Scott Wingo’s professional career came to an end in April during his third season with the Los Angeles Dodgers organization, but the former second baseman refuses to look back with frustration.
That’s just not a part of his upbeat personality.
After the storybook finish to his collegiate playing days, when he earned Most Outstanding Player honors at the 2011 College World Series as South Carolina won its second consecutive national championship, Wingo couldn’t replicate that magic before the Dodgers released him out of Single-A Rancho Cucamonga in the California League.
“It was a great opportunity. To be drafted by the Dodgers in the 11th round was a dream come true,” Wingo said. “I had a great time and a great experience. But I had more failures than success. You can’t take anything for granted. I don’t have any regrets.”
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Now he returns to the scene of his greatest success in Columbia, where he can complete his USC retailing degree with three classes and an internship while also serving as the baseball program’s newest student assistant coach.
Wingo, 25, flashes his characteristic smile as he contemplates the next stop in his baseball journey.
“I’m looking forward to finishing school and starting a new chapter. I thought that I would always enjoy coaching, and it’s something that I’m going to get to experience next season for the first time,” he said. “I want to give these guys some of my experiences and maybe help them.”
Wingo’s experiences at South Carolina turned him into a folk hero. Always a great defensive infielder, his glove kept him on the field for his first two seasons as a starter (2008-09), when he batted a combined .211 and the Gamecocks were eliminated in NCAA regional play. His hitting was so anemic that then-coach Ray Tanner, who valued Wingo’s defense, kept looking for offensive replacements for him.
But the former Mauldin High standout never doubted his ability, and his high-energy style and relentless dedication won out. He turned a brilliant double play against Coastal Carolina in the 2010 Super Regional and would score the winning run in the 2010 national championship game against UCLA.
By his senior season, he became a complete player by batting .338, second on the team, with 31 RBIs and a .467 on-base percentage. He produced clutch hits against Texas A&M and Florida in the 2011 CWS and made a pair of sparkling defensive plays that saved the first win against Florida in the finals.
When his career was over, he had played in 254 games, second-most in program history. His 63 hit-by-pitches smashed the school record, and his 130 walks rank fourth in program history. He also hit a total of 24 homers with 96 RBIs while being named to the All-SEC defensive team twice.
“It was perfect. I saw the lows and the highs,” Wingo said. “It was an unbelievable four years. My first two years in college were a struggle on the field. But I kept fighting, and my last two years, God was looking out for us, no doubt about it. I went out on top.”
Tanner, who’s now the athletics director, believes those experiences make Wingo the right fit to assist USC coach Chad Holbrook on the field in the upcoming season.
“I’m excited to have him back on campus. In a perfect world, he’d be climbing the ladder to the big leagues right now, but that’s a tough road for a lot of college players. Now he can come back, finish his degree and make a tremendous impression on the student-athletes we have today,” Tanner said.
Wingo inherits the role of former USC standouts Drew Meyer, Brian Buscher and Adrian Morales, who came back to serve as students assistants in recent seasons while completing their degree work.
“He’s a former athlete who has walked the walk,” Tanner added.
“That’s what it’s all about for those guys – to help the ones coming behind them. The effect they have on the program is wonderful.”
Wingo’s ready to help Holbrook, who was an assistant for three of Wingo’s seasons, get the Gamecocks back to the CWS.
“He’s a great coach and even better guy,” Wingo said.
“He brings energy, and you know that he’s got your back. He has some similarities with coach Tanner and I can’t wait to get in the dugout with him.”
Tanner has the same warm feelings about his former player.
“Scott Wingo was so much more than just a baseball player when he was here. He has a special place here,” Tanner said.