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IN THE NAME OF HIS FATHER CRESPI'S MATT SCIOSCIA CARVES OUT HIS OWN IDENTITY.

Byline: HEATHER GRIPP Staff Writer

If Angels manager Mike Scioscia is ejected or involved in an argument during a game, Matt Scioscia probably is smiling.

``That's where I have a lot of fun,'' said Matt Scioscia, Mike's 17-year- old son. ``Whenever he gets thrown out of a game or there's a brawl, I rag on him the whole day when he's home. I'm like, `Whoa dad, I thought you were a better fighter than that,' or something like that. Or I ask him if the umpire was really right on a close play and it's interesting to hear what he says. There are some lines I don't want to cross, but other than that, it's fair game.''

The younger Scioscia's ability to bring humor to tense situations rivals his value as a hitter for Crespi High of Encino's baseball team. A sure way to get that smile to fade, though, is to mistake him as simply Mike Sciosica's son.

Matt Scioscia is forging his own identity in the baseball world as a junior catcher/first baseman with the Celts. He enters this week's Southern Section playoffs batting .324 and among team leaders with 18 RBIs.

``He hates it when he's introduced as Mike Scioscia's son instead of as Matt,'' teammate Jeff Warren said. ``He gets tired of it a lot. We just like to give him a hard time because we're his friends, but we know there's more to him. He fits in great and we wouldn't be where we are without him.''

Matt and his younger sister, Taylor, have been exposed to a variety of sports, music and church activities while growing up in Westlake Village. Their mother, Anne, enjoys tennis and is the one Matt says gave him his all athletic genes. Matt also played on Crespi's Southern Section champion football team this past fall.

``I'm just happy he enjoys sports,'' Mike said. ``It doesn't matter what it is. I never pushed him into baseball. I think that it's important for kids to experience and see what they like, and sports is just one avenue.''

However, the Scioscia name and baseball are linked in Southern California, where Mike helped the Dodgers to two World Series titles as a catcher in the 1980s, and guided the Angels to their first World Series championship as a manager in 2002.

``People know the name,'' Matt said. ``So there's obviously a certain amount of expectations and stuff like that. But once you get down to it, it really just depends on who you are, and I just try to do the best I can. I certainly look to my dad and aspire to accomplish some of the stuff that he has. I love baseball and just try the best that I can and try to put my own mark on the game.''

Matt calls his dad his favorite player, and his mother remembers Matt emulating Mike from an early age.

``Mike was able to get catching equipment in pretty much any size so he got some tiny gear for Matt,'' Anne recalled. ``When Matt was only 18months old, he would dress up in his chest protector and mask and watch daddy on TV. If Mike was catching, Matt would squat down and pretend to catch. And then when Mike would bat, he'd take the gear off and bat like his dad.''

Matt's earliest baseball memories are of playing in father-son games at Dodger Stadium. He appreciates perks such as being able to mingle with players in the dugout and clubhouse, and being able to practice on Angel Stadium's field before games. He has gone to spring training and attends games frequently during the summer, but his own baseball schedule is cutting down on the time he spends with the Angels.

``It was a totally different aspect of baseball that I got to see at a young age,'' Matt said. ``Most kids don't get to experience a lot of the stuff I did. It obviously helped me realize how in-depth and fun baseball is. I've enjoyed it forever.''

Matt hopes to play professionally some day, but is set on playing in college first. Having been sidelined for nearly two years by a broken wrist and then a back injury, Matt is catching up defensively during his first full varsity season. He is working with a speed and agility coach in hopes of not ``running like my dad,'' but Matt's hitting is already among the area's best.

Teammates tell stories of the long home runs he'd hit against them as youth league opponents.

``He's a very good hitter,'' Crespi coach Scott Muckey said. ``He has good power and loves to play. He's very enthusiastic about baseball and he doesn't expect any special treatment because of who his dad is. If you didn't know he was Mike Scioscia's son, you would never be able to tell, I'm sure he'd never tell you.''

Even if Matt isn't eager to listen to dad when it comes to things like chores, Mike is the first one Matt turns to for baseball advice. Mike often has his wife watch for specific things during Matt's games and relay the information back to him.

``It's really cool to know that, `Wow, he's my dad,' but he's also a coach, he knows what he's talking about,'' Matt said. ``So it's been really great to have his guidance and it's helped me. There have certainly been other coaches who have been influential, but my main coach has been my dad. And I do actually listen to him.''

Not everything about life as the son of a major-leaguer has been positive.

Namely, there is the time apart, which was especially difficult when Matt was unable to have his father at Little League games. His mom and grandmother were regulars at the games, but he laughs now at how little they understood the sport.

``It can be tough,'' Matt said. ``There's certainly been a lot of times you can't go see dad and go to the movies, or whatever, because it's a `No, son, I've got a road trip.' But when he comes home you get really excited. You try to treasure the time you have when he's home. ''

The kids usually talk to their dad a few times a week during road trips.

Time together at home is more likely to focus on school, church or other activities. During the offseason, Anne often finds Mike and Matt wrestling on the floor as they act out football games they are watching.

``To Matt, Mike's just his dad, and they're very close,'' Anne said.

Said Mike: ``This game separates you a lot physically from your family. But the emotional part of it, there's a strong bond, and it's really strong for our family.

``It's just fun to see (Matt) grow as a person and as an athlete and to know that even though we have a lot of time away from each other, that emotional bond is very strong.''

heather.gripp@dailynews.com

(818) 713-3607

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3 photos

Photo:

(1 -- 2 -- color) As a child, Crespi High's Matt Scioscia, above, would emulate his father Mike while the elder Scioscia played for the Dodgers.

(3) Crespi's Matt Scioscia is batting .324 and has 18 RBIs so far this season.

Hans Gutknecht/Staff Photographer
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:May 16, 2006
Words:1217
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