Rich Hill got his dream offer last summer, ultimately departing the University of San Diego to become the new head baseball coach at the University of Hawaii. Hill, who coached the Toreros from 1999 to 2021, left behind a team that won the West Coast Conference Tournament last weekend and opens the NCAA Tournament on Friday against Vanderbilt in Oregon State’s Corvallis regional.
The summer of 2021 was a time of major uncertainty as far as UH baseball was concerned. After athletic director David Matlin decided not to extend Mike Trapasso‘s 20-year run at the helm, the program went weeks without knowing the direction in which it was headed.
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A bevy of players on UH’s 2021 team entered the transfer portal following the season. It was there that Scotty Scott earned a dream offer of his own: A baseball scholarship from Texas A&M to play for Jim Schlossnagle, where he’d compete in the SEC and play in front of his family members and friends from the Houston area less than an hour away.
Scott contemplated the offer and would have roomed with former BaseBow Kole Kaler, who has started all 55 games for the national No. 5 seed Aggies this season, seeing action at second base, shortstop and third base. But after multiple conversations with Hill, Scott decided Hawaii is where he always belonged.
Because the COVID-shortened 2020 season did not count against any given player’s eligibility, Scott was considered a junior for the 2022 season, a prime year for him to potentially get selected in the MLB Draft. Instead, Scott suffered and played through multiple injuries. With the toll the game was taking on his body, Scott made the decision to end his playing career. After graduating with his communications degree earlier this month, Scott was one of five players honored during senior day on Saturday.
“I wish I could play baseball for forever. It’s always been a dream to play professional baseball. I’ll be undergoing my second Tommy John surgery. I’m still recovering from a broken hand earlier in the year,” Scott said after Saturday’s season finale, a 6-4 victory over Cal Poly. “My body’s done. That kind of really influenced my decision. I feel like the guys that we got are in a really good spot to win a championship next year.”
With his playing days behind him, Scott is diving straight into his coaching career. He’s set to join the staff at Cuesta College, a junior college in San Luis Obispo, Calif. His ultimate goal? To one day coach the ‘Bows.
“I can’t wait to continue to compete in baseball, just on the other side of the lines as a coach,” he said. “I still get that same feeling of competitiveness so I’ll be in the game of baseball for a long time. Hopefully I can be back at Les Murakami Stadium as the head coach for the University of Hawaii after coach Hill retires and he’s in the Hall of Fame because he’s the man. That’d definitely be a dream of mine.”
Scott was the Big West Freshman Field Player of the Year in 2019, back when he led off all 50 games for the Rainbow Warriors and hit .291. He carried that over to the shortened 2020 season, where he hit .321. In 2021, he continued to be productive at the top of the order while displaying his range and arm as an outfielder despite getting Tommy John surgery on his throwing arm the previous offseason.
The Rainbow Warriors fizzled down the stretch in 2021, going 1-11 in their final 12 games to finish 24-26 despite starting the season 11-2 and 3-0 in Big West Conference play with a Top 30 national ranking by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper. As the ‘Bows slumped across the finish line last year, Scott’s competitive zeal was one of the few constants. He was often seen attempting to encourage teammates through the dog days, displaying the same fervor that made him a fan favorite in Manoa and beyond over the years.
Hill’s first year at UH was capped with a 28-24 season in which the ‘Bows finished third place in the Big West, arguably the program’s best season in over a decade despite starting 8-16. Unlike his first three years at UH, Scott was not the team’s bona fide leadoff hitter, appearing in various spots in the order. Some around the program thought his season was done after he tore his left elbow in April, but instead, Scott finished out the year hitting .235 with a large brace on his left arm.
After a baseball career full of giving it his all, Scott knew that physically, he barely had any more to give.
“Sometimes, showing up to the ballpark, you don’t wanna practice because you’re so sore,” Scott said. “Then there’s days like (Saturday) where I wish we could roll out the L screen and I can hit a couple more (batting practice pitches). It’s just trying to take it one by one and continue to get better. I was in coach Hill’s ear (Saturday) morning about my swing knowing that I got maybe four at-bats left in my career but it’s always wanting to get better, always wanting to learn for as long as I’ve played and for as long as I’ll coach. Practice and training is a great opportunity to learn and continuing to grow in the game of baseball because I do plan to be around it for a really long time.”
As Scott heads into the next phase of his baseball journey, he exits his playing career with no internal doubts.
“It can’t be put into words. I wish it could,” Scott said of his UH experience. “Just from the fans, to the community, taking a guy in with not a lot of talent. … I’m not from here, but for the community to welcome me, it’s really been a blessing, recognizing that I play the game with heart. That’s my message to all the keiki here, man: Play with heart.
“If you’re not very big or not very fast or not very strong, play with heart, hustle harder than anybody else and you can be a ‘Bow Warrior, too.”