Since signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers after being drafted in the first round (19th overall) out of Springfield (Delco) High School in 1976, Mike Scioscia has experienced just about everything possible during a Major League Baseball playing and managerial career that spanned more than three decades.
Scioscia was a two-time All-Star catcher for the Dodgers and two-time World Series champion. He played 13 Major League seasons, all with the Dodgers.
Scioscia served as a coach with the Dodgers for two seasons and then managed the Los Angeles Angels for 19 years, winning a World Series in 2002 when the team was known as the Anaheim Angels. That was one of seven postseason appearance made by Scioscia. He was also a two-time manager of the year.
Scioscia, 62, is now on a new journey, one that finds him as the manager of the U.S. Olympic baseball team. He is looking to duplicate the feat of one of his mentors, the late Tom Lasorda, the pride of Norristown.
Lasorda guided the U.S. to the Olympic gold medal in 2000. It is the only gold medal the U.S. has earned in a sport that has not been given the greatest treatment by the International Olympic Committee.
Baseball was a demonstration sport in seven Olympics before having a team competition beginning in 1992. After the 2008 Olympics, the IOC removed it from Olympic competition. This year marks its return, but it won’t be back in 2024.
This Tokyo Olympics baseball tournament began on Tuesday, and the U.S. opens against Israel on Friday.
“First and foremost, representing our country is something that really hits home to me, and I’m excited to put on that USA jersey,” Scioscia said earlier in July. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to represent all of the United States.”
In June, the U.S. earned a berth by going 4-0 in the Olympic qualifier tournament in Florida. It was sort of like managing in the MLB playoffs.
“It was intense. There was an intensity there because every game was so important,” Scioscia said. “If you lost a game in the qualifier, you really were working where your future was out of your control, and that is not a good feeling.”
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The Olympic team is a combination of well known former major league players looking for another chance at the big leagues and aspiring young candidates.
Outfielder Luke Williams was promoted to the Phillies on June 6, one day after completing a starring role in the Olympic qualifier. Williams went 8-for-18 with a home run and was tied for the team lead in RBIs (5) and total bases (14) in the four games.
Even though he played briefly for Scioscia, Williams said it was a memorable experience.
“It was kind of a dream. Being from Southern California, I grew up going to Angels games, and he ran the show there for  years,” Williams said before a Phillies game in early July. “To be able to play for him was incredible, and he was so awesome. He kept it loose, and he had our backs.”
One of the established U.S. players is third baseman Todd Frazier, who once starred in the Little League World Series, then for Toms River South High School, and Rutgers. He was an All-Star in 2014 and 2015 with the Cincinnati Reds.
Frazier, 35, became available for the Olympics when he was released by the Pittsburgh Pirates. He said before this Olympic experience that he didn’t have much interaction with Scioscia.
“He’s been a joy to play for. He’s a great manager. He knows the game very well and doesn’t try to harp on too many things. He [wants you] to go out there and have fun,” Frazier said recently. “Whatever your role is, he wants you to focus on that and not do too much.”
Joe Girardi, who was manager of USA Baseball for a few months before resigning on Oct. 16, 2019, to pursue managerial jobs that eventually led to the Phillies, has great respect for Scioscia.
Speaking recently before a Phillies game, Girardi said he texted congratulatory notes to Scioscia following each of the Olympic qualifying wins.
“I was excited when I heard he was named a manager because I think he’s a fantastic manager,” Girardi said.
Even though Scioscia didn’t know many of the players before becoming the manager, Girardi says his adaptability is a major plus.
“You give him a group of players, and he will figure out how to get the most out of those players,” Girardi said. “For me, when I heard that he was named a manager I thought they got the right guy.”
While many of the players are looking at the Olympics as either a stepping stone or a way to return to the major leagues, Scioscia doesn’t envision a reunion in an MLB dugout.
“I am not going to manage anymore,” he said. “I’m excited about this opportunity. I think getting on that grind again is not something that I am going to do.”
After the final game of the 2018 season, his last with the Angels, Scioscia announced he would not return. He had just completed the end of a 10-year, $50 million contract.
“Doing this Olympic team is great,” Scioscia said. “I’m excited about that, but I don’t see myself in the dugout again in the Major Leagues.”