Scott's game-changing speed a throwback for Cards

March 29th, 2024

LOS ANGELES -- has played just one game at the MLB level, but he is already quite familiar with the rich history of the Cardinals. In his Opening Day debut on Thursday at Dodger Stadium, the rookie center fielder showed why he reminds many within the organization of the franchise’s glory days in the 1980s, when speed was the name of the game.

Whatever nerves Scott might have had, he buried them beneath speed as electrifying as any Cardinals player in decades.

In his second at-bat of the Cards’ 7-1 loss to the star-studded Dodgers, Scott slapped a ball to shortstop, where Mookie Betts had to hurry his throw and bounced it for an error. Clearly, Scott’s 30.5 feet per second sprint speed, per Statcast, affected the throw from Betts, coincidentally a player the 23-year-old rookie has idolized for years.

From there, Scott needed just two pitches to use his speed to leave an imprint in a game where the positives were few for the Redbirds. After taking a 12-foot lead off first, Scott easily beat Will Smith’s wayward throw to second for the first stolen base of his MLB career. Of course, Scott, St. Louis' No. 3 prospect per MLB Pipeline, had the green light to run after swiping 94 bases at the Single-A and Double-A levels last season, reminding some in the organization of former Cards great Vince Coleman.

“I like how my speed can cause havoc in general -- whether that’s on the bases or as soon as you make contact,” said Scott, who became the first Cardinal to steal a base on his first try in his MLB debut on Opening Day since 1900, per Elias Sports. “To see that it affected his throw and my getting on base was pretty cool.”

Added manager Oliver Marmol: “That’s what Victor is going to do to a lot of people. You have to be on point whenever he’s up to bat, because if you bobble anything, he’s going to be safe. He’ll continue to put pressure on the defense.”

Scott and slugger Paul Goldschmidt (3-for-4, home run) were two of the bright spots on a day when the Redbirds trailed 2-0 after an inning and 5-0 after three innings. Starting pitcher Miles Mikolas, who playfully said the Dodgers were playing “checkbook baseball” after spending more than $1 billion to upgrade their roster in the offseason, was shelled for five earned runs and two homers in 4 1/3 innings.

“Money talks, right?” said Mikolas, who lost the third Opening Day start of his career. “Talk a little smack here and there and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. … I’m sure the fans had fun with [his trash talk]. I heard a lot of people yelling that [‘checkbook baseball’] at me when I was warming up, and it’s fun.”

Maybe nobody had more fun on Thursday than Scott, who tried to tell himself that the Dodger Stadium sellout crowd wouldn’t be a factor. That changed, he said, following Shohei Ohtani’s double into the right-field corner in the bottom of the first inning.

Even with the roars of the crowd, Scott was able to hear his father, Victor Sr., whistling at him as he walked to the plate the first time in the third inning. Scott had eight friends and family in the crowd, and seeing their postgame smiles made handling the loss easier.

“He said the first time he whistled was when they called my name and I came out of the dugout; I heard him, and I’m sure everybody heard it,” Scott joked. “When I really heard him was when I was walking to the plate. He calls me ‘Victor D.,’ because my middle name is Dwanyne. He was going to make sure I heard it.”

The studious type who carried a dog-eared notebook around throughout Spring Training, Scott showed off his knowledge of the Cardinals' history before Thursday’s opener when asked what kind of game-wrecker he can be with his speed. Coleman, one of four players in MLB history to lead his league in steals for six consecutive seasons, has been a mentor of his since they first met at the MLB Futures Game. Scott met Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith this spring, and he works daily with outfield coach Willie McGee -- three stalwarts during the Cards’ heyday under Hall of Fame manager Whitey Herzog.

“For the fans who haven’t seen me play, I would describe it as ‘Whiteyball,’” said Scott, who wasn’t alive when Smith, Coleman and McGee led the Cardinals to three World Series in the 1980s. “I’m the new age ‘Whiteyball.’ I’ve been hearing about it, being around Vince, Ozzie and Willie -- kind of that [1980s Cards] core.”