Scutaro living his dream in Oakland
Infielder has honored memory of his parents in Majors
OAKLAND -- Before every game, Marco Scutaro says a prayer to remind himself of whom he is playing for. The prayer isn't for his teammates or the screaming fans at the Coliseum, but rather for the two people that raised him in San Felipe, Venezuela.
"I pray to do well for them," Scutaro said. "Every time I have a big game, I think of them."
Scutaro's father, Donato, died in 2001 from a heart attack, and his mother, Nelida, died in 1993 from brain cancer. Donato, who was from Italy, and Nelida, who was from Spain, moved to Venezuela after World War II for a better place to raise their four children.
Scutaro's mother never got to see him play in the United States, and when she was on her deathbed, Scutaro told Nelida he was going to make his dream of playing professional baseball come true.
Realizing his dream, which has landed him in the postseason -- where he has six RBIs in three games -- wasn't easy, and it started in Caracas, Venezuela. When Scutaro was about 17 years old, he was one of about 40 players that were competing for one or two spots in the Colorado Rockies organization.
Scutaro wasn't signed by the Rockies, but he was told that he was one of the top four players in the workout, and that was all the incentive he needed.
"That was when I really got motivated," Scutaro said. "I just tried to be more consistent. I worked more on speed and taking ground balls."
A couple years later, Scutaro was signed as a non-drafted free agent by the Cleveland Indians in 1995 for about $3,000. While in the Indians organization, he would end up meeting his idol, fellow Venezuela native Omar Vizquel.
"One day, I was having lunch, and I looked over and it was Omar Vizquel," Scutaro said. "I didn't know what to say, I was just looking for a camera."
Scutaro and Viquel obviously hit it off, but a player named Ross Atkins had a bigger impact on Scutaro during his days in the Minor Leagues.
Atkins was a reliever who played with Scutaro at Class A Kinston (1997) and Double-A Akron (1998). Scutaro spoke about as much English as Atkins spoke Spanish, which wasn't much.
Something that most Americans take for granted -- such as ordering a sub sandwich -- was difficult for Scutaro, and sometimes frustrating.
"There's the bread, lettuce, meat, mustard ..." Scutaro said. "I said, 'Oh my God, how can I do this?' [Atkins] helped me order my first sandwich and taught me how to say little things in English. He's a pretty smart guy."
Both young players learned from each other. Atkins, who speaks very good Spanish, according to Scutaro, is the Indians' director of Latin America operations.
Scutaro made it to Triple-A Buffalo in his third professional year, but he stayed at that level for 4 1/2 years. He batted over .270 for two seasons with Buffalo, but didn't get an at-bat for the Indians in the Majors.
He was sent to the Milwaukee Brewers in 2000 in a trade that involved Richie Sexson, Bob Wickman and Jason Bere. Scutaro's average rose to .295 in his first year with Triple-A Indianapolis, but he still wasn't given a spot in the show.
"It was kind of frustrating," Scutaro said. "I was doing well every year at Triple-A and not getting many opportunities. I started thinking about going somewhere else to get other opportunities."
Scutaro was claimed on waivers by the New York Mets on April 5, 2002, and got called up to the Mets after batting .319 at Triple-A Norfolk. After playing in Triple-A and the big leagues in 2003, the A's claimed him on waivers on Oct. 9, 2003.
In the following season, A's second baseman Mark Ellis missed the entire season with a shoulder injury, and in stepped Scutaro. He batted .273 with 43 RBIs and set an Athletics record with a .995 (three errors in 546 chances) fielding percentage at second.
He stepped in again in 2005 when shortstop Bobby Crosby went on the disabled list twice. It has been the same story for Scutaro this year, with Crosby, Ellis and third baseman Eric Chavez missing parts of the season.
Scutaro has turned many heads in Oakland with his defense, and was even noticed by Vizquel.
"He said, 'You look like me now,'" said Scutaro, who got a text message from Vizquel. "I never thought he would call me to compliment me about a play."
Now, Scutaro isn't just impressing Vizquel, but is performing on a national stage, collecting four doubles during the American League Division Series.
Scutaro's success has also spread to his homeland, as his two sisters have sent him newspapers from Venezuela about his performance against the Twins.
Scutaro's biggest moment during the ALDS came in Game 3, when he ripped a three-run double to right field that basically put a dagger in Minnesota's season.
As he stepped to the plate, the sellout crowd of more than 35,000 was on their feet waving white flags and chanting "Marco, Marco."
"I've been here for three years, and I've never heard that from the crowd," Scutaro said. "That was real special."
Neither of Scutaro's parents got to see him play in the big leagues, but perhaps Donato and Nelida were looking down smiling when the words "Marco, Marco" were shouted from McAfee Coliseum.
Ryan Quinn is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.