< Interviews - Scott Virkus
 

* Born in - Palo Alto, California

* Moved to Rochester at 6 years old.

*High School - Greece Olympia in Rochester, New York

*Played 3 Sports in High School. Football, Basketball, and Track...

* All City and All County in all 3 sports.

* Recieved a full ride to Purdue University to play football and then was asked to play basketball. Playing both sports got to be too much because of my grades so he just played football.

*College - Purdue University - 1 Year and had to get my grades up so I went to San Fransisco City College .. Went to school for 1 year. Made Junior college All American and led the conference in scoring as a tight end.

He had the type of reputation of a Bruce Meade, Rick Scherr, Mighty Joe Young, Craig Elliott. He could be a franchise players.....

Big Cat: Hey Scott, I really appreciate you taking the time out to talk to me a little bit about the game of softball and your athletic career. . To be able to tell us what it was that got you motivated into becoming one of the most dominating ball players there was.

Big Cat: I see where you played all the sports in High School at Greece Olympia In Rochester, New York. . What was one of your favorite sports?

Scott: Basketball was my favorite sport. I was All County and All State in high school in the state of New York.. In high school I averaged 25 points a game and was leading the city of Rochester in scoring until the last game of the season.... I was a banger down low and considered myself a player that cleaned up.

Big Cat: How were you as a baseball player?

Scott: I didn't get to play baseball in high school because they had me running track. As you know I was pretty fast growing up. So once I was in High School they had me running the 100 meters , the 220 and then I threw the shot put. I threw the shot around 60 feet consistently. I really enjoyed throwing the shot put!

Big Cat: I have played basketball with you and your were an animal doing that. Remember the time we played at the Omni in Middleburg Heights with Ken Loeri, Doug Roberson and myself. The other players quit playing because nobody wanted to guard you. They were going to stop the games right then and there. So I went on the other team so we could play. I could not stop you either but I could bang a little bit with you... You took the ball to the hole quick and hard. You could definitely play some rock ball!

Big Cat: We know you excelled in the game of football! It was Football that got you a scholarship to Purdue University correct?

Scott: I played 1 year there, and then I transferred out to San Francisco City College because of my grades.. I played tight end there and became a JCU All American..

Big Cat: What did you do after getting out of college after 2 years?

Scott: Instead of continuing on with my college career I cut it short and stayed home to take care of business at home. In the first year after my 2 years of college I decide to play Semi-Pro football.

Left to right.. Back row - Ricky Weiterman - Doug Roberson - Charles Wright - Craig Elliott - Scott Virkus.
Kneeling - Kenny Dain - Randy Gorell - Ricky Huggins - Mike Macenko

Big Cat: What was the name of the team that was Semi-Pro that you played with. I can only imagine you playing on the basketball team or chasing quarterbacks down in high school. 

Scott: The team was called Tanawqanda Cougars and they participated in the league that was made up of teams that eventually helped start the USFL. I did that for 1 year and led the team and conference in scoring once again. That got me a look from the Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengal's and the Cleveland Brown. Since the ruling at that time was you had to play 4 years of college before going pro I had to sit out.

Big Cat: So after you waited your turn you signed with the Buffalo Bills.

Scott: Yes sir. I got paid 35,000 for signing and made 65,000 my first year. So I made a total of 100,00.00 my first year in pro football. Started the next year and played 3 games with Buffalo and then they released me. So in my first year Buffalo switched me from offence to defence and on defence, I was the designated pass rusher and special teams. After 3 games they released me because of some different political reasons.

Big Cat: So you played the entire season with Buffalo and at the beginning of the 2nd season they released you after 3 games. What happened then?

Scott: After the release New England picks me up to finish out the year with them. They kept me at the defence position. So after 10 games and they needed to make a roster move I was released again and this time I was picked up by the Colts because they had the worst record the year before. So now I am playing with the Colts and they still are the worst team but they are located in Baltimore.

Big Cat: You started the next year and played the whole year in Indianapolis.

