ANAHEIM, Calif. — Mike Scioscia would have been perfectly content to have remained a catching instructor after his All-Star playing career ended, instead of managing a major league team.
Now that he’s gotten his 1,000th regular-season victory as manager of the Angels — a 6-5 win over the Cleveland Indians on Sunday — he remains as humble and appreciative as the day he first stepped on a big league diamond.
“One thing I’ve learned is, if you want to manage in this game, you never know where or when your opportunity’s going to come,” Scioscia said.
“After I was done playing, I just thought I’d like to stay in the game. But I never really thought about managing,” he said. “I really liked the instructional component of this game, and I loved to get on the field and teach. And if I never managed, I’d still be doing that because it’s a fun part of the game for me.”
Erick Aybar hit a go-ahead two-run double in the eighth after a tying infield RBI single by Peter Bourjos. When the game ended, the players surrounded Scioscia near the on-deck circle as he was interviewed on the Angels’ telecast. Suddenly, he felt a cold shower of ice water on his head. The culprit was right fielder Torii Hunter.
“I had this planned for a couple of days — have the team stay on the field for support and shield me so that he wouldn’t see the Gatorade cooler,” Hunter said. “Then we got him like some NFL or college coach. I mean, everybody does the pie-in-the-face, but we wanted to do something different. He was freezing. Then I went to shake his hand, and he started running after me. I said: ‘You ain’t gonna catch me.’ ”
All of Scioscia’s victories have come with the Angels, making him the 23rd manager in major league history to reach 1,000 with one team. He was American League manager of the year in 2009 and 2002, when he guided the club to its only World Series title.
“I’m glad to be a part of such a special occasion for Sosh,” Hunter said. “This guy’s done a lot of great things in baseball. He’s put a lot of great players on the field to help him get a thousand wins, and I’m just happy to be a part of those thousand.”
Scioscia’s first victory was on April 5, 2000, when the Angels beat Joe Torre’s Yankees, 12-6. Scioscia’s 38-33 regular-season record against Torre made him the only manager with a winning record against Torre’s Yankees during the eight-year stretch in which their teams faced each other.