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Mudville: June 19, 2024 5:43 am PDT

Scott Schebler

"People only see the games. They don’t see the hours and work behind the scenes.”

At BallNine we like to pride ourselves on presenting all angles of the baseball world. We like rehashing old memories and looking around in all the dusty corners to bring you interesting topics and curiosities.

Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve brought you stories about a 42-year old who still throws 100MPH with the help of a self-proclaimed “Nutty Professor of Baseball,” some folks who played just one major league game in their career and a fascinating typewriter collection with baseball ties that were up for auction. We also had stories about Shohei Ohtani, Yoshinobu Yamamoto and the current state of free agency in the game.

Overall our coverage may trend more towards vintage baseball, especially at Spitballin’, so it’s always refreshing to talk to a player who has been active recently to get their perspective on the sport.

Scott Schebler is one such person and he joins us for the last Spitballin’ of 2023.

Schebler last played in 2022 for the Albuquerque Isotopes, the Rockies AAA team and last appeared in the majors in 2021 for the Angels.

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We have dissected the changes to Major League Baseball ad infinitum here, but Schebler is someone who lived it.

Schebler came up through the Dodgers system and after playing 19 games for them as a rookie in 2015, he was part of a big three-team trade that sent Todd Frazier to the White Sox.

He started the 2016 season on the Reds, was sent to the minors where he tore up AAA for 72 games and then returned to the bigs, where he had a productive final two months of the regular season.

In 2017, Schebler was given an expanded role with the Reds. He was the starting right fielder on opening day and played in a career-high 141 games. Schebler responded by hitting 30 home runs as part of a lineup that hit the second most home runs in franchise history, which incidentally dates back to 1882.

As great a season as that was for Schebler, he also suffered a shoulder injury that not only kept him out for about a month, but also hindered him the rest of his career.

Schebler played through the Covid-shortened 2020 season and was active as the game began to undergo significant changes afterwards. At BallNine, we tend to skew towards the baseball traditionalist side of things, but are comfortable enough in our own opinions and knowledge that we welcome differing outlooks.

Especially from a fellow who was out there cranking 30 home runs while we were on our couch eating Tostitos watching him do so.

He lived those changes and played the game with intensity and we’re happy to close the 2023 Spitballin’ calendar with Scott Schebler.

Thanks for joining us, Mr. Schebler! You’re our final interview of the year and we’re very happy you’re sharing your story with us. Let’s go back and start at the beginning. What was baseball like for you as a kid growing up in Iowa?

My parents always said I was drawn to anything with a ball. I think soccer was actually the first sport I played then it evolved to baseball from there. I asked my parents if they made me swing lefty, but they told me that’s the way I picked up the bat right from the start. My dad was a big slow-pitch softball player and played college football, so he was an athletic guy. I was always at his games with a bat, ball and glove in my hand. One of my earliest memories was when my dad would take me out in the outfield and let me shag balls in the outfield. That’s my earliest memory of falling in love with the game. I was a Cardinals fan through and through. Then I ended up playing against them for most of my career.

Scott Schebler #43 of the Cincinnati Reds is congratulated by his teammates after scoring the go-ahead run during the seventh inning of the game against the Chicago Cubs at Great American Ball Park on June 24, 2018 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Cincinnati defeated Chicago 8-6. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)

You were a 26th round draft pick out of Des Moines Area Community College in 2010. First, could you tell us how you ended up playing at DMACC?

I was drafted in 2010 and it was a completely different draft back then. There was a lot more draft-and-follow and a lot more guys in the late rounds getting offers similar to early-rounders. That doesn’t happen as much anymore. I had chosen DMACC because of my college coach, Dan Fitzgerald, who is amazing. He’s the Head Coach at Kansas now and I still keep in touch with him – and one of the best recruiters I have ever been around. He was at LSU and recruited Paul Skenes and Dylan Crews who went with the top two picks of last year’s MLB Draft.

Out of high school, I had nothing going. The headquarters for Perfect Game is in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and they never did a whole lot for me recruiting-wise. I put up good stats and did well at the showcases, but they never pushed my name. It was my senior year and I was playing basketball. Coach Fitz would drive two hours to come to my basketball games. I thought that was super weird and would ask him why he’s driving this whole way to see me play basketball. He said that he just really wanted to make sure I went to DMACC. I told him I had nobody recruiting me and I wasn’t considering anywhere else, but he just showed so much interest in me. He saw something in me that I didn’t. He just kept recruiting me so hard because he thought some D1 program would come in and steal me last minute.

Can you share your draft story with our readers?

I had a really good freshman year and  actually had committed to Wichita State for the next year. I was expecting to be in the top ten rounds, but got drafted later than that. I didn’t have an agent at the time, so I wasn’t real sure about how the process worked. I had talked to some teams and they would tell me they’d expect to draft me in a certain round and sign for this amount of money. At that point, I didn’t know what I was doing so I said I wouldn’t sign for that amount of money, so I dropped to the 26th round where the Dodgers drafted me. I had a really good summer in the Northwoods League, so they matched the money I asked for after all. It all came together really quickly. I signed on the very last day with two hours left in the signing period.

