The Mighty Mackie

By JOHN GORALSKI

SPORTS WRITER

Scott Mackie tossed the bat toward the dugout and sprinted to the outfield as if he was trying to beat a throw to first base. You couldn’t tell by the look on his face that the Southington batter was hitless for the day. You couldn’t see any stress on his face after three strikeouts even though he knew a South Carolina scout was studying him from the stands.

The Blue Knights were in the middle of a dogfight in Plainville in the early 1980s, so Mackie wasn’t really worried about anything but the game. College could wait. The scouts could wait. The outfielder wasn’t going to let down his team.

“After the game was over, I went up to the scout, and I told him it was too bad that Scott had that kind of a game,” said former Blue Knight baseball coach John Fontana. “He said that he was still going to call him. They were still going to offer him a full scholarship. He could see that Scott was a player by his mannerisms and the way that he ran out to the field.”

It’s no surprise to those who knew him. Mackie only played at one speed, and it was a speed that few players could match. Even on a bad day, Mackie was one of the best.

“He was a hell of a player. There’s no question,” said Fontana. “He was probably the best fielding outfielder that I’ve ever seen in high school. Could he hit? Yes, he could hit, but when you saw him play ball in the outfield he was extra special.”

Mackie didn’t come up through the Southington little leagues. He didn’t graduate from local sports camps and clinics, but when he moved from Massachusetts at the beginning of his freshman year, it was no accident that his family landed on Southington’s doorstep. Baseball was Mackie’s love, and his family knew about Southington’s strong tradition.

“It seemed like a nice, suburban town—kind of similar to what I came from,” he said. “My dad was kind of picky about where he wanted to move, and he moved to Southington by design. He heard good things about youth sports and high school sports—baseball in particular—because I was so interested in it.”

It didn’t take long for Mackie to blend right in. At DePaolo Junior High School, he worked his way into the lineup as a pitcher before an arm injury drove him away from the mound. He settled into the outfield and never looked back. Mackie’s bat earned him notice the following year at the high school when he worked his way into the starting lineup as a sophomore. He earned a .338 average in his first season and hit over .300 in each of his three years with the Knights. As a senior, he earned a.396 batting average even with the hitless game in Plainville.

Still, it was in the outfield that Mackie really turned heads. He moved at the crack of the bat. He slipped effortlessly into gaps. He’d turn singles into outs with his arm, and Fontana began to roll out special plays to take advantage of his superstar fielder.

“He could anticipate the ball better than anybody else,” Fontana said. “We used to pull him in at right field because, if someone hit a bullet to him behind second base, he would take it on the hop and fire it to first. We’d get force outs on base hits to right field. He was unbelievable. He didn’t have a lot of speed, but the ball would get hit to the gap and there was Scott Mackie to catch it.”

That’s why the scout was unfazed by a bad day at the plate. Mackie could hurt a team just as much by his fielding as his hitting, but Mackie still wasn’t convinced he could play at the next level.

He had earned just about every honor that’s available to high school players. He was all-conference, all-state, and all-American. He was the Knights’ leading hitter for two straight seasons, a captain, and the team MVP as a senior, but Mackie was all set to hang up his mitt at the end of his high school career.

It took a concerted effort by his father and his high school coach to get Mackie to accept the scholarship to play with the Gamecocks. He was already committed to attend UConn where he was set to room with a high school friend. He was looking forward to taking short road trips to visit his high school girlfriend (now his wife) on the weekends, so South Carolina seemed like a distant dream.

“I wasn’t convinced that I was a major division one material. I wasn’t that confident that I could even compete,” he said. “They won the World Series the year before, so it was a top-notch program. When I got there, it was a little intimidating, but it didn’t take me long to settle in and get to know a couple of guys. In short order, it was just baseball. It was a much nicer place to play with a lot of enthusiasm around it, but once you start playing and getting into the groove it was the same thing as the year before. It was just a new bunch of guys.”

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