Scott's perseverance paved path to success

Scott's perseverance paved path to success

BOSTON -- Luke Scott stood in the opposing clubhouse of the Twins' brand-new Target Field nearly in tears. With a batting average of .177 and three home runs heading into the Orioles' 25th game, Scott was admittedly at the lowest point of his career. He would stay up at night thinking about his at-bats, analyzing what he was doing wrong so he could spend the next afternoon working in the batting cages with a manic fervor.

"I was wearing holes in my hands," said Scott, referring to the hours of work he put in with hitting coach Terry Crowley while trying to jumpstart his bat. "I was miserable. Baseball just wasn't fun."

He contemplated leaving the game altogether. The Orioles brass considered sending him to Triple-A. Fortunately, neither of those things happened. And now with 10 games remaining, Scott has already surpassed his career high in home runs (27), tallied a batting average 28 points higher than what he finished with last season, and cobbled together a consistent 4 1/2-month stretch. The designated hitter hopes this will help shed a label that has plagued him for his entire career: streaky.

"I think we are beyond that," Crowley said of Scott's inconsistent stretches, which have long been the biggest problem in tabbing the 33-year-old as an everyday player.

"He has really, really matured as a hitter. Every at-bat isn't life and death anymore."

There have been times when it felt that way to Scott. Crowley would watch from the dugout and know he would have to pull Scott aside and talk in between at-bats. If things didn't go right, Scott went into a shell -- each strikeout and poor performance eating him alive, and increasing the pressure to perform.

"There's been a severe adjustment as far as rolling with the punches where Luke is concerned," Crowley said. "Now, he doesn't ever lose focus, ever lose sight of the fact that he's a great hitter. It's a certain amount of maturity."

A devout Christian who credits his faith for helping him persevere, Scott has done a lot of soul searching this season, and acknowledges that there is a fine line between being passionate and caring too much -- a lesson he learned the hard way. He repeats the mantra of "controlling what's in the moment" when he goes up to the plate, and is more aware than he has ever been of how he will be pitched.

"I'm prepared," said Scott, who does the same series of early work with Crowley before every game, and pours over video -- both of his swing and teammate Felix Pie's, who calls Scott his role model. "From there, it's a chess match. Some days, you've got to tip your hat -- the guy didn't give you anything to hit."

That he is able to take such an even-keeled approach to hitting is evidence of the strides Scott has made this season. It has helped that he has earned the distinction of being more than a platoon player (posting a .485 slugging percentage against lefties in an everyday DH role) and formed a good relationship with new Orioles manager Buck Showalter. When the at-bats are fewer, Scott becomes obsessed with results, fixated on proving himself with every little opportunity.

"I've played my best baseball relaxed, when I know that the guys who put the lineup up have confidence in me," said Scott, who hit .314 with nine homers and 20 RBIs in August. "And that's been true from every level. And I've had that this year."

Showalter has made it clear that, in terms of playing time, he will do what's best for the Baltimore Orioles. And since Showalter took over on Aug. 2, arguably since mid-May, that's involved Luke Scott.

"He's sincere," Showalter said of Scott. "He's not doing anything for somebody to look at. It's just [that] he has a joy about doing well and helping us win. I think he equates whether or not he had a good day at the park to whether or not the Baltimore Orioles won. I've seen him sincerely happy for an 0-for-4 [night] and we've won, and I've seen him sincerely down after he's had a good night and we've lost. So that's a good thing. It's a good look to get an idea of what he's about."

And then, of course, there are those homers -- dubbed "happy homers" in the Orioles dugout for the child-like glee that they produce.

"He comes in and he's got one of the biggest smiles you are ever going to see," said center fielder Adam Jones, who is usually in the on-deck circle and takes the brunt of the powerful Scott's hug, chest slap and high-five-inducing celebration.

"You have to brace yourself," said Crowley. "You don't want to break any fingers while he's shaking hands. But, he picks the whole team up when he hits those homers, no question."

While Rays starter Matt Garza referred to Scott's celebrations earlier this month as showboating, the Orioles DH makes no apologies. He's been doing that since his college days at Oklahoma State University -- a ritual that includes kissing his hand and pointing to the sky in reverence to God -- and he isn't going to stop now.

"It's like a high, you can't help but share it with others," Scott said of the emotions that follow homers like Sunday's game-tying shot off revered Yankees closer Mariano Rivera. "I don't want to keep it all to myself."

With the season winding down, Scott has 30 homers set in his sights. It would be a grand accomplishment in a trying year, but he says it won't affect how he reflects on 2010.

"It's been a tough beginning for the team, and it was tough for me, personally," said Scott, who has made just one minor mechanical adjustment, to flatten out his swing, since that poor stretch. "But it's also been a year of perseverance. There's been a lot of victory in this. There's been a lot of overcoming has happened this year."

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.