'The Thing' for Bittle is now medicine
He was practically unhittable, Scott Bittle was, when he dominated Southeastern Conference hitters for Ole Miss in 2008 and won the C Spire Boo Ferriss Trophy.
Bittle threw one pitch so cruelly effective that it had its own name: The Thing. It looked like a fastball until it approached home plate and then it just kind of dropped to the earth. Hitters not only missed it, they often missed badly.
Bittle’s baseball future seemed so bright, especially when the New York Yankees selected him in the second round of that spring’s draft. He was going to make millions. And then. . .
Seems ironic now that Bittle would have won an award named after Ferriss, one of baseball’s most promising pitchers ever when he won 46 games over his first two seasons with the Boston Red Sox. Shoulder problems ended Ferriss’s career prematurely. Sixty years later, practically the same thing happened to Bittle.
And, to his credit, Bittle has responded much the same way Ferriss did all those years ago: By moving forward. Bittle recently was accepted into med school at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. He will start med school later this year.
“It’s funny when you think about it,” Bittle says. “I had always planned to be a doctor and then baseball kind of sidetracked that. So maybe this is just the way it was supposed to be. I know I am looking forward to a lifestyle where I can stay put for a while. In baseball, that would never have been the case.”
Bittle hasn’t decided yet on a specialty but says, “Having played sports and having gone through some of the things I’ve gone through (orthopedic surgeon) is something I naturally kind of gravitate toward. We’ll see.”
Yes, Bittle says, he has drawn on Boo Ferriss’s life story for inspiration.
After the shoulder injury ended Ferriss’s baseball playing career, he became a coach, first with the Red Sox and then at Delta State where he built a powerhouse program. As a coach, Ferriss touched more lives than almost imaginable. At 91, Ferriss is still touching them.
Bittle says he hopes to do the same in medicine.
“Water under the bridge,” Ferriss often says of his career-ending injury. “Looking back on my life, I wouldn’t change a thing.”
Bittle is not quite to that point yet.
“It’s hard when you put so much of your life into something and have it taken away,” Bittle says. “I love the game, I love the competition.”
Bittle will spend this spring in Oxford and plans to watch a lot of Ole Miss baseball.
“I’ll be down in the dugout if Coach Bianco will let me,” Bittle says.
Says Bianco, “Scott Bittle has earned the right to be anywhere he wants to be where this program is concerned. Yeah, he can be in the dugout. He can go out and pitch an inning or two, too, if he wants.”
Bittle, says Bianco, “was as dominant as any pitcher I’ve ever seen at the end of a game. If you needed an out, he would get it and it would usually be a strikeout.”
Bianco remembers when Bittle pitched the last four innings of a regional game against Missouri at Miami. “He had 12 outs to get,” Bianco says. “He struckout 11 and the other one hit a come-backer to him. How good is that?”
As good as it gets.
“We’ll never know what he would have accomplished in professional baseball, but he had the stuff to go a long way,” Bianco continues. “And he worked so hard at it. He’s a special, special guy. That work ethic will serve him well in medicine.”