Washougal man on mission to play catch for 365 days in a row
WASHOUGAL, Wash. (KPTV) - The simple act of tossing a ball is helping a Washougal man connect with the community.
John Scukanec is a 49-year-old former offensive lineman at Washington State University but the class of ‘91 graduate from Vancouver’s Mountain View High School has always been a baseball guy.
“I get romantic about baseball. The ball and the glove and the sound and the rhythm going back and forth, there is just something about it,” Scukanec said.
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The MLB lockout last March had Scukanec mad. The greed in the pro game he loved made him go as grassroots as one can, embarking on a mission to play catch for 365 straight days.
“Day one was my kid, day two was my kid, day three was my wife, day four was my dad, day five was mom, and I was like, ‘I am going to run out of people,’” he said.
Eleven and a half months later, the lineup still isn’t dry.
“It’s been a steady stream of people willing to come play catch,” he said.
From a 93-year-old to 3-year-old, Catch 365 has evolved into something quite grand.
“It’s just a catch until it’s not,” said Scukanec.
It’s his off-days and lunch breaks working for the City of Vancouver that have been a ball.
“Somebody said I should buy a lefthanded glove just in case you run into a lefty, so I did,” he said.
Scukanec has reconnected with former teammates, teachers and complete and total strangers in the hometown community he serves.
“It came out that he was homeless and living in this van. When I pulled up, he thought I was there to run him off because people run him off all day, they don’t want him around,” he said. “I take a picture with him and he looks at me and he says, ‘Thank you for just treating me like a person,’ and I said, ‘thank you for playing catch with a stranger.’
The coldest catch was 17 degrees, 105 the toastiest, and a few came with tears.
“He said he kept telling him, ‘Ok, we’ll do it, we’ll do it,’ and then he is killed in an accident, so he said the night he heard that his friend had died, he sat down and made a list of all of the things he had told his friend that he would do together but first on that list was, I wanted to come play catch with you because he wanted me to and I never got the chance to with him,” Scukanec said. “I started crying, he starts crying.”
Scukanec even made a trek to Kansas City in September to meet Ethan Bryan who talked about his Catch 365 idea on a baseball podcast. Mrs. Scukanec just needed a little convincing first.
“She said, ‘We’re not going to Kansas City to play catch with a stranger’ and that is a fair response! It really was a ‘Field of Dreams’ kind of moment for me,” he said. “I kept hearing, ‘go the distance’ like, ‘you gotta do this!’ We got in the car afterwards and she said, ‘this isn’t about baseball, is it?’ I said, ‘no, it’s about connecting with people.’”
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Connecting with all walks of life and mascots, not just one but two Santas, Jake the Snake Roberts, and even the actor who played Jason Voorhees from “Friday the 13th” on Friday the 13th.
“I think if more people put themselves out there to connect with people, we’d be better off. As a city, as a town, as a state, it doesn’t have to be playing catch, that’s just what I chose to do,” Scukanec said.
Catch 365 will happen on March 1. So what happens on March 2?
“Play catch,” said Scukanec. “I think it would be weird to wake up on March 2 and not play catch.”
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