Washougal’s John Scukanec, a baseball romantic, never envisioned how big his mission would become, with people from all over the country asking to play catch with him
There’s gotta be a catch. There’s always a catch.
John Scukanec certainly hopes so, anyway.
His catch is, well, playing catch.
For a year.
For now, Scukanec is nearing the completion of a goal he set for himself in March of 2022. A passionate baseball fan, Scukanec just wants to toss the baseball around with someone, anyone. Have a catch. Talk about sports. Or life. Whatever. Share a laugh. Share a cry. Every day is the same — let’s play catch — but every day is different.
On Sunday, this reporter and John met up at Crown Park in Camas for Day 348 of Scukanec’s quest for Catch 365.
That’s right. John Scukanec of Washougal is playing catch with someone — family, friends, strangers who are no longer strangers — every day for a year.
“In 348 days, I’ve played catch with more than 500 people,” Scukanec said just hours before the start of the Super Bowl. “I’ve played with people who haven’t played catch in 10 years, 20 years, 40 years, 65 years. I’ve played with a bunch of people who have never played catch. I’m grateful for the experience.”
Scukanec is not exactly a stranger to the spotlight, although he never envisioned becoming semi famous for this project.
He starred in football at Mountain View High School (Class of 1991) before excelling at Washington State.
“People ask me why did you play football? Because I’m 6-6 and 300 pounds and I was good at football, and I can’t hit,” he said. “Otherwise I would have played baseball all day long.”
In recent years, he has been a regular guest and sometimes guest-host on Primetime with Isaac and Suk on 1080 The Fan. John’s younger brother, Jason “Big Suk” Scukanec, makes up one half of the iconic show with Isaac Ropp.
John proudly proclaims that it is the longest running sports talk show in Portland. “Which is kind of cool,” he said.
“If you’re out there in Clark County world and you know of me, it’s probably more for being on my brother’s dumb show,” John said. “Now I’ve become the guy who plays catch with people.”
He is definitely famous among baseball nerds.
He has had people contact him from Iowa, Minnesota, Las Vegas — all to schedule a time to toss a baseball back and forth.
One man had an eight-hour layover at PDX and asked if John could meet him during that time, just to play catch. Absolutely, John said.
People from all over the Northwest have inquired. If the schedule works, John says yes.
“It boggles the mind. I’m blown away that there are people out there who I don’t know who say, ‘I’ll come play catch with you.’ It’s humbling. I appreciate it,” John said.
One man drove from Eugene, Ore., played catch with Scukanec for 40 minutes, and then drove home. Scukanec asked the man why.
“I just felt like I had to be a part of it,” was the answer.
A part of what, though? What is this? How did this happen? Seriously, what’s the catch?
John Scukanec comes off as a teddy bear in person. A big, former football player with a gift for gab. One of those guys who initially likes everyone he meets.
It is tough to imagine him in a bad mood.
But a year ago, he was frustrated. His favorite sport was in a labor dispute. His favorite team was supposed to be good. No, really. This time it was for real. The Mariners were actually going to be good. He had opening day tickets, too. The anticipation, the expectations. Scukanec had all of those feel-good emotions that rush through a baseball fan in late winter as spring approaches.
Then … Major League Baseball announced that opening day would be postponed. At that time, the season was in jeopardy.
“I was in a bad mood. I was driving around, listening to all the negativity. I was in a bad mood,” Scukanec said.
He got home and was searching through Twitter, trying to find something — anything — that wasn’t negative about baseball.
“I came across this podcast called The Baseball Bucket List. I fired up an episode,” Scukanec said.
By chance, that episode highlighted Ethan Bryan of Springfield, Mo. He played catch every day for a year, documented all of his engagements, and wrote a book. Scukanec was impressed, and inspired.
“I started thinking: This is really cool. This sounds like something I would do,” Scukanec said. “This sounds like something dumb I would try. I wonder if I could. I wonder if I could find someone to play catch with for 365 days.”
He told his wife about the idea.
“Oh, that’s lovely dear,” John said of Heather’s response.
His two sons were worse than dismissive.
“Dad, this is dumb,” John Jr. and Jackson told him.
His brother wasn’t feeling it at the time.
“I went on my brother’s show, told them about it, and they made fun of me,” John said.
None of this deterred John.
On March 2, 2022, on a cold and rainy night — yes it was a cold and rainy night — John invited John Jr. out into the backyard.
“Why? It’s dark, rainy, and cold,” Junior told his father.
“I said, ‘Well, that’s fair, but humor me,’” John replied.
“Is this that dumb thing you were talking about?” Junior asked.
