Scott and Coleman share blazing speed, tight bond

March 27th, 2024

LOS ANGELES -- Some 39 years ago, when then-Cardinals outfielders Willie McGee and Tito Landrum went down with injuries in April of 1985, base-stealing savant got a callup from Triple-A to the big leagues for a stay that was supposed to be only temporary.

However, when Coleman almost instantly morphed into a spark plug for the Cardinals with his intoxicating cocktail of speed, swagger and success, he became a fixture of a franchise that fell one win short of World Series wins in 1985 and ‘87.

Fast forward to Tuesday, when speedster learned that his MLB debut would come at Dodger Stadium on Thursday following a series of injuries to Cardinals’ outfielders, one of the rookie’s first congratulatory messages was from the 62-year-old Coleman.

Two vestiges of Cardinals' past and future, Vince and Victor, first met last July before the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game. Scott, who stole 107 bases in the Minors, insisted he had never run harder than to greet his base-swiping idol. A mentorship blossomed, and Coleman has regularly offered up advice on reading pitchers, stealing bases and wreaking basepath havoc.

If anyone could comprehend the swirl of emotions Scott, 23, was feeling after getting his callup to the big leagues, it was Coleman -- the player who stole an incredible 145 bases in 1983 and 101 in ‘84 in the Minors but needed injuries to get his MLB break in 1985.

The similarities of their paths to the pros, Scott said, weren’t lost on him as he rejoined a Cardinals squad that had reassigned him to the Minors days earlier. Now, like Coleman, Scott wants to make the most of his unexpected opportunity and run his way to stardom with the Cardinals.

“Sometimes I feel like history repeats itself for a reason,” said Scott, with a nod to Coleman, who won the NL Rookie of the Year award in 1985 after stealing 110 bases. “With a guy like [Coleman], we kind of play the same exact game. It’s kind of funny that this might be my path … just like his.”

McGee, an outfield coach for the Cardinals and someone who has witnessed Scott’s rise, vividly remembers his injury that paved Coleman’s path to the big leagues. He also sees similarities between the blinding speed of Coleman and Scott.

“With guys like Vince and Tim Raines and now Victor, speed like that is so special and it only comes around so often,” he said.

Scott has some experience taking advantage of past opportunities. He started last season at High-A Peoria as something of a gimmick player who would slap the ball into the ground and use his speed to generate success. By the end of 2023, Scott was thriving at Double-A Springfield, and he progressed so far that he was also driving balls into the gaps in the Arizona Fall League.

Scott’s soaring stock might make Apple envious, with him flying from No. 29 in MLB Pipeline’s Cardinals prospects rankings to No. 4 in a year’s time. Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak, who scouted Scott early last season, admittedly never saw such a stunning metamorphosis coming.

“His evolution has been impressive,” Mozeliak said candidly. “He’s a lot stronger than people give him credit for and his approach has changed, and it’s been exciting to watch. … How he adjusts will be critical, but hopefully we can put him in a spot where we’re not putting too much pressure on him.”

Scott said his remarkable surge to the big leagues and in the outfield at Dodger Stadium as the Cardinals' starter in center is believable to him because it’s always been rooted in hard work and attention to detail. Scott was so intent on learning everything that he could in Spring Training that he carried a dog-eared notebook around so he could jot down notes and review them later.

“When I look at the journey of work that has been put in and the level of concentration needed and I’m a big leaguer, it’s all come full circle,” he said. “Going from Palm Beach, to Peoria, to Springfield and now Dodger Stadium, it’s unreal for me. But I’ve put in the work and I’m ready for my shot.”

If there are stumbles while trying “wreck games” with his speed, as manager Oliver Marmol puts it, Scott knows he can reach out to Coleman. The Cards legend lived this path to the pros nearly four decades ago, and he was quick to offer advice following Scott’s promotion.

“[Coleman] sent me a text, saying ‘congratulations,’ and to ‘keep my head down and keep working,’” Scott said with a smile. “So, I know he’s in my corner and he’ll always be a guy I can reach out to when I need advice.”