Sunday, March 13, 2011Posted: 5:25 p.m. Updated: 8:20 p.m.
By Patrick Mooney
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. If things had worked out differently, maybe Bobby Scales would have spent this weekend in Japan, trying to contact concerned friends and family to assure them that he was all right.
The haunting images flashed on a flat-screen TV almost directly above Scales locker on Friday in the Cubs clubhouse. Players, team personnel and reporters silently watched CNNs coverage of the earthquake and tsunami that could push the death toll past 10,000. That morning, Scales received confirmation from Micah Hoffpauir that he was safe.
I dont care who you are, where youre from, what language you speak thats awful, Scales said. What (else) can you say about it?
Every player has a small window to maximize his earning power and support his family. Hoffpauir who appeared in 162 games with the Cubs across the past three seasons is trying to capitalize with the Nippon Ham Fighters. At the age of 33, Scales cant ignore the possibility of playing abroad.
Absolutely, Scales said. If I was given the opportunity, I would love to have gone (to Japan). Their process is very intricate and they do a lot of homework on guys they bring over, so apparently I didnt pass the test.
But Scales isnt the type to wonder what could have been. The Cubs think so highly of him that they would like to hire him for their front office as soon as he retires. Hes not ready to play along with that idea just yet. A utility guy likes to be appreciated, but not taken for granted.
Its a flattering thing to say, Scales said. Its good that people think of you as a good baseball guy and an intelligent person and someone that they would like to work with in the future. (But) Im still a player and I still want to play and I still feel like I can help a team win games. Until that changes, thats my (mindset).
Scales went to the University of Michigan and cant wait to watch ESPNs Fab Five documentary. Its not hard to get him talking college basketball. But he doesnt want to be a Cinderella story.
It took Scales 11 seasons and more than 1,000 games in the minors before he made his big-league debut in 2009.
Hes hitting .438 this spring, and has put on a show for the players brought over from the minor-league complex for a split-squad weekend. In two games, he went 4-for-8 with two RBI and three runs scored. He helped turn five double plays on Sunday as a second baseman.
Its encouraging for the young guys, said Cubs bench coach Pat Listach, who once managed Scales at Triple-A Iowa. (They) see a guy who didnt get to the big leagues until he was over 30 and is still fighting and battling.
These guys have got to take notice of it and say, Hey, we need to work just like that. This guys in his 30s and still doing it.
Jay Jackson, a 23-year-old pitcher, credits Scales for showing him how to manage his time and demonstrating the way you should act in the clubhouse, essentially what it takes to be a professional.
Bobbys kind of taken me under his wing, Jackson said. I couldnt ask for any better teachers than I had last year, with him and Micah Hoffpauir at Triple-A. It was a blast, just picking up little things here and there. If when I do make it, Ill know the proper way to do things.
Cubs executives also notice those leadership traits. Again Scales is working on a minor-league deal. He gets why the media tries to find some deeper meaning to it all. But the way he sees it, he still has a great job and a supportive wife. Why wouldnt he be here?
I know how old I am everybody knows how old I am, Scales said. But Im very fortunate to stay away from injury. Im of the mind that youre as young as you tell yourself you are. Age is nothing but a number. Ive been smart enough to keep myself in shape.
If it doesnt work out here, then hopefully it will work out somewhere else.
PatrickMooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. FollowPatrick on Twitter @CSNMooneyfor up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.