Scott: Now Indianapolis was Baltimore the year before and during the night they decide to move to Indianapolis. . So after 3 years in the league Buffalo picked me back up and I move back to Buffalo. They offered me a job at Buffalo with Bruce Smith on one side and myself on the other side. So when I got to training camp I worked out for just two days and then they said I had stress fractures in both shins and that was when I decided to call it quits.

Big Cat: That had to be a tough time in your life thinking that you might not be able to play any sports if the shins are that bad. So you had to make some changes in your life style at this time. The question is did you?

Scott: After Indianapolis I decided to try the Canadian Football league. The Saskatchewan Roughriders. I was playing with them
and trying to play for the Steeles at the same time. And when it came time for the 1986 National Championship. I decided to play football instead of softball. The game of football was still in my blood. Felt like I had something to prove. But once I got over to Saskatchewan and played football
things did not work out so well with the finances over there because of the money exchange with the USA and Canada. So I finished out the year in the Canadian Football League and the next year, 1987 I decided to play softball with the Men Of Steele because I was actually making more money doing that.

Big Cat: So when did you actually start playing slo-pitch softball?

Scott: I started playing in the beginning of 1986 and was playing with a Class C team out of Rochester, New York....I started playing softball in 1981. The name of the Class C team was the Garage Door.. And it was in Cincinnati where David Neale Jr. saw me play. We were playing at Expressway Park which was a five diamond complex and one of the best in the country at the time.. I did very well at the tournament and David Neale Jr. got a chance to see me play and when he got back home to Cleveland he told his dad about a big guy who could run like a deer and hit ungodly home runs. Now my Class C team was trying to qualify to go to a National Tournament. When I returned home I received a phone call from Mr. Neale about playing with the Steele's team.

Big Cat: So when did you get hooked up with the Steele's team?

Scott: Dave Neale Sr. and the team was driving in the Steele's vans and they stopped and picked me up at the Leroy Exit on the New York Thruway. That was the start of my career with the Steele's Sports Company. After they picked me up we went to New Britain, Connecticut to play some exhibition games for the weekend. I remember that I only made 3 outs the entire weekend while playing for the Steele's Sports Co. and I was just starting to really hit the ball good. I was hitting some lasers out of the ball park.

Big Cat:That very first weekend in Connecticut there was a nice article on ESPN News after we had played and it showed a number of our players in the news video. Scott was one of the players they featured because of his size and how fast he was. They interviewed Greg (The Bull) Furhman that weekend also. It was a cool video.

Scott: I remembered that it was in 1986 when Sports Illustrated was doing an article in July of the infamous Men Of Steele's..

Big Cat: Scott you were a big part of that story as you were on the front page of the story. It was a 15 page article had Scott mentioned all throughout the article about his football and then his softball playing ability.

One of many story's of Scott Virkus

Here is a quote from Dave Neale Sr. What he said about Scott when he saw him play for the first time. He said Scott has brought another dimension to home run and power hitting. When we went to Conneticut to play Frank Lateano's team Simbury Raiders in two exhibition games it was the first time Scott was with us. We played Frank's team who had Andy Sanzaro, Tom Lynch, Fred Stahlman just to name a few of the players. We played the games on 300 foot fences. The first two times up Scott had actually popped up to the infield. Not once but twice. He was really upset with himself and you could see he was pissed.

He kept calm and continue playing the game. Well in his 3rd at bat he hits a ball that carried over the left field fence, over a field of high weeds and when the ball came down it was out of sight. He left the fans and us the players in awe. Our jaws just dropped. The ball went well over 425 feet. he was swinging a yellow Elliott 38 oz. He gets back in the dugout and now he forgets all about the first two swings. One good swing and they forget anything else you might have done. I am laughing and happy for him, for hitting a ball that far. So when it is his turn again to bat, you won't believe it but he hits another ball higher and farther than the first one. Dave looks at me and Bull and says Wow! Dave said he will fit right in with what we were doing... Hitting home runs and trying to sell softball bats and softballs. It was from that point that Scott never looked back and just kept on hitting and hitting and hitting......