“Yeah,” John said.
Eventually, Junior gave in and threw the baseball back and forth with his father.
“We went outside and played catch in the rain for five minutes, and that was Day One,” John said.
Jackson followed up with a catch the next day. Heather joined in to continue the streak. Then John’s dad.
Still, a long way from 365 days.
“I thought, ‘I’m going to run out of people real quick,’” he said.
Oh, but he had another idea. He was going to log each day of catch on social media. Also, being the outgoing, lovable big guy that he is, he had no problem walking up to strangers and just asking if they’d like to have a catch.
In almost a year now, John Scukanec said only one stranger has said no to his invitation. But that turned out OK, because another random stranger overheard the conversation and said, “I’ll play catch with you.”
“It’s been incredible. It’s been completely different than I thought it would be. It’s something I look forward to every day,” Scukanec said.
His social media posts started going viral.
“Weird thing is people started following and then people started reaching out,” he said.
Last month, Scukanec had a crazy idea. It was Friday the 13th. And a Portland movie theater was showing one of the Friday the 13th movies, with special guest Kane Hodder, who played Jason in four of the movies.
So there was John, waiting in line to meet Hodder. It was around 10:45 at night, and Scukanec was getting worried. What if Hodder had to leave? What if he said no? Scukanec was thinking about asking a stranger in line to throw the ball with him for a few minutes, to keep the Streak alive.
But then it was Scukanec’s turn to meet “Jason.”
It was, as Scukanec described, a killer moment. Jason, from the Friday the 13th movies, played catch with John Scukanec … on Friday the 13th.
As far as time of day, that was cutting it close. He has had a few other close calls, too. He was sick a few months ago and had to stay home a couple of days. He had his sons play catch with him, in the house, to maintain the Streak.
“The smartest thing I did was I didn’t make a silly rule like it had to be somebody different every day,” Scukanec said.
So in a bind, he forces, er, invites, family to play catch.
Scukanec’s twitter account (@jScukanec) has a record of every encounter during his drive for 365. But he claims he does not have a favorite. He said it is like asking a parent which child is his favorite.
“The phrase I’ve sort of adopted is everybody has a story. It’s just a catch … until it’s not,” Scukanec said. “At worst, I’m playing catch with somebody. Sometimes, cool things happen and you get to know somebody, and you have an experience.
“I can honestly tell you I don’t have a favorite. Just something I look forward to every day.”
As far as Day 365, well, that is going to be special. So special, in fact, that he has had to make two plans. One for the incredible, unbelievable, no-way thing that might actually happen. (Sorry, no spoilers here.) And the other idea is pretty cool, too. If that “it’s-a-secret thing” does not happen, he just might state a time and place and invite anyone who has played catch this past year to join him again.
It is getting close. The finish line is just a couple weeks out now. But is there really a finish line?
“That was the original plan. Can I do it 365?,” John Scukanec said.
Now? It just might be the beginning of something.
“I think it would be really weird to stop at 366,” Scukanec said. “Ripken didn’t stop. I’m going to keep going. Maybe I won’t put it on Twitter every day, but I’m going to keep playing catch and we’ll see what happens. Maybe I’ll be the weird guy who has played catch 2,000 days in a row.”
Extra innings with John Scukanec:
“I get romantic about baseball. I just do. It started with my dad,” John Scukanec said.
They played catch a lot.
Then there were all the sports that he and his brother and their friends played.
“There was no internet. We had no video games. We played outside. We played football in the front yard, basketball in the driveway, and we played Wiffle Ball in the backyard,” Scukanec said. “For me, it was Wiffle Ball. We took it serious. We kept stats. You had to bat left-handed if you were Darryl Strawberry.”
In 1986, he fell for the New York Mets.
Living in the Northwest, though, without the internet, it was tough to follow his team. Soon, it was all about the Mariners.
“I fell in love with (Dave) Niehaus and Alvin Davis and Jim Presley. In 1989, we get a guy named Ken Griffey Jr. Coolest player ever. Best player. I’m in. Hey, I love football. Don’t get me wrong. Love basketball. Love hockey. Love it all. But I love baseball. It started with my dad.”
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Eric Johnson KOMO (Perhaps best known for his “Seattle Is Dying” expose that ruffled so many feathers on the left (Check it out on Youtube)) did this story back in November: watch both videos.
(1) Watch | Facebook
Could someone PLEASE put me in contact w/ John Scukanek as I’d be honored to be able to also play catch with him. I realize its past the 365 mark but would love to do it anyway. THANKS in advance!!! Ed