Mr. Scott Pinoni was once launching baseballs out of the park. Now, he's helping students at Eastland Career Center launch their careers and lives.
NOVEMBER 7, 2022 | EFCTS
From the time he was a toddler, Scott Pinoni knew he wanted to be a professional baseball player. What he wanted to do after playing baseball was not so certain. Now instead of hitting home runs himself, Mr. Pinoni is helping students at Eastland Career Center knock it out of the park in the classroom.
Pinoni, a Columbus native and graduate of Worthington Christian High School, is in his 13th year teaching special education English at Eastland Career Center. Previously, he was employed with the Educational Service Center of Central Ohio (ESCCO), which is where he was first introduced to EFCTS and its opportunities to impact young people.
Well before his passion for teaching took root, Pinoni fell in love with baseball citing memories of swinging a baseball bat and throwing the ball around with his dad and grandfather. That love paired with his natural talent and work ethic led to opportunities at higher levels, though he credits first being noticed by scouts to an opposing player and a lucky break. As a high school sophomore, Worthington Christian played in the district finals against Newark Catholic High School. Coaches and scouts were in attendance to watch a pitcher on the other side of the diamond but how the ball popped off of Pinoni’s bat caught the attention of the scouts.
Scott Pinoni (credit: Duke Athletics)
After strong junior and senior seasons he was pursued heavily by major colleges. Pinoni chose to attend Duke University, where he went on to have a successful collegiate career. He immediately jumped into the starting lineup and became a two-time First Team All-ACC honoree following his sophomore and junior seasons. His junior campaign earned him second team all-region honors, finishing just behind future major leaguer, Todd Helton.
His numbers and awards attracted even more eyes to observe his play, this time from Major League Baseball (MLB) scouts. Following his junior season, he was selected in the 20th round of the 1994 MLB Draft by the Kansas City Royals. Just like that, he was on the path to a professional baseball career.
In his second year as a professional, the heavy-hitting first baseman was named to the mid-season All-Star team after leading the Royals minor league system in home runs and was second in batting average only to future World Series champion, Johnny Damon. While moving between different “A” levels within the Royals organization he began experiencing discomfort in his hand and wrist. With one big swing of the bat, his wrist snapped and he broke his hamate bone, an injury Pinoni infamously relates to the beginning of Hall of Fame outfielder Ken Griffey Jr.’s decline. While the injury itself did not spell the end of Pinoni’s career, a series of personnel moves inside the organization led to his release in 1995.
Pinoni bounced back by signing with the New York Yankees and accepting an invitation to Spring Training. He referenced the thrill of putting on the pinstripes plus meeting Reggie “Mr. October” Jackson and Yankees owner and Ohio native, George Steinbrener. Pinoni said that the Yankees wanted to sign him to play for their California-based minor league team, but with playing time in question he elected to instead play for the Chillicothe Paints, an independent team closer to home, in order to break into the lineup immediately and build a resume that would hopefully land him a better opportunity in the Majors.
Scott Pinoni (left) played with the Chillicothe Paints of the Frontier League. (photo credit: Chillicothe Paints Baseball)
In his first year playing for Chillicothe, Pinoni raked 11 home runs, 19 doubles, 65 runs batted in, and posted a .384 batting average to make the All-Star team. Unfortunately, the strategy did not pan out but hope was not lost as he met up with former major leaguer and hitting coach of the Sioux City Explorers. Mike Epstein. Pinoni rebuilt his swing and played the same strategy as in Chillicothe. He hit 20 homers, 92 RBIs, and added 19 more doubles.
Still, no MLB bites.
While a Major League contract may not have been in the cards, Pinoni made another move that landed him a long-term contract of another kind. While playing in Sioux City he met his wife, Kari, and began a Cal Ripken Jr. “Ironman-like” relationship run. They are now celebrating 25 years of marriage and four children.
After learning that they were expecting their first child together, the couple decided to return to Ohio and Pinoni would return to the Chillicothe Paints. Over the next two seasons, he smashed more than 20 home runs and 70 RBIs, each season.
Still, no MLB interest.