Big Cat:You did not finish out the first year because you still had the taste of football in your blood. So instead of coming to Greensboro for the USSSA and Burlington, North Carolina for the ASA in the worlds you went to Saskatchewan to play with the Roughriders. You ended up finishing the season with them and they wanted to sign you for the next year but you said no. The money in the Canadian Football League was not even close to what I was making playing softball with Dave Neale and the Steele's Sports Company.

 

Big Cat: So Scott, the 1986 season comes to an end and finally Football is over with for Scott Virkus, and a new chapter is starting for you in your athletic career.

Big Cat: 1987 was you first full year of playing Big Time Softball. What did you think about it once you got settled in?

Scott - When I came to play with the team I thought I was the best player in the world and when I came on to the team I was a little shocked to be honest with you... Craig and you were hitting balls so high all the time. It was really hard adjusting to the way you guys were hitting home runs one right after another.

Big Cat: From playing football and being as big and strong as you were did It seemed like you were a very intimidating person on the softball field. Did you feel like you were?

Scott: It took a while but I never felt like I was an intimidating person to the other players. We felt like we were a band of brothers.

Big Cat: When you first started playing softball with Steele's Sports Co. were you thinking that you were the best player in the world? Then, you obviously realized that you were playing with some of the best softball players in the country.

Scott: That is exactly right Mike. Not until I started playing with you guys did I realize just how good you guys were. I did not know that players like Doug Roberson, Charles Wright, Freddie Trice, and Ken Loeri existed and played the kind of softball that they played.

 

Big Cat: I have to be quite honest with you Scott, the first time I saw you, you were very intimidating. it did not matter how many home runs I hit or how many championships I had one, when I first saw you I just said WOW! Look at the size of this dude. So now here we are 20 some years later and we have some very special memories that we can go to and think about the things that we did back in the late 80s and early 90s that should bring a smile to your face.

Scott: It does and I have a lot of very good and fond memories....

Big Cat:I remember way back when, in the year 1986 when David Neale Junior had told his dad and myself about a player that he saw in Cincinnati Ohio playing in the Class C tournament that was something else. He was talking about you and the performance you put on that day. so it was actually kind of exciting once we actually got to see you play.   

Scott:

Big Cat: So in 1987 the Steele's Sports Company started the season off at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii for the St. Valentine's Day softball massacre. Did you feel like you made the right decision about trying to play with Steele's and softball would be a full-time job for the next couple of years?

Scott: yes I did think that Mike!

Big Cat:In 1987 is when Steele's decided to play softball for the avid softball player and travel the country full time promoting this great game. Were you ready for that?

Scott:No! That by being around us Dave and the players helped teach me how to play the game. I had to actually learn mentally a lot things about the game. You also taught me how to play defense. Roberson taught me how to throw the ball correctly. One day he just said hold the ball like this and throw the ball overhand. I learned a lot from players like Mike Bolen and Billy Blake. Ricky Huggins was another one that helped me.... Had some great teammates.

Big Cat: Once you made your mind up to play Big Time Softball on a daily basis was there anything you had to change from playing Pro Football in your daily routines?

Scott: So the routine was basically the same. Because we would get up early everyday and go to the gym. In the middle of the season, the beginning of the season and by the time the season was winding down we were hitting it harder than ever.

Big Cat: Why?

Scott: Because we did not want to lost strength during the season and our seasons were long when we were barnstorming and bring the game to the people all over this country so people and players could see what Big Time Softball was all about!. I remember when we beat Superior in St. Louis and we did not want to lose that edge we had built up! The very next Monday morning the entire team went to the gym and Mr. Neale went with us.

Big Cat: It seemed like you were a very intimidating person on the softball field. Did you feel like you were?

Scott: Not really intimidating because I was trying to learn this game and try and do my best so I did not think like that. I was trying to compete with the other players on the team. Trying to stay up with Mike Bo lens, and Craig Elliott's and Doug Robertson....

Big Cat:When you were starting out was there any size bat that you preferred?

Scott: When I was in Cincinnati playing in the class B softball tournament I was swinging a Steele's Sports Company PCF Power Chamber Fat softball bat! I was playing with a team called Garage Door out of Rochester New York. I really like the bat because of the big 14 inch barrel and it weighed 38 ounces. The bigger the bat the farther I thought I could hit it.

