Scott City grad Little opens new season as Class AA manager

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Baseball has been a major part of Scott Little's life.

He wouldn't have it any other way.

The Scott City native has been involved with professional baseball since 1984, and he says the enthusiasm with which he approaches every season continues at a high level.

The latest chapter of Little's life on the diamond officially begins Thursday, when the Frisco RoughRiders open their Texas League campaign on the road against the Springfield (Mo.) Cardinals.

Little is in his first season as manager of the RoughRiders, the Class AA affiliate of the Texas Rangers. Frisco is a suburb of Dallas.

"I love what I do, and I don't see that changing any time soon," Little said during a recent telephone interview.

Little, a 1981 graduate of what was then Illmo-Scott City High School, was drafted by the New York Mets in 1984 out of Mineral Area College.

The former three-sport prep standout, who received a football scholarship to the University of Missouri before later switching to Mineral Area College -- where he played baseball and basketball -- toiled primarily in the minor leagues for eight years.

Little reached the major leagues briefly -- he appeared in three games for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1989, getting one hit in four at-bats -- before joining the coaching ranks in 1992.

Little has held a variety of minor league positions with several organizations since then, most of the time spent as a manager on various levels.

This season will mark Little's 12th as a manager, including 2007 when he directed the Harrisburg Senators, the Class AA affiliate of the Washington Nationals.

"I've been in a lot of different cities. It's a lifestyle," said Little, who is with his third organization in the past four years after spending the previous 15 seasons in the Pirates' fold. "I've been doing it [pro ball] for the last 24 years. I enjoy it, but it gets harder when you have kids, leaving home, spending time apart from your family."

Little said that is just about the only downside to the career he has chosen.

The 45-year-old Little makes his permanent home in Jackson with his wife Lori -- who teaches at Jackson Middle School -- and their two children, Jacob, 13, and Jenna, 11.

"When the kids were younger, they would come out some for the summer, but as they get older, you don't want to deprive them of the things they have going on in the summer months, like sports and other things," Little said. "It's hard. ... Lori is a saint for all she's put up with."

Still, Little finds it hard to imagine himself doing anything else.

"It's tough to move on to another career when you're doing something you love," he said. "I'm really happy, and financially. ... I've been doing this for a while, so I'd have to work a heck of a lot harder and longer to make what I am making now.

"And this career allows me to be home in the winter months making up time with my family [without having to work]."

Little said he first got into the coaching ranks intent on climbing the ladder all the way up to the major leagues -- just like when he was a player.

Little laughed when he was asked if it's as difficult to make it to the big leagues as a coach or manager as it was as a player.

"It seems like it's harder," he said.

But Little said he is no longer that concerned if that ever happens. He gets immense satisfaction from working with young athletes, regardless of the level.

"When I first started, my mindset was, I'd get into coaching earlier so I can get into the big leagues earlier," he said. "But after a while, you realize why you're doing what you're doing.

"There's a lot of satisfaction. ... I love working with the kids. You get fortunate to work with some special people. When you see them later, and some of them are major leaguers, they hug you, tell you how much they appreciate you. That's really special."

Added Little of his major league aspirations: "It's not that big any more. I just want to be happy."

Even if Little never coaches or manages in the big leagues, he'll always have the special memories of when he made it that far as a player.

"It got to the point where it didn't look like it would happen. ... It was quite a thrill," Little said. "I got what I got. I'm happy.I'm satisfied."

Spoken like a true baseball lifer.

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