If there’s anything Kade Scivicque has learned during his time in professional baseball, it’s that timing can be everything.
It’s something he’s kept in mind since the Detroit Tigers made him a fourth-round draft pick out of LSU in 2015, a journey that’s since taken him to two organizations and multiple levels of minor league baseball.
“It’s all about waiting for that one right moment, and whenever you get it, just making the most of it,” said Scivicque, a former Maurepas standout and current member of the Tigers' Triple-A affiliate Toledo Mud Hens, said in a phone interview during a stop in Louisville, Ky. “I’ve played with guys who have been in the minor leagues for 10-12 years. Finally, they get that one call-up to the big leagues and they say they would do it all over again just for that one call.”
After being drafted by Detroit, Scivicque was a mid-season and postseason All-Star in '16 with the Lakeland (Fla.) Flying Tigers of the Florida State League, Detroit’s Class A Advanced team, hitting .282 with six home runs, two triples, 19 doubles, 45 runs and 41 RBIs in 106 games.
After putting together the solid season, Scivicque’s career took its first detour when he and Mike Aviles were traded to the Atlanta Braves for shortstop Erick Aybar in August of '16.
“At the time of the trade, I looked at it as a really, really positive thing,” Scivicque said. “I was traded for a big league guy – a guy that had a lot of big league service time and a guy that had made his mark in the big leagues, so having your name associated with a guy like that, when people were like, ‘What happened? Did you come over in a trade? You tell them, ‘Yeah’. They ask, ‘Who?’ You tell them, and they’re like, ‘Wow!’ So, it makes you feel really good about yourself that someone actually gave up a longtime big league guy to get you.”
Scivicque finished the season playing in 11 games between the Braves’ Double-A team, the Mississippi Braves, and the Class A Advanced team in Carolina, earning a non-roster invitation to spring training with the Braves in January of '17.
He ended up spending the majority of that season with the Mississippi Braves, Atlanta’s Double-A affiliate, hitting .269 with 11 doubles, a triple, three home runs, 19 runs and 25 RBIs in 68 games, which helped earn him a spot on the Southern League’s midseason All-Star team. He parlayed that into a call-up to the Braves’ Triple-A affiliate in Gwinnett, Ga., where he hit .272 with two home runs, 11 RBIs and 12 runs in 24 games to close out the season.
Scivicque earned another non-roster invitation to spring training with the Braves in January of '18 and began the season at Gwinnett, but he played in just one game before he was released.
His fate with the Braves’ organization was likely sealed before that when John Coppolella, the Braves GM, who swung the trade to get Scivicque, resigned in October of '17 amid an investigation by Major League Baseball regarding alleged infractions the club committed in signing international players. It ultimately led to a lifetime ban, which prevents Coppolella from working in professional baseball.
“In ’17 when I got called up, I was the priority guy, so I got called up and they were giving me all my chances and everything,” Scivicque said. “I was getting to play. I was the next guy in line.”
The Braves hired former Toronto Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos to replace Coppolella, which ended up changing Scivicque’s career path again.
“He kind of had some guys that he brought in with him, and I kind of got pushed to the backburner,” Scivicque said.
Scivicque said the experience was an eye-opener.
“That’s the first time where you take a step back and you look at the business side,” he said. “At the time, I was hurt. I was like, ‘Man, I just got released.’ It’s almost like you look at it like you just got fired from a job. I stepped back, and I’m like ‘What did I not do right? What did I do wrong? What could I have done better?’, but then talking to some people and just reflecting on it, they actually did me a favor. Instead of just holding me back and just letting me sit the bench for six months and whatever, not playing, they just went ahead and released me and let me find a team …”
That team turned out to be a familiar one when the Detroit Tigers signed Scivicque just three days after his release and assigned him to the Erie Seawolves, Detroit’s Double-A team.
“They were on me before anything could happen, so I felt comfortable going back with those guys, and then I got to play,” he said.
It set in motion a season in which he played a combined 67 games between Erie, Lakeland and Toledo last year. Scivicque advanced to Triple-A Toledo but was assigned to Advanced A Lakeland less than a month later.
While the transaction may look a bit strange, Scivicque said it was part of a bigger picture for the Tigers organization.
“In professional baseball, along with all these different levels, when they send someone down from the big leagues, someone from Triple-A has to go down to Double-A, someone from Double-A has to go down,” he said. “It’s just a trickle-down effect.
“They have a ton of prospects, so they wanted me to play, so that’s when they said, ‘Look, we’re just going to send you to Lakeland. You go play. Instead of the trickle-down effect going back to Erie and then maybe playing once every couple of days, just go to Lakeland and play. Enjoy that.’ It turned out to be a little longer than I expected, but I went down there and I got some good, consistent at-bats. I got some good, consistent playing time, so I wasn’t hurt by it. I kind of embraced it … and just learned from it and used it to help me get my at-bats and get my work in.”
Scivicque said he was grateful for the experience of last season.
