LIBERTY, Mo. -- Baseball fans, it might seem as if the city of Liberty is relocating. The Royals are expecting droves of Clay Countians to attend Monday’s series opener against the Chicago White Sox. That’s because Liberty native Scott Carroll will be the starting pitcher for the White Sox opposite Royals’ starter Jason Vargas.
Some have called Carroll a “study in persistence.” The 29-year-old right-hander has gone from Liberty High School, where he won a state championship, to the big leagues, where injuries have been a problem. Carroll's family says they're glad to see him pitching close to home and they're hopeful his progress is another step on the road to recovery.
His parent’s living room now carries a Chicago accent. Steve and Linda Carroll say they not only want to see their youngest son Scott pitch well, they want to see their hurler thrive. Carroll made his long-awaited MLB debut against the Tampa Bay Rays in late April, where he recorded 14 ground ball outs and a win.
His mom and dad were in the stands cheering on the man they remember as a little boy in Liberty.
“I’m beaming -- like this! Sunbeams are going off. We are proud. Everybody's proud,” his mom, Linda, said.
“He was always taller and stronger. Scott would always strike everyone out. They literally couldn't put the bat on the ball,” said his dad, Steve.
Steve knows what it takes to excel in the big leagues. He spent 15 seasons evaluating talent as an advance scout for the Houston Astros. But after Scott was drafted in 2007, he had to fight through injuries to his hip and pitching arm, the latter of which needed 'Tommy John surgery' to repair a ligament tear.
“They’ve taken a chance on you and now, you have to produce. Now, everyone you see is Major League Baseball players. These guys hit pitchers' mistakes,” Steve said.
Kirk Bragg has also been waiting for Carroll's big moment. He was part of the Liberty High School coaching staff when Carroll led Liberty to a 23-8 record and state championship in 2002. Carroll shut out Lebanon in the 2002 4A semifinal en route to a 10-0 victory. Liberty beat Francis Howell North 6-5 in the championship game for the school's only MSHSAA baseball title.
While Bragg knew the odds were long for Carroll to get to baseball's highest level, there was always something special about him.
“It was just the size of him, and the way he threw the ball and his composure and competitiveness. I knew there was something there, but percentage-wise, you can't expect someone to make the major leagues. It's just too hard,” Bragg said.
The White Sox t-shirt you saw Carroll's mom wearing in the video is a hot item in Liberty. They were made by a local t-shirt shop that sold its entire supply of 100 this week. The Carrolls say they expect to see as many as 2,000 friends from Liberty in the stands when the Royals meet the White Sox at Kauffman Stadium on Monday night.