BY STEVE KRAH
Scott Rolen, who was a standout at Jasper (Ind.) High School and for 17 Major League Baseball seasons for the Philadelphia Phillies, St. Louis Cardinals, Cincinnati Reds and Toronto Blue Jays, will be enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., this summer.
July 23 is the big induction day.
The man who signed the future Hall of Famer who was selected in the second round of the 1993 MLB First-Year Player Draft is also a Hoosier.
Hobart’s Scott Trcka was an area scout with the Phillies when he secured Rolen.
“I followed him all summer,” says Trcka, who saw Rolen play multiple times and became friendly with his family. “I did all the leg work. I did all the (research on) make-up and signability.”
The popular theory in the scouting world was that Rolen would pursue his hoops option instead of baseball.
“Indiana’s a basketball heaven,” says Trcka. “Both of his parents (Ed and Linda) were teachers. He had a scholarship for basketball at (the University of) Georgia.
“(Other scouts) didn’t think he would sign. I had a handshake. It was a tough negotiation. It was a long summer. But it got done.
“He was not like a $1,000 college senior. He was a high school player and you needed to spend some time on him.”
It was a different environment three decades years ago.
“Today they’d walk away from a guy like that or drop a ton of money on him,” says Trcka. “Compared to the player he is, I gave him nothing. I gave him fair money for the round and the place. I didn’t over do it.
“It was a trust thing.”
At Jasper, Rolen was a third baseman, shortstop and pitcher.
“He had a fastball he could pump up to 93 (mph),” says Trcka. “He showed his arm strength then and all it did was improve. When he got up to the big leagues he had a rocket.
“With his arm and his agility he could’ve played shortstop in the big leagues.”
Track notes that average major league runner gets down down the line from the plate to first base in 4.3 seconds. Rolen was clocked in 4.01.
“That’s flying — especially for a big man.” says Trcka of player who was 6-foot-5 and 245 pounds in the majors. “He had pretty good instincts on the bases. He’d take that extra bag.
“He was a special guy.”
Rolen went into the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2019 and is now Director of Player Development at Indiana University.
In a New York Times article by Tyler Kepner dated Jan. 24, 2023, Trcka is credited with Dick Lawlor and Marti Wolever as scouts that recommended Rolen to former Phillies scouting director Mike Arbuckle.
Like so many relationships he made in 27-plus years as an MLB scout, Trcka enjoyed the one he made with Rolen’s parents. He still gets Christmas cards from them and still hears from players, families, coaches and other scouts.
“It was a great game,” says Trcka. “I loved it. Even though the job did take me away from the family, I couldn’t ask for a job that I enjoyed more.”
In various capacities Trcka scouted for the Phillies 1989-2001 and 2013-16, San Diego Padres 2002-05 and New York Mets 2006-12.
He covered winter ball in the Dominican Republic from 1998-2001. In 2005, he was assigned four MLB teams in spring training along with 24 minor league teams during the season. In 2007, he spent two weeks covering pro baseball in Japan.
“It was a good job,” says Trcka. “I enjoyed my time. I met a lot of great people. If you were to tell me I’d have access to go into major league clubhouses and things like that when I was a kid, I would probably lose my marbles and couldn’t wait to grow up.
“I signed a lot of big leaguers. That was the biggest thrill.”
Besides Rolen, Trcka also signed the following MLB players as an area supervisor: Steve Parris (1989, fifth round), Gary Bennett (1990, 11th), Mike Grace (1991, 10th), Tony Fiore (1992, 28th), David Doster (1993, 27th), Kevin Sefcik (1993, 33rd), Jason Boyd (1994, eighth) and Kevin Plawecki (2012, first, 35th overall selection).
New Haven (Ind.) High School graduate Doster played mostly second base at Indiana State University and in the bigs and Japan.
Westfield (Ind.) High School alum Plawecki was a catcher at Purdue University and played his eighth MLB season in 2022.
As a crosschecker, Trcka recommended Pat Burrell, Jason Michaels, Jorge Padilla, Brett Myers, Marlon Byrd, Gavin Floyd, Khalil Greene, Tim Stauffer, Colt Morton, Dirk Hayhurst and Aaron Nola.
The first time Trcka saw LaTroy Hawkins he was a lanky freshman at Gary (Ind.) West Side High School.
“He was a good kid,” says Trcka. “I really liked him. He had a whip for an arm. You knew he was going to be pretty good.
“He turned out to be a real gem.”
Hawkins went on to pitch 21 seasons in the majors and went in the IHSBCA Hall of Fame in 2018.
Trcka helped fellow scout Bill Bryk conduct tryout camps for the Pittsburgh Pirates in northwest Indiana.
It was during the change toward more analytics and less traditional scouting that Trcka was let go by the Phillies.
“Everything has changed now,” says Trcka. “Baseball people don’t run the game anymore.
“It was once a great game, but it’s far from that anymore. Statistical information doesn’t tell what a real player is about inside.”
Not that Trcka ignored the numbers.
When scouting college players, he always sought out the press box and found the stat sheet.
He wanted to know how many times a batter struck out or walked and how many stolen bases a player had.
“Doubles were always big,” says Trcka. “Doubles can show what the future holds for you as far as home run power.
“We looked at all that stuff. All scouts did that. Not just me.”
What about WAR (Wins Above Replacement)?
“I don’t know how to do it and I don’t want to know,” says Trcka. “It was a different time. I know you’ve got to move with the times, but when something’s not broke don’t fix it.”
In recent years, Trcka has been focused on his family including grandchildren.
When he happened to be watching a game on TV and saw a batter make the last out in one inning and start on second base in extra innings, he was introduced to what commonly is called the “ghost runner.”
“What’s going on in this game?,” says Trcka. “They’re doing a fine job of trying to destroy the game.
“It’s a sad commentary.”
The son of Dick and Joan Trcka, Scott spent his first three years of high school at Hobart and his senior year at Calumet, graduating in 1976.
As a Warrior, Trcka played for his father and against future big league slugger Ron Kittle, who was a senior at Gary Wirt High School.
Dick Trcka spent 28 years in a variety of coaching roles at Calumet and won more than 200 games as head baseball coach. The field at what is now Calumet New Tech bears his name.
Scott Trcka was Director of Player Personnel and Development for the summer collegiate wood bat Northwest Indiana Oilmen in 2019.