"I never pushed them," says Dick, who is now the football coach at West Orange High in Winter Garden, Fla. "What finally convinced me was one January when it was 14 degrees outside, and those two boys went out to play a game of toss against a fence. People would come by and say, 'You're crazy.' And Scooter would say, 'Yeah, well, I gotta get ready for the season.' When he was 13 years old he made up his mind he was going to be a professional ballplayer, and when other kids were out partying or swimming at the beach. Scooter was working, taking ground balls or hitting."
Fletcher still works hard, which is one of the reasons why the Rangers had no compunction in signing him to a three-year contract. Since 1983 he has tried to lift weights four to five days a week all year long—a nearly impossible schedule to keep during road trips. With his shirt off, the 5'11", 180-pound Fletcher looks like a strapping wrestler, and he can bench-press 275 pounds. But none of that muscle translates into long-ball power, a failing that his teammates delight in reminding him about. "Way to go, Scoots—might hit a couple this year," slugger Pete Incavaglia can be heard saying when Fletcher has a good round in the batting cage. Valentine, who has been working with Fletcher this spring on keeping his weight back and waiting on the ball before driving it, feels that Fletcher is capable of more extra-base hits, especially doubles.
As a kid Fletcher was a pure power hitter. His father remembers that his 17 home runs was a Wadsworth Little League record at the time. One of Dick's favorite memories is of the time Rick and Scott hit back-to-back homers in a semipro game; Scott's blast cleared the fence and landed across the street, 430 feet from home plate.
Since arriving in the big leagues Fletcher has choked up on the bat and learned to spray the ball to all fields. He did hit five homers for Texas in 1987, but that was an aberration. In no other major league season has he hit more than three, and last season he actually came up with a goose egg. "I tell my teammates there's more to this game than home runs, just as there's more to football than the bomb," says Fletcher. "Still, I'd like to be able to jog around the bases just once next year."
"This Christmas, Scott told me, 'Dad, I'm tired of people saying I can't hit home runs,' " Dick says. " 'I'm going to come down on the bat this year and hit me some dingers.' "
The Rangers hope that Fletcher was kidding. "Sure, I'd love it if he hit with more power," says Grieve. "But he doesn't have the physical ability to hit we're paying him for."
The Rangers are paying him to play the way he has for the past three years—consistently in the field and intelligently at bat, in the tradition of infielders like Nellie Fox, another singles hitter who batted second in the order. "You're not always going to outslug the other team," says Fletcher. "Little things win games. Getting the man over when you're three runs ahead. Taking when the count is 2 and 0 instead of swinging away. Letting a guy steal a base. You give up quite a few at bats hitting second. I'm not complaining. I'm not the kind of guy who crosses first base and knows what his batting average is. I might know my home run total...."
Strangely, long-suffering Rangers fans seem to understand Fletcher's contributions, too. He is one of the team's most popular players. When the Rangers briefly made Fletcher the highest-paid athlete in Dallas history—that distinction now belongs to Ryan, who signed a one-year, $2 million contract—Grieve heard not one peep of protest. "The reaction in the community was, Great, he's earned it," said Grieve.
Whether the rest of the country ever gets around to appreciating Fletcher's subtle talents probably depends on his teammates. "Good players don't stand out on lousy teams," says Grieve. "If we finally put a decent team on the field, Scotty'll get noticed."