With the support of his wife, Pinoni made one last attempt at an MLB contract. In 2000 he played with a pair of teams in New Jersey but encountered a serious staph infection that led him to rearrange his priorities. With that, Pinoni hung up his cleats and retired from baseball.While one chapter came to an end, the pen soon hit the next page to begin writing again. Pinoni looked back to some fond memories of working in schools to find his next career path. That, and he wanted to enter the coaching ranks.
Pinoni said, “I liked working with kids. I just remembered all the baseball stuff, doing camps and going to schools and reading to little kids, those sorts of things.”
On queue, positions opened at Logan Elm High School seeking a special education teacher and a varsity baseball coach. The door opened, and Pinoni walked through. He spent four years at Logan Elm, where he said his teams were competitive but mainly finished in the middle of its conference. After his fourth year at Logan Elm, his teaching position was eliminated. It was then that he realized how much he enjoyed teaching and engaging with students.
“It was at that point that I thought ‘I am really going to miss this. I really want to do this,’” said Pinoni.
While searching for his next teaching home, his path nearly took him to another high school as a history teacher. However, Pinoni’s experience in special education reminded him to follow his true passion.
“I really enjoy the smaller group of kids and getting to know the kids on a more personal level instead of having 200-250 kids shuffle in under my roof. I’ve got a small group of kids that I get to build a relationship with and hopefully influence by working with them closely for the few years that they are here.”
With that mindset, Pinoni moved on to the ESC of Central Ohio to continue teaching in special education. That is how he became connected with Eastland-Fairfield, and ironically, through a program called “Connections”. In 2009, he took his first steps onto the Eastland Career Center campus. In 2012, he became a full-time special education teacher at ECC and has truly embraced his role in providing quality education to young people in a career-technical education environment, as well as its challenges.
He recognizes that some students that come to Eastland-Fairfield may not have had a positive school experience, and that a strong start in a new setting is essential.
“I want to be someone that can give them that positive experience,” said Pinoni. “I want to be a positive influence to those kids and help them to see the value of the education that they are getting.”
To Pinoni, being a teacher at a career-technical school provides something special that school settings cannot provide. One of those attributes is how each student brings a unique background and experience to his classroom.
“The best thing is getting to talk to kids about what they are doing in their labs and all the cool things that they are doing,” said Pinoni. “I have kids bringing food in from Culinary that they made, kids talking about their welding projects and asking if they can make me anything in their lab. I have a truck in the Auto Body lab that the kids are working on and repainting. It’s great to see them working on my own stuff. It’s really cool to get to be able to hear these kids talk about something that they are excited about.”
While he recognizes that students at Eastland-Fairfield are very driven by their lab experience, Pinoni embraces his role as an academic teacher. He knows he is part of his students’ overall experience and supports their personal endeavors.
“If that is the journey that they want to take, I am here to do what I can to help them on that journey, to get them to graduate, to get them to pass their academic classes so that they can pursue that lab experience.”
Fall is a special time of the year for the veteran teacher. With the World Series ongoing, Pinoni experiences all the feelings brought on by playoff baseball. It’s a time that can make a former player reflect and wonder “what if?” But, the impact Pinoni is having on students in his classroom serves as a reminder of a greater game that he is now helping to manage.
“I miss the game, but not as much as the camaraderie that you feel as being part of a team and having a common goal with so many people. That’s why I think transitioning into education is a natural transition because it’s kind of the same. As teachers, we have a common goal and work with these kids, get them ready to graduate, and get them ready for life.”
Eastland-Fairfield Career & Technical Schools is the seventh-largest career and technical education district, geographically, in the State of Ohio. We serve more than 5,000 students in 16 school districts throughout Franklin, Fairfield and Pickaway counties. Eastland-Fairfield provides more than 40 programs to over 1,400 high school and adult students. The district has two main campuses — Eastland Career Center in Groveport and Fairfield Career Center in Carroll, with satellite locations at four of our associate high schools: Gahanna Lincoln, Groveport Madison, New Albany, and Pickerington North.
Founded in 1969. Eastland-Fairfield Career & Technical Schools’ mission is to engage, enrich, and equip students every day in every experience. We prepare students to pursue their life’s next E: Employment, Enlistment, Entrepreneurship, and/or additional Education. Visit us online at www.eastlandfairfield.com and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and LinkedIn for regular updates, fun content and information.