“No life is more tragic than the individual who nurses a dream, an ambition, always wishing and hoping, but never giving it a chance.” Richard DeVos
September 3, 2008 – Coors Field – Denver, Colorado: The Major League Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York, honors individuals who have excelled in playing, managing and supporting the game of baseball. It is full of baseball artifacts and exhibits. There is no exhibit for perseverance, but if there were, it should go to Scott and Jennifer McClain.
Growing up in Simi Valley, California, Scott played all sports, but baseball was his love. As a child, he had a recurring dream of hitting a home run in a major league game and trotting slowly around the bases to the cheers of the crowd. In the sixth grade, he proudly shared his dream with his class. He was going to be a big-league ball player.
At Atascadero High School, Scott was a better football player than baseball player. Against the advice of his father, the 6’ 4” quarterback turned down a football scholarship to the University of Southern California to play professional baseball. In 1990, when he wasn’t drafted until the 22nd round by the Baltimore Orioles there was no signing bonus, but there was plenty of second-guessing of Scott’s decision by his high school coaches, family and friends.
From 1990 to 1997 Scott played in the minor leagues for the Orioles and Mets, waiting for the magic words, “Pack your bags, you’ve been called up to the big league.” In 1998, he was traded to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, the worst team in baseball. In late August, Scott got the call and immediately phoned Jennifer, “Honey, I know it has been seven years, but I finally got my big chance.” He lasted two weeks before being sent back to the minors.
The next two years consisted of more endless bus rides and cheap hotels in places like Durham, North Carolina; Tacoma, Washington; and Fresno, California. Jennifer worked and took care of the children while she patiently waited for Scott to get another chance. Needing the money, he played the next four years in the Japanese Big League where he hit 71 home runs.
In 2005, 33-year-old Scott came home from Japan and signed a minor league contract with the Chicago Cubs. In August, he was called up for the second time, but in 13 games he batted only 0.143 and was released at season’s end. Family and friends quietly prayed that Scott would finally let go of his home run dream and get a job.
But the following season, he convinced Jennifer to let him play one more year. He played for San Francisco Giant’s AAA Fresno Grizzlies. The one more year became two seasons with the Grizzlies. In September, he played in eight games with the Giants but once again struggled at the plate, hitting only 0.181.
It finally happened in 2008. Scott had returned to the Grizzlies for yet another season. He hit 29 home runs and was voted Most Valuable Player of the Pacific Coast League. On September 2, he got a call to fly to Denver where the Giants were playing the Colorado Rockies. The next day Scott started at third base. In the sixth inning, with the Giants ahead by four runs, events happened just as he had always dreamed.
In a packed ballpark full of screaming fans, Scott hit a slider into the left field seats. He stood and watched the baseball land in the stands. After savoring the surreal moment, he began a slow jog around the bases. Hitting a home run was everything Scott had imagined. Years after others had long given up and gotten jobs, after 7,300 at bats, 36-year-old Scott McClain finally hit his dream home run. His first call was to Jennifer.
Scott McClain holds the dubious record for the most seasons played in the minor leagues, 19. In his career, he played in 44 major league games, batting 0.192 with two home runs. “It wasn’t exactly the dream I started out with,” Scott says of his career. “But I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”