Big Cat: When you joined the Steele's team you wanted to swing the PCF bat but Dave Neale had other ideas.

Scott: Dave wanted me to swing the Elliott bat but I wanted to swing the PCF. He wanted me to swing the Yellow Elliott because that was what we were trying to promote at the time.

Big Cat:Was there any special grip that you used?

Scott: I used an overlap grip. My hands were pretty big and it seemed like I got the best wrist action with that grip...

 

Big Cat: So when you first started swinging a softball bat you were using the over lap grip from day 1. So when came to Steele's you continued with that grip and Coach Neale never said anything to you about changing you?

Scott: No he really never tried to change me.

Big Cat After your initial impact on the game Steele's Sports Co. came out with your own signature model bat called the Bam Bam. What was the size of your own personal softball bat? 34-31 oz? And in 1988 when Steele's produced the Scott Virkus 00 Bam Bam Softball Bat. I preferred a thick handle bat because of how big my hands were.

Big Cat: Did you feel  like it was pretty easy to hit home runs?

Scott: No

Big Cat: What are some of the best things that a person can do with weights to help make them a better ball player. What are 1 or 2 exercises: that you feel are the most important in your playing ability?

Scott: My legs are the number 1 thing for me. the bench with your forearms are really key in your swing. When you bench you need to do the incline and then when you et done with that you need to do close grips because the close grips will make your bench that much stronger. To do cardio by playing basketball or riding the bike. In 1987 when you, Dirk, Doug, Ken, and myself were working out at the Omni. After we lifted we would go right into the basketball area. We would play at least 5 games and that would be our cardio for the day. Believe me it was good cardio because we did not want to lose to anybody and we played all out. Up and down the court trying to block each others shots... They were some tough ass games!

Big Cat: I remember that bat Scott, and it was a tree limb. I also remember how you taped them bats up with ankle wrapping tape that you used while wrapping someone's ankle that was sprained. It sure wasn't like it is today. The bats are streamlined today.

Scott: Yes the bats we used back then were a little different than the bats that they are using today. But you have to look at how we got to where we are with equipment today. Technology. It is at it's finest hour!

Big Cat: When we would be traveling all over the countryside when ever we got the chance we would play each other (the Steele's players) in a basketball game. You remember those? We were in Phoenix playing some exhibition games and we stayed at a huge hotel that was laid out and had a gym full of fantastic weights, free weights system and then it had a full size basketball court inside. Dave always liked to have a softball team where we could play anybody in football or basketball.. He was always looking for the best athlete, not necessarily the best baseball player.

Scott: Yes I do. We would choose side to have basketball games between us but it always seemed like the North vs the South. It was about even steven when it came to where we were located at. I remember those games. We ended up getting into a beef because we let Antoinette play on our team and we were setting picks for her and she was making them from everywhere. I remember Dave said I can't believe it. A 5'3 " tall girl was kicking everybody;s butt. One of the players got pissed off and threw the basketball at me so naturally we started playing a little bit harder and we ended up calling the games before someone got hurt. It was not funny then, but it is now.

Big Cat: One of the things that a person would notice about you first Scott is your speed. Just how fast were you? when you stand 6 foot six and weigh 305. You ran track in High School and when you came to the Steele's team what did you run? You ran a 4.5 in pro football. Then you enter the fastest man alive in the ASA softball tournament in Oklahoma City. You ended up out running everyone there. You out ran Tuck Hinton,and anybody who entered.

 

Scott: I enjoyed running since I was a young boy. I really had fun back in High School while I was on the Track team...

Big Cat:When you first started playing softball with Steele's Sports Company did you know that you were with the cream of the crop? Could you feel that you were playing with the best of the best in the softball arena?  

Scott: I had an idea that this was the top of the totem pole. The question to me back then was how I was going to fair up against the big boys of softball. Remember I am coming from a C Team and trying to make one of the very best teams in the country... The name Steele's was a name that became very popular very fast. They had been around since 1975 when Denny Helmig had started them. Now we were getting in to something different with all of the traveling promoting a great game.