“I was all around last year. I was at many different levels, but I ended up getting to play,” Scivicque said. “The playing time is what matters in no matter what level you’re at, as long as you’re getting to play.”
After hitting .256 with four home runs, 14 doubles, 20 runs and 25 RBIs last season, Scivicque opted for free agency.
“I wanted to explore my options,” he said. “There’s 30 teams out there, and now that I’m a free agent in the offseason, everybody has a shot. I talked to a couple different teams about doing deals and stuff like that, signing different contracts. I was actually going to sign a contract with a different team, and Detroit kept calling and calling and calling, so I kind of entertained that.”
Less than a month later, he re-signed with the Tigers’ organization.
“I know everyone here,” he said. “I know the staff. I feel comfortable here, so I felt like this was a good opportunity to try to come back here.”
He was assigned to Toledo and got an invitation to spring training, which Scivicque said is always about learning.
“It’s a big learning tool, and it’s a big opportunity to get around those guys that have been there, guys that have been through it for a long time, guys that know the ropes, just to pick their brains and to watch how they work and to watch their routines every day,” Scivicque said. “In professional baseball, you need to create routines. You play a lot of games. It’s a long season, so if you just go in there without a plan or without a routine, things can get hectic and go south quick. It’s nice to learn from those guys and to watch those guys work, and then again, get to play along side of those guys. As far as catching and stuff, you get to catch big league guys and face big league pitchers. It’s a great experience, and it goes to show you that you’re not really that far away.”
In late April, Scivicque was assigned to Erie, where he hit .346, collecting 36 hits in 28 games with five home runs, 11 doubles, 11 runs and 18 RBIs, prompting another call-up to Toledo on June 15.
“I kind of took the same approach,” Scivique said. “I finally got some consistent at-bats and consistent playing time. I feel like I was able to get in a groove. When you play one day and then you don’t play for four days and then you try to play again, 95 starts looking like 125 and it looks like you’re trying to hit a white bean up there, so it’s kind of tough. But whenever you get consistent playing time, you get in a groove. You start laying off those tough pitches that are the pitchers’ pitches that are trying to get you out, and you get your pitch to hit. I think that’s what helped me most. I think last year at the plate, I missed a lot of pitches I shouldn’t have missed, and this year I was back in a groove and I felt good and in my own element and I felt like I didn’t miss those pitches, so I felt like things clicked a little bit kind of getting in that routine.”
Even with his early season success, Scivicque said the move to Triple-A was unexpected.
“They have a prospect here in Triple-A (Jake Rogers is the Mud Hens’ other catcher), and he’s got to play every day,” Scivicque said. “He’s got to get his games in as well. Part of my contract was to play every day in Double-A or split time in Triple-A. I was playing every day in Double-A, and … I was having fun, getting the reps. It’s all about playing time.”
Through July 21, Scivicque played in 13 games at Triple-A, hitting .267.
“You have to figure things out,” he said of not getting as much playing time. “I just kind of put it into my routine, so you catch more bullpens here and do stuff like that just so you stay ready for the game. In your batting practice, you kind of take more swings in the cages. You kind of hit off the machine so you don’t let the velocity beat you. It’s just different routines, different steps, that you’ve got to take to make sure that you’re prepared when you are called upon to play.”
He said it’s helped to have some familiar faces on the Toledo roster.
“Around the clubhouse, they tell me I’m the young guy,” Scivicque said. “They’ve got a great group of guys here – older and younger. It’s just a nice mesh, and I’m getting to play again with some guys that I originally got drafted with.”
“It’s really cool getting back with these guys and playing at this level.”
At 26, Scivicque knows he’s still got time to play the game, and in turn, get more opportunities that could lead to a call-up to the Major Leagues.
“There have been some bumps in the road,” Scivique said. “If I could have drawn it up, I wouldn’t have drawn it up the way that it’s happened. There’s been some ups and downs and there’s been some highs in lows, but just fighting through both of them and enjoying the highs and working through the lows and just staying steady and keeping going – not giving up. It would be real easy just to give it up as soon as things start going south, but there is a dream there, and I feel like I’ve got a lot of career left.”
Scivicque has some support back home, starting with his high school coach, Anthony Gregoire.
“He’s going to make it,” Gregoire said. “In my heart, I think he’s going to make because he has the drive and he has the determination, and you just can’t take that away from him.”
He also knows timing can be everything.
“It’s so hard to tell, and nobody really knows,” he said. “It’s the drop of a hat and something could happen, and you never know who goes up. I feel like I’m one step away. I feel like I’m right there. I feel like I’m right there. I feel that at any given time it could happen, but you’ve got to be at the right place at the right time and have a little luck on your side. You hate to wish bad luck on anybody, so you’ve just got to keep playing and wait for that time.”
Until then, Scivicque said he’ll keep putting in the work to make his dream a reality.
“(It’s) not taking anything for granted, just working hard and trying to get better every day,” he said. “I’m just trying to play this game as long as I can until they take my jersey. They will. They’ll have to take it from me.”