Plouffe leaves for funeral of beloved high school coach
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- For Trevor Plouffe, there was never any doubt.Scott Muckey, his beloved coach at Crespi Carmelite High School in Encino, Calif., died last weekend after a long battle with gallbladder cancer. "Muck," as his everybody called hi...
FORT MYERS, Fla. - For Trevor Plouffe, there was never any doubt.
Scott Muckey, his beloved coach at Crespi Carmelite High School in Encino, Calif., died last weekend after a long battle with gallbladder cancer. “Muck,” as his everybody called him, was 63.
So the Twins third baseman packed up quickly after getting his three plate appearances in Thursday’s exhibition game and raced for Southwest Florida International Airport to catch a 4 p.m. flight back home to Southern California.
Early Friday afternoon, he walked into his old school gymnasium to attend the memorial service. Afterward, he raced back to the airport and caught a redeye that landed in time for him to participate in Saturday’s workouts.
“Honestly, I know that if I could talk to him right now, he’d be like, ‘What are you doing? Please don’t bother with me. Don’t come back,’ ” Plouffe said.
Skipping the service on Scott Muckey Day? That was never an option, especially with Marshall Plouffe, his older brother and another of the many players Muckey sent to the pros, unable to get off work in time to attend.
“He was such a positive influence on me,” Plouffe said. “Baseball-wise, of course, but just maturity-wise as well - and at a time when I really needed it. I really felt I could have gone a lot of different ways, but he kept me in check. He was just a guy that did that.”
Former pitcher Jeff Suppan, MVP of the 2006 National League Championship Series, also played under Muckey. So did enough other talented players during the coach’s 28-year run in the San Fernando Valley that his teams won 502 games and 11 Mission League titles.
His signature handshake was to press his thumb against his index finger and give a four-finger tap to his players and assistants. Muck’s signature phrase was “Egg-Egg.”
“That’s everything from hello, goodbye, how you doing?” Plouffe said. “That was just kind of his call. I don’t really know why or where it started. ‘Egg-Egg,’ that’s what he said.”
A former Pepperdine standout renowned for taking kids with below-average arms and turning them into successful sidewinders, Muckey never had to mess much with Plouffe’s delivery. Before the Twins drafted him as a shortstop in the first round in 2004, some teams liked Plouffe just as much off the mound.
“He kind of left me alone,” Plouffe said. “He kind of just wanted me to be me. I think that’s the best kind of coaching there is.”
Attention to detail was another hallmark of Muckey’s Crespi program.
“We literally knew when we came to practice each year what we were doing because it was the same exact thing (as the previous year),” Plouffe said. “We could say, ‘OK, it’s Feb. 20. This is what we’re doing today.’ He just had it down, and we just knew.”
Knew they were going to win.
Knew they were going to learn.
Knew they were going to set goals and make something of their lives.
Muck made sure of that.
“I wasn’t trouble, but you can get shaped in so many different ways,” Plouffe said. “You’re so malleable at that age. At that time, I wasn’t thinking about baseball as a career or anything like that. He kind of just kept me on the straight and narrow, just by his consistency in his life.”
Plouffe, 29, still strives for that consistency on and off the field.
“I think that’s the mark of a good man, how consistent he is, and he was,” Plouffe said. “That really put that in my mind.”
Twins manager Paul Molitor, who remembers Plouffe from his days as a “skinny kid from California” more than a decade ago, gets to reap the benefits of those long-ago lessons. Molitor smiled when asked what it’s like to manage Plouffe at this stage of his career.
“It’s pleasurable for me because, in addition to being a coach of his for a long time at all his levels along the way, you build a relationship,” Molitor said. “You try to be a little careful about how much you pull for certain people. That can be a little dangerous.”
That relationship and trust no doubt had much to do with why the Twins brought Plouffe back this offseason, paying him $7.25 million to avoid arbitration.
“I look at him as one of the leaders on our team,” Molitor said. “I know what he’s going to bring every day. I’m glad he’s here.”
Before doubling and hitting a sacrifice fly in Thursday’s game against the Boston Red Sox, Plouffe recalled the last time he and Muckey spoke. It was last week, two days before the ever-optimistic coach lost his final battle.
He had been under hospice care.
“I knew he wasn’t feeling well,” Plouffe said. “He was kind of trying to hide it. He wasn’t really telling anybody. That’s just how he is. I said, ‘I’m just going to give him a call.’ “
Muckey’s sister answered and handed the phone over to her ailing brother. The conversation didn’t last long, but the love and appreciation that flowed in both directions was apparent as always.
“I’m happy I called him,” Plouffe said. “We had a nice conversation. He was awesome.”
The call ended the same way so many others had with Crespi’s players over the years.