Scott Brosius isn’t sure how many Tacoma Rainiers realize that their new hitting coach was named the World Series MVP in 1998, the year the Yankees culminated their historic season with a sweep of the San Diego Padres.
Over four games on two coasts, the third baseman was the best player on one of the best teams ever assembled — a powerhouse that won 114 regular-season games before rolling through October. The Yanks’ accumulation of 125 victories remains a record for a championship team, and Brosius, the mild-mannered Portland-area product, was, to borrow a term once applied to a more demonstrative World Series MVP for the Yankees, the straw that stirred the drink: He hit .471 and drove in six runs with two homers.
After Game 4, his teammates celebrated in the visitors clubhouse by mimicking the roll-call bleacher chant performed during the first inning at Yankee Stadium: “Scott-ee Bro-see-us!” (Clap, clap, clap-clap-clap.) “Scot-ee Bro-see-us!”
When Brosius is asked if players know of his World Series legacy, he smiles.
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“A couple of guys may have looked up things on YouTube,” Brosius said the other day, “but I do understand it’s been awhile. I’ve been out of the game since 2001, so do the math. They weren’t very old when I was playing.”
It’s more likely they recognize Brosius as the former Linfield College coach who led the Oregon school to the NCAA Division III national championship in 2013. During eight seasons at his alma mater, Brosius’ teams won four regional titles and five Northwest Conference titles while going 270-96, a winning percentage (.738) that suggested the job was his for life.
But Brosius, who turns 50 in August, had a longtime yearning to get back to pro baseball. The trend of big league organizations hiring managers who’ve never managed has not escaped him, and while that opportunity may or may not await, the time was right to get his foot in the door before the door was shut and locked.
“It was a family decision to step away when I did as a player,” said Brosius. “I wanted to be around to raise my kids. Well, the kids are out of the house now, they’ve graduated, and it allowed me the freedom to be on the professional side again.
“Being able to coach at Linfield was a perfect balance for me. I was able to stay at home and coach at the place I played at, and it was great. But the last couple of years, I started to get that itch. Once the schedule allowed, I was going to try to jump back in.”
Brosius’ introduction, prior to the Rainiers season opener on Thursday night, was something of a homecoming for the one-time Oakland prospect, who spent parts of four seasons with the old Tacoma Tigers in the old Cheney Stadium. Aside from the occasional rehab stint, he’s been away from the minors since the A’s promoted him from Tacoma in 1993.
But Brosius has spent plenty of time with baseball players in their early 20s, albeit players whose chances of extending their careers were limited.
“There’s certainly a difference in talent,” he said. “You have some guys here who are pretty special. They’re at the Triple-A level; some have been in the big leagues. You look at their strengths and bat speed and things like physical ability and the ability to take information, process it and apply it right away, and there’s a difference.
“But there are similarities, too. Guys at all levels are eager to get better and hone their skills. I see the same desires and the same focus in the college guys that I do here.”
Desire and focus were signature traits of Brosius, a 20th-round draft choice whose aspirations of advancing to the major leagues seemed inconceivable as a Linfield freshman who hit .194 in 20 games.
Then again, his status as future World Series MVP was just as inconceivable in 1997, when he was traded to the Yankees after hitting a career-low .203. Brosius went on to win three world championship rings with Joe Torre’s Yankees, and his two-run homer against the Diamondbacks in Game 5 of the 2001 Series — it tied the score in the bottom of the ninth, setting up the 12-inning victory that sent the Fall Classic back to Arizona — put him in position to earn another ring, which was denied by the D-backs’ lights-out combination punch of Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson.
Still, no baseball thrill is as profound as the first thrill. Brosius improved his batting average to .300 in 1998, the season he made his lone appearance in the All-Star team. Three months later, he was the toast of a city that never sleeps.
“Those type of memories stay with you a lifetime,” he said. “There’s nothing better than the dog pile at the end of the year. We are all doing this because we love the game, but you play it to win. That’s your ultimate goal, to be there at the end of the year and be on the last team standing.
“You see a highlight, something on TV, you’re kind of reminded of it and it feels like it just happened yesterday. But I’ve had my time, and now it’s their time. My goal is to help these guys have those moments as well.”
John McGrath: firstname.lastname@example.org