Another Van Slyke May Be Another Very Good On

Scott Van Slyke passed someone at Dodgertown, recognized the University of Mississippi ball cap he was wearing and commented, "Right cap." That Scott would know the cap is perfectly understandable. He probably has one of his own for he spent some time on the campus while being recruited for its baseball team. But the cap he's wearing on the field bears the "LA" insignia and that represents a change in his plans.

"I thought if I wasn't drafted in the first five rounds there would be no way I'd turn pro now. When I found out that I wasn't drafted until the 14th round, I figured that was it. I was going to college."

The fact that Scott had committed rather emphatically to Ole Miss was a lot of the reason why he lasted as long as he did. At the time, they selected him, the Dodgers figured he might not be quite ready for the pro game. However, at the same time, the notion was that if he'd play three years of college ball, he could wind up being a first or second rounder for the potential was certainly there. Of course, by then, they'd have lost the rights to him and he'd be up for grabs in the draft again.

So, they watched him a bit in summer ball and decided to go after him now. "The Dodgers told me what they had in mind for me," says Scott. "When I heard their plans, I decided to sign now." Of course, he allows that the money was far more than a normal 14th-rounder would receive.

Most players selected down that far are rather obscure but that's hardly the case when your last name is Van Slyke and your father is Andy, a major league star for years with the Cardinals and Pirates who now does post-game TV and radio shows in St. Louis.

Scott certainly enjoyed growing up in the big league atmosphere. "We'd go to spring training. We'd get to shag flies before games and hang around the players. It was great."

Being the son of a star can have built-in disadvatanges when you start to play the game yourself though for there will always be those who expect a clone of the father immediately." I think it affected my older brother because his name is Andy, too, and he was the first. My younger brother is thinking of concentrating on football. But, no, I'm not a person who worries a lot so it really didn't get to me."

Scott himself was a three-sport star at John Burroughs High in St. Louis, playing quarterback in football and power forward in basketball. However, baseball was always going to be his game and he climaxed his schoolboy career by being named the Player of the Year for Missouri by Louisville Sluggers. "They gave me a very nice medal for that."

The other side of the coin is that being tutored by a big league father gives you insights into the game. "At the beginning, yes, but after that, no, because we've got great coaches and everybody here is even in that respect. If they listen to them, the other players catch up quickly."

After signing Scott reported to the Gulf Coast team where, "I spent the first month comparing myself to the others so that I'd learn what I needed to do for what was ahead. The last month I shortened my swing and kept my front side closed more because before I had a bad strike zone view. In high school, I had people pitching around me a lot so I had opened up and swung at a lot of bad pitches.

"Here I learned the game, got my swing down and to make it quick so I'm not afraid to go for the inside pitch."

In the second part of the season he played a lot more and delivered more, particularly in one noteworthy game when he crushed two home runs, then came up with the bases loaded, ran the count to 3-2 and ripped a double off the faraway left-field fence at Dodgertown's Field One. "I hit the last one even harder but I hit hit into left-center." He totaled seven RBI's in that game.

He finished the year at .282-2-15 but the Dodgers look at a frame that is 6-5, 200-pounds and envision what a few years of maturity, weight work and experience can make him so are inclined to feel that they're only scratching the surface of his potential.

He's working on that in the Instructional, then it's back home where his dad will evaluate his game and make suggestions. "He's never the kind to get on you," Scott notes. "He does tell us that there's always at least one thing that you need to work on."

"Us" includes older brother Andrew, who also turned pro after playing at the University of Kansas. He's in the Cardinal chain and while Scott admits they've quite naturally been a team he's followed (and will continue to) he 's happy as a Dodger. "I'm glad I turned pro. It was the right thing for me."

So, he'll admire the Ole Miss cap but he and everybody else are pleased that he chose to wear the orher one.