Scooter Tucker Itching for his Chance to Manage the Captains
Sometimes you don’t know you have an itch until you scratch it.
But after being out of professional baseball for 11 years, new Lake County Captains Manager Scooter Tucker scratched that itch when he decided to help out a friend in 2007.
“A friend of mine had an opportunity to manage an independent team in Pensacola,” Tucker said. “I had an itch to get back into the game, but I just hadn’t had an opportunity or pursued an opportunity. I always had the itch there.”
Tucker scratched his itch when he helped his friend, Mac Seibert, serving as bench coach of the Pensacola (Fla.) Pelicans, an independent team in the American Association. Like many itches, once he gave it attention, Tucker found it to be much more serious.
“My itch became a rash,” Tucker said. “I really got the fever to get back in the game. When the Indians called before the 2012 season, I knew that if they gave me an opportunity, I would like to be part of the organization.”
And so Tucker’s itch has led him to Lake County and his first managerial job at any level. While on the surface it might appear Tucker lacks experience, his playing career, coaching career and life outside of baseball has prepared him for the new role.
Tucker continued to work as the Pelicans bench coach in 2008 before becoming an associate scout with the New York Mets in 2010 and 2011. However, Tucker’s rash continued to grow and he wanted a bigger, or everyday role, in baseball. The Cleveland Indians offered Tucker the opportunity to be the hitting coach with the High-A Carolina Mudcats last season, and he accepted.
As a member of the Mudcats, Tucker had the opportunity to teach hitting and work with several young Indians prospects, but also to learn from veteran manager Edwin Rodriguez. Rodriguez has managed 12 seasons in the Minor Leagues and parts of two different seasons with the Florida Marlins. Tucker had the opportunity to work daily and learn from Rodriguez.
“He would be the closest thing I have in professional baseball to be a mentor,” Tucker said of Rodriguez. “He really took the time with me personally to groom me for an opportunity to manage. He allowed me to coach third base and introduced me to a lot of stuff the manager deals with on a daily basis.”
Rodriguez will be the manager of the Double-A Akron Aeros this season, receiving a promotion of his own after the 2012 campaign. Tucker is grateful for time and experience Rodriguez invested in him and feels it will help him be a better manager.
“I was very fortunate to be with him,” Tucker said. “I think he just had a personal thing to give something back to somebody else. It was a great experience.”
Tucker has his own resume and experiences from his playing career to help build his coaching and managerial experience in addition to his season with the Mudcats and Rodriguez. Tucker, a catcher, was a fifth round selection in the MLB Amateur Draft by the San Francisco Giants in 1988. He played four minor league seasons with the Giants before being claimed by the Houston Astros in 1991. Tucker was a California League All-Star in 1990 at Class-A San Jose and a Texas League All-Star at Double-A Shreveport the following season. He was a career .276 hitter in the minor leagues.
Tucker appeared in 51 games over three Major League seasons with Houston (1992-93, 1995) and Cleveland (1995). Tucker concluded his playing career in 1996 at Triple-A Omaha in the Royals system. He was elected to the Delta State University Sports Hall of Fame in 2002 and had his jersey retired. He lives in Pace, Fla., is married to Teresa and has four daughters, Courtney, Torey, Hailey and Anna Grace.
After leaving professional baseball, Tucker worked in business in Pensacola for most of the next 11 years. He feels the lessons learned building relationships and gaining trust in businessmen are the skills that can make him a successful manager in professional baseball.
“I learned a lot of baseball stuff from Edwin last season and a lot of it you know from playing, but since I’ve been out of the game, all I’ve done is manage people,” Tucker said. “In the business world, I managed people. The game of baseball, obviously has its differences, but it’s still managing people. It’s trying to figure out how to get the best out of them, how to motivate them and how to improve them. I wouldn’t say managing is easy, but I’ve had experience outside of baseball to help me.”
Tucker also understands managing at the Low-A level in the Midwest League isn’t just about the game on the field, but also helping professionals grow both on and off the field. Having worked briefly in ministry, Tucker is excited to use this opportunity to not just develop baseball players, but young men.
“That’s part of what drew me back to the game,” Tucker said. “I have a real passion to help young men, not just to be baseball players, but to be men. Hopefully I did that last year (in Carolina).”
“They’ll find out I care about them more as a person than I do as a player,” Tucker said. “My job obviously is to make them a better player. I’m sure the Indians feel the same way. We get a much better player if we get a better person. I love having that opportunity.”
Tucker, whose given name is Eddie, earned the nicknamed Scooter at a very young age. His grandfather felt he needed a nickname when he was only 7 months old and started calling him Scooter. The name stuck, and has been the only name he’s known to this day.
Tucker’s playing career, mentorship from others and learning experiences both in and out of baseball have led him to Lake County and presented him an opportunity to embrace his baseball itch. Now, Tucker enters 2013 trying not to get too excited and just have fun. He doesn’t want to look too far ahead. His rebirth in baseball has been so exciting, he just wants to embrace it.
“I didn’t get into the game thinking I’d be a major league manager someday,” Tucker said. “All my business years and moving up the ladder — climbing the corporate ladder — sometimes took the fun out of it. Last year, I said I was going to take the approach to do what I was asked to do as a hitting coach and whatever happened, happened. I enjoyed the season so much, I’m wrestling with trying to keep the same mentality. Just do what they ask me to do, and see what doors open.”
The door currently in front of Tucker is the Lake County Captains experience and chance to develop young men and baseball players, but what the future holds is left to be determined. Like everyone, he does have a dream job, however.
“Ultimately, if I could have any job in baseball, I would love to be a Major League bench coach,” Tucker said. “You still have so much interaction with the players, it would be a role that would really appeal to me.”
His itch may have developed into a full baseball fever.
Photo: Carolina Mudcats