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The Road Back to Tradition Is Long : Recovery: Scott May is part of a baseball family, but he has to deal with therapy to give the game a third generation.


The continuity of a baseball family three generations old nearly came to an abrupt and tragic end last Christmas Eve.

One moment Scott May was looking forward to playing baseball in his senior year at Manatee High in Bradenton, Fla., and the next, he awoke in a hospital. Except that the next moment was two weeks later.

May, the son of Pittsburgh Pirate hitting instructor Milt May, was involved in a one-car accident less than a mile from his home in Bradenton.

He suffered severe head injuries when his car rolled twice.

Six months later, he is racing time in his recovery.

The Pirates selected him in this year's amateur draft only days after he had turned 18. Though the club would not say when he was selected, the Pittsburgh Press reported that it was in the 52nd round.

May, a catcher, had led his high school team in 1990 with a .355 batting average. As a sophomore, he had hit .338.

Voted all-conference two years in a row, he made an all-regional team as a junior.

"I knew nothing about (his selection) until that day," Milt May said. "They talked to me about it, but not until after they had decided what they were going to do."

Timing is the key issue for Scott. Doctors estimate full recovery will take up to two years.

Pittsburgh has his rights for one year, unless it signs him. It has not offered him a contract.

If May doesn't sign in a year, he will be eligible for next year's draft, which means he could be chosen by another team. But he wants to play with one of the Pirate affiliates next season.

"I think I'll be ready by then," he said.

May attends hospital therapy sessions twice a week and said he enjoys the occupational and physical therapy, during which he does weight and strength training.

His father said: "He's ahead of the medical projection at this point, but he still has a lot of work to do."

"Like father, like son" has been the May family motto for the last 50 years or so.

May's grandfather, Merrill (Pinky) May was a third baseman for the Philadelphia Phillies from 1939 through 1943.

He played in the 1940 All-Star game and managed for more than 15 years in the minor leagues.

Pinky often quips about his grandson, "Finally, a May that can hit."

Pinky's son, Milt, spent 14 years in the major leagues, with a career .263 average.

After starting with the Pirates, he played with Houston, Detroit, the Chicago White Sox and San Francisco, before returning to Pittsburgh.

He last played for the Pirates in 1984. Now in his fifth season as the Pirates' hitting instructor, Milt May can see a bit of himself in his son.

"Growing up, all he wanted to do was play baseball," he said. "I helped him by doing a little throwing to him, but not every day, like a clinic. . . . I just let him play. A lot of times, he'd play in the summer when I was gone."

Scott May began playing when he was 6, in the smallest of the Little Leagues. That was in Foster City, Calif., when his father was with the Giants.

Scott works out with friends every day for two or three hours.

"I work with weights," he said. "I run every day, take ground balls and hit every day."

His mother said she was amazed at the community support for Scott.

"It was overwhelming," Brenda May said. "The hospital was kind enough to give us a private line into Scott's room because there were so many phone calls from well-wishers.

"The whole town, and even the nation, played a role in his recovery."

May was sent get-well cards from all over the country, especially by other athletes who wear his number, 23.

Among them were Don Mattingly, his favorite player, and the Chicago Bulls' Michael Jordan.

But the highlight had to be Pittsburgh's Bobby Bonilla changing his uniform number from 25 to 23 and dedicating his 1991 season to Scott.

"About a month after the accident, when he became aware of what had happened . . . the support really had a positive effect on him," Milt May said. "Especially the support of the Pirate organization."

With the highest batting average on his team, May was selected an all-tournament player at last year's state tournament.

That impressed Coach Tim Hill of Manatee Community College.

"I've been watching him play since the 10th grade," Hill said. "He was one of the first guys we went after, and then he had the accident. I don't see that it changed anything. I saw him after it happened and just knew he'd make it back."

If the Pirates do not sign him, May probably will play there and await the next draft.

"We expect he can come in this fall and contribute 100%," Hill said. "If that happens, we'll have one great player on our hands."

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