It only takes a second for Madison Mallards president Vern Stenman to point out the biggest reason his team qualified for the Northwoods League playoffs for the first time since 2008 last week.
"It's Donnie Scott," says Stenman, invoking the name of Madison's first-year manager. "Have you met Donnie yet? You gotta meet him. He's made for this level."
Scott, 51, spent parts of four seasons as a catcher with Texas, Seattle and Cincinnati before becoming a minor league coach and manager, most notably in the Reds organization for 17 years starting in the early '90s. But the Reds let him go in 2008, not long after Scott's Class A Dayton Dragons team was involved in a bench-clearing brawl. In 2011, he led the Battle Creek Bombers to the Northwoods League championship.
The league's stated purpose is to develop college players and prepare them for the pros by exposing them to minor league conditions, playing 70 games in 75 days with wood bats and plenty of bus travel. The league has grown to 16 teams by appealing to fans who like an entertaining brand of baseball. Scott seems to fit right in.
"He's so excited about teaching guys and so authentic," says Stenman, who has been gushing about Scott since the Mallards hired him last fall. "He's very cocky and very confident, but very approachable and fun. He's charismatic with the guys, but confrontational. Twice in the last week, I've seen him just scream at players like I've never seen anyone scream at a player after we've won games. And five minutes later he's joking with them. With the same guys!"
As winners of the first-half divisional title, the Mallards own a spot in the best-of-three playoffs against the second-half champs starting Aug. 12.