these basic principles -- honor, integrity, accountability, hard work -- and says they all trace back to the founders of this country. He espouses them frequently, especially to his teammate and close friend, outfielder Felix Pie. The day before going to the shooting range, I mention to Scott that I want to explore his relationship with the Dominican Republic-born Pie, because it's a part of his life that few outside the clubhouse seem to know about.

He smiles.

"Felix is my friend," he says. "I give him a hard time. The reason why I give him a hard time is because there are certain people you deal with and you go up and talk to them, and it doesn't work. They don't understand.

"I tell him about some of the ways he's acted: 'Look, you're acting like an animal, you're acting like a savage.'"

Scott turns to his locker and pulls out a bag of plantain chips.

"So I throw bananas in his helmet. Here are my banana chips to remind him that whenever he acts like an animal, 'Hey, that's what other people are thinking. They're just not telling you, but that's what they're thinking about. And I'm telling you so that you're aware of that so you can make a cognitive decision to not behave like that.' I would want someone to tell me that instead of letting you making a jerk of yourself."

Why would Scott choose potentially loaded words like "animal" and "savage" -- and how can they not offend either his friend or anyone in the locker room who overhears? Most teammates asked about it laugh or smile. They cite it as part of the two players' playful relationship, part of life in a big league clubhouse -- there are things that fly in there that wouldn't in the outside world.

Adam Jones, who is black, says it doesn't bother him because he knows Scott is a good person and the words do not come from a bad place. If it bothered Pie, who is a dark-skinned Dominican, it might be a different situation.

"He's not a redneck racist; his beliefs are his beliefs," Jones says. "Their relationship is uncanny, and Pie ribs him just as much. I don't think Luke means any racist thing by it. Trust me, if I see racism, I'll say some s---. Quickly.

"I've told Luke there are some things you should and shouldn't do that might offend … if he crossed the line I would have already said something."

Everyone seemingly has a similar refrain: From the outside it seems offensive, but if you know Scott, it's harmless.

Joe Inglett and Scott were teammates with the Cleveland Indians' Class A Kinston team in 2002. He says Scott was always opinionated, mostly about religion and guns. He doesn't remember him being very political. Willy Taveras was with the Indians then, too, and Inglett remembers Scott using similar words.

"That's how they talk to each other, you know, how friends talk to each other," says Inglett, now with the Astros. "It's not in a derogatory way, though. I will never, ever take anything he says seriously. He's an A-plus dude."

Pie laughs when asked about the names Scott calls him.

"Like 'Bogeyman?'" Pie says. "Luke is my friend. He's like a brother. It doesn't bother me because I'm the kind of person [where] you're going to know when you do something that bothers me. This is my friend. He doesn't hurt me, people know that. If you met him you can see that, too."

One Orioles team source explains it like this: "He's not John Rocker. He took the time to be bilingual; he spends more time with his Spanish teammates than Americans. This ain't John Rocker, but he says some John Rocker type s---. My question is, why?"

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Posted by at April 22, 2011 5:43 AM

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