Big Cat:When you first started playing slow pitch softball did you feel like it was hard or it was easy to hit the ball over 300 feet?   

Scott: It was kind of easy for me when I first started because of how strong I was. Then you start playing with a team like Steele's and you are trying to do things that these guys were use to doing day in and day out. It took some time and batting practice with Mr. Neale to get me going the right way. Batting practice with Craig Elliott and Mike helped me tremendously.

Big Cat: You played 17 years of Big Tine Softball. What are some of you favorite accomplishments?.

Scott: Our first USSSA Championship in Long Beach in 1988. When I was voted the MVP of the 1990 Smoky Mountain Classic.. I was the Home run champ of the 1987 ASA Tournament in Parma, Ohio. I was MVP of the Gateway. I won the Home Run hitting contest in Richmond, Virginia against Rick Scherr, Monty Tucker, yourself, F.A. Martin. The year we had in 1990 . when we won 13 tourneys in a row and then In 1987 and 1988 I hit 1285 home runs.2400 when hit .

Big Cat: What is your take on Coach Neale after playing softball for the guy for so many years.

Scott: He was like a father to me more than any other person I know. I felt that in what happened to the Prince ( majority stock holder of Steele's)we might have set records that would never be broken.What happened in 1991 was something that was uncontrollable. I felt more hurt than anything because the way that the players reacted when Steele's got into a pinch, I feel like Dave got cheated in 1990 when we did not go into the USSSA World Series with the right frame of mind. We had too many guys that were making their bed for the next year instead of concentration on doing what were trying to accomplish. That was to win them all. We fell short because of some of our teammates.

Scotts :Accomplishments.

Scott Virkus 

USSSA

USSSA - (total - 33-55, .600, 12 HRs, 23 RBIs, 36 Runs)
1988       USSSA   (10-20, .500, 2 HRs, 3 RBIs, 11 Runs)
1989       USSSA   (16-24, .667, 7 HRs, 11 RBIs, 17 Runs)
1990       USSSA   (7-11, .636, 3 HRs, 9 RBIs, 8 Runs)

ISA

SA - 1x All World
1987       ISA         (12 HRs) - All World
1990       ISA         16-28, .571, 4 RBIs, 14 Runs)

NSA

NSA - no All Worlds (total - 44-63, .698)
1988       NSA       (13-19, .684)
1989       NSA       (11-16, .687)
1990       NSA       (20-27, .741, 11 HRs,21 RBIs, 20 Runs)

ASA

ASA - 3x ASA All American (total for the 2 with stats; 41-58, .707, 30 HRs)
1987       ASA        (22-33, .667, 16 HRs) - HR Leader and All American
1989       ASA        All American
1990       ASA        (19-25, .760, 14 HRs, 20 RBIs, 25 Runs) - All American
Scott Virkus – annual stats
Year       AB          H             HR          Avg        Team
1987       1763       1225       680         .695        Steele's
1988       1758       1197       605         .680        Steele's
1989       1099       723        282         .644        Steele's
1990       928        640        269         .690        Steele's
1991       - no info
Totals    5548       3785       1836       .682

NOTE - Scott Virkus is one of only 3 players that have hit over 600 Home Runs
twice in a season. Mike Macenko and Craig Elliott are the other 2.

Scott played in our game where we scored 108 runs in Witchita Falls, Texas on May 25, 1987... Scott was 9 for 10 with 5 home run. Scott was also on the All Steele's Team...

These are some of his stats during the Steele's years.....


In 1987 at the Men's ASA Super Scott was tabbed for the most Home Runs in the tournament. It was held in Parma, Ohio. Scott led the tournament in Home Runs with 17 and also was 1st Team ASA All American!

 

Standing left to right: Ken Dain, Dave neale Sr., Ricky Huggins, Freddie Trice, Monty Tucker, Craig Elliott, Mike Bolen, Jeff Stamps.
Sitting left to right: Dennis Graser, Ron Parnell, Randy Gorell, Rick Weiterman, Doug Roberson, Mike Macenko, Scott Virkus.....

 

 
 
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