Scott's silence has to do with timing, not changed beliefs

Outspoken slugger says he won't talk politics because it becomes a distraction to the team

March 12, 2011|Peter Schmuck

SARASOTA, Fla. — There hasn't been a peep out of Luke Scott this spring, either at the plate or in front of his locker.

The Mountain Man, as former manager Dave Trembley liked to call him, has remained largely under the radar since he made national headlines — and gave the Orioles public relations department a giant headache — by telling a reporter at the Baseball Winter Meetings that he didn't believe president Barack Obama was born in the United States.

He's not hitting, but nobody is particularly worried about that. Scott has always been a streaky guy with the bat, so you can rationalize that he's just going to leave one of the bad stretches behind in Florida.

He's not talking much either, which is a great relief to an Orioles organization that is owned by one of the more prominent supporters of the Democratic Party on the East Coast.

Scott says that's because everything belongs in its proper place, not because he was shouted down by the national media or told by the club to be more, well, diplomatic in expressing his political beliefs.

"I got no hate mail,'' he said. "I really didn't get any negative comments from friends or family. The only negative things I heard were on TV."

Oh, and from club officials who did get some negative feedback from fans and asked him to sign a statement saying that his political beliefs were his own and did not reflect the views of the Baltimore Orioles.

Fair enough.

"You're always going to know where I stand,'' Scott said. "The balance comes when I don't want to get in a situation where it's a distraction for the team. That was during the offseason. Now, I'm focused on baseball and I'll keep my comments to that."

Pardon me if I don't believe him. Scott is — proudly — everything you think he is. Passionate right-wing patriot. Christian soldier. Unabashed gun guy. If you want to hear him apologize for any of that, you came to the wrong page.

"I'm pretty direct,'' he said. "I spoke (in December) not as a baseball player, but as a concerned citizen. When I made those comments, the Orioles asked me to give them a letter saying my comments were my own and didn't represent (Peter Angelos) or the Orioles. They asked for that and I gave them that. It was only fair to them.

"It was just my personal belief…my thoughts and feelings and my First Amendment right to express them."

Whether you agree or disagree with where Scott is coming from — and in Maryland, there's a 70 percent chance you think he's from another planet — you've got to respect the fact that he is who he is and he isn't afraid to take the heat when he runs afoul of what passes for conventional political thought these days.

And if you think he's some kind of cardboard caricature of the kind of person Obama was talking about with his controversial campaign comment about the bitter people "who cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them," you might want to think again.

Scott's locker is positioned in the Orioles spring clubhouse between his best friend on the team, Felix Pie, and newly acquired superstar Vladimir Guerrero. He probably speaks as much Spanish in the locker room as English and he clearly prefers the company of his Latin teammates.

In fact, his two worlds collided earlier this spring when he took Pie, minor league shortstop Pedro Florimon and a female ESPN reporter out to shoot at the local gun range. (Somewhere, Andy MacPhail just spit out his soup.)

The Latin connection isn't just the result of an eye-opening winter ball experience. Scott started picking up Spanish when he was growing up in DeLand, Florida, just outside the Ocala National Forest.

"I began to speak Spanish growing up in my neighborhood,'' he said. "When we studied it in school, I just made an effort. It was before professional baseball."

He became fluent by rooming with the Latin players in the minor leagues and, yes, playing winter ball. In 2002, when he was playing his first pro season in Columbus, Ga., he lived with four Latin players in a two-bedroom apartment — two of them from the Dominican Republic, one from Venezuela and one from Honduras.

"When I signed, I always lived with the Latins,'' he said. "The other guys, the high school players from the United States, they were used to their parents taking care of them and I don't deal well with people being irresponsible. Truth is, my Latin teammates were more like me. They loved to cook instead of going out to eat. We worked together. We cleaned up together."

The daily interplay with Pie isn't always politically correct, but you won't hear anything but praise from his young protégé. Pie credits Scott with smoothing his assimilation in the O's clubhouse and helping him grow into a major league player. By all appearances, they couldn't be more different, but they have bonded in a very special way.

"I'm a right-winger," Scott said, "but I'm also a Christian man. I don't judge people by their culture or the color of their skin. If you look around the world, it's obvious that God likes variety. If he wanted everyone to be a certain way, he would have made us all the same."

Scott clearly is comfortable in his own skin. Now, if he can just get comfortable at the plate.

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

twitter.com/SchmuckStop

Listen to Peter Schmuck on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon Fridays and Saturdays and check out his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here," at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog.

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