The funny thing was that I got sent down right after that game and saw my parents in the airport as I was going back to Oklahoma City and they were coming to see me.

You showed a lot of power in the minors, hitting 55 home runs between 2013 and 2014. You made your major league debut the following year in 2015. What was it like finally getting the call to the majors?

I was in Oklahoma City in AAA and wasn’t having a particularly good first two months. But I was on the 40-man roster at the time and Yasiel Puig got hurt. We had played a game and were winding down at about 11 o’clock at night. We were having a few drinks and playing cards. My buddies who were also my roommates were all together. I didn’t have my phone by me all night and then when I looked at my phone at about 1 in the morning, I had 27 missed calls! They were from my manager, so I called him back immediately and he told me what was going on. He said they were about a half hour away from them calling somebody else up.

I called my parents at about 1:30 in the morning, but of course they weren’t up. I was on the next thing smoking the next morning, the 6:00AM to LA. My parents missed my debut though. The funny thing was that I got sent down right after that game and saw my parents in the airport as I was going back to Oklahoma City and they were coming to see me.

Sucks that they missed the game but pretty crazy your paths crossed at the airport. What was that one big league game like as your first taste of the majors?

It was an amazing debut. It was against the Cardinals on a Friday night at Dodger Stadium with 60,000 fans. There’s not a better debut you could have. It was like the stars aligned. I was playing in Dodger Stadium against the team I rooted for as a child. I got an opposite field single my first at bat. One of the things I’ll always look back on was that Vin Scully called my first hit and my next at bat when I struck out. He said something like it was going from the penthouse to the [outhouse] getting a single my first AB to striking out. It was really funny.

Scott Schebler #55 of the Los Angeles Dodgers bumps fists with first base coach Davey Lopes after hitting a single in his first Major League at bat, in the second inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Dodger Stadium on June 5, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

That offseason you were traded to the Reds in a big three-team trade that involved Todd Frazier too. What was it like to be traded? Did that catch you by surprise?

Anytime you spend a large amount of time in an organization and are traded away it’s going to catch you off guard and you’re going to feel a certain way about it. At the time, it was probably the best move for my career because I was behind some absolute superstars with the Dodgers. I might have been just an up and down guy with the Dodgers where it would have taken something super unfortunate like one of them getting hurt for me to get my chance. And you don’t want to rely on someone getting hurt to get your chance. Career-wise, it was great. But I came up with Corey Seager and Joc Pederson and you create these lasting relationships – and you feel like that gets ripped out of your hands immediately.

In 2017, you finally got extended playing time for the first time and hit 30 home runs in just 473 at bats. Can you summarize that season looking back for us?

Looking back now, it was a whirlwind of a season. The end stat line was great, but that was the year I got hurt in early June and never recovered from that. I dove for a ball and tore my labrum in my left shoulder. I worked through it that season and to hit 30 home runs in 473 at bats was pretty good. I missed like a month and a half because of the shoulder injury. Now that my career is over, looking back that injury was the turning point in my career. It debilitated what I wanted to do at the plate. So when I look back at that year, I have the good memory of hitting 30 home runs, but overall that was the turning point in the wrong direction for my career because of that injury, which kinda stinks.

I can see how that is a mixed bag type of year for sure. You spent four years on the Reds and I wanted to ask about a teammate of yours who will go down as one of the all-time great Reds: Joey Votto. First, what was it like seeing him day in and day out during some of those great seasons?

He’s just remarkable. There’s no other words to say. In 2016 he batted .408 in the second half of the season. Watching that day in and day out was incredible. I have played with some absolute superstars and I have never seen anyone that locked in for an extended period of time. His on base percentage was around .600 too in the second half. It was a daily thing that was unbelievable. I got to hit leadoff in front of him the next year and got so many good pitches to hit. Pitchers were like, “Joey’s hitting behind him, we can’t give this guy any cookies up there.” It was a pleasure to witness.

Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto (19), left, and Cincinnati Reds right fielder Scott Schebler (43) after Schebler's solo home run against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning on Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Ill. (Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

Is Joey Votto a Hall of Famer?

In my opinion, he is a Hall of Famer. I think most people will see him that way. Having played with him and seeing the type of person he is every day, I think he’s a Hall of Famer. It’s unfortunate that he hasn’t played on a winning team and I think that’s one of the places where analytics shines in highlighting just what he has done. It’s baseball though, one player can’t carry a team. In a situation like that, I think it’s good to lean on analytics. To me, when you look at Joey’s stats, you’d say that if he was in the perfect situation, he would have won some championships. He would have been a superstar on any team he played for, but it was unfortunate that he never had that great team around him. He was a part of some great teams, but he maybe was on only one or two teams that had a legitimate chance at a World Series.

From a fan’s perspective, he also seems like a pretty hysterical character. Is he like that with his teammates too?

It’s a very dry humor that he has. My last year there he grabbed the mic on the bus and would do these skits. He would spend time on them and the delivery would be excellent. He strove for excellence in every single thing he did. He was one of the funniest guys around. Anytime he grabbed the mic you didn’t know what was gonna happen, but you knew you were gonna be dying laughing.

I’m positive that’s the case. I wanted to ask too about the changes we’ve seen in baseball in recent years. You were active in professional ball from 2010-2022 and last in the majors in 2021, so you have seen some major changes during that time. What are your thoughts on the way the game has evolved?

I’ve had a lot of conversations about this. Some guys fought it at first, but eventually you had to make an adjustment. I wish the shift would have went away five years ago because that would have helped my career and would have helped me mentally. I think we’ll look back at this period before the big changes and look at league-wide stats and be like, “What happened? Why did the whole league hit so low for that many years in a row?” We’re gonna have to reevaluate those years. Human nature is to forget how things change. You start moving on to new stuff and that becomes the norm. We’re going to look back at this period as a time of innovation in the game. I do believe in the new rules. I think the pitch clock is amazing. You watch a game now and it doesn’t seem to drag like it used to. The next generation is coming up and you want to appeal to younger fans. There’s more action on the bases and that appeals to them. Some of the older players are fighting it, and I understand that from a competitive standpoint. You’ve played one way for 15 years and now you have to change. It’s hard to do that in such a routine-oriented sport. It’s a tough pill to swallow and I do get it, but I am a fan of the new rules. I was in AAA in 2022 when they tried the pitch clock out there.

Scott Schebler #44 scores on a sacrifice fly hit by David Fletcher #22 of the Los Angeles Angels as Jose Trevino #23 of the Texas Rangers awaits the throw during the third inning of a game as umpire Brennan Miller #55 signals safe at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on April 20, 2021 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Those are some great points. It’s great to be able to talk to a player who lived through those changes and what it was like for them. Your last year in the Majors was in 2021 when you spent some time with the Angels. That was Shohei Ohtani’s MVP season. I have to ask what it was like to have been teammates with him and see that up close.

There aren’t a whole lot of words to say. What he does is unbelievable and he’s a great human being as well. The amount of work you have [put in] to do that is incredible. People don’t see what he does behind the scenes, but its hours and hours of work every day to get ready to do these things. And on top of it, if they put him in the outfield, he would become a great outfielder. He can absolutely just haul. He can really run. The years he’s having now, I don’t think we’ll see again in my lifetime, but with the evolution of the game, who knows. He’s the first person besides Babe Ruth to do it to this level, so kids coming up now are going to want to do it. I think GMs are going to look at him and realize they can manage the workload of a player to make it work. I do think we’ll see more of it in the future. But Shohei is a unicorn. There’s no other way to say it.

I totally agree. I don’t know that people will be able to do it to the level he can, but I think you’ll see more players who can contribute on both sides. But what Shohei does is just amazing.

I got to hit a bunch of BP with him in spring training. People were parking their cars in different spots because he was hitting balls where they weren’t hit before. People don’t realize how much juice he has. It’s just unbelievable. He hit balls to places that I would have to use one of the old drop-five bats to even come within 50 feet of him and I’m someone who prides myself on having good power. I thought I had decent power, then I saw Shohei. I was walking out of the cage wondering what I was doing with my life and if I should be in a different group.

This has been an awesome conversation and a great way to end the year for Spitballin’! I appreciate you taking the time to talk. Last question for you. You’re less than two years away from being active so I am hoping you’re relaxing and enjoying starting the next phase in your life, but if an opportunity opened up to return to baseball, would you consider that?

If a big league job opened up, I’d really consider it, but I don’t think that would happen. But as far as grinding through the minor leagues and coaching, I’m not so sure. I always struggled with the lifestyle of baseball. The travelling, the hotel life, staying in a hotel for hours a day waiting for a game in some random city. I always struggled with what to do with my down time. I love fishing and hunting and you can’t really do that when you’re on the road during the season. A coaching role might be less stressful than being a player, but I don’t know that I want to jump back in right away. People only see the games. They don’t see the hours and work behind the scenes. I pride myself on being someone who can go and build a career in something else and am looking into that now. I’m excited to be able to do something where I can be stationary and not have to move every three days!

Rocco is a baseball writer with too much time on his hands who lives in the dusty corners of Baseball Reference. He was one half of the battery for the 1986 Belleville Recreation Farm League Champion Indians. He likes early 20th century baseball nicknames, pullover polyester jerseys and Old Hoss Radbourn. He works as a College Athletics Director and his second book was released in April of 2021.

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