From The Dugout
By Keith LeClair
for pitch with Nick Schnabel
thought this week readers would enjoy hearing from one of our own former
great Pirates, Nick Schnabel, who is currently on Coach Randy Mazey's
staff at East Carolina.
you probably remember watching Nick play on the great 1999 and 2000
teams as the second baseman and number two hitter.
In all my years of coaching, Nick Schnabel was the best defensive player
I have coached or played against. He had the softest and quickest
release, and that allowed him to do about anything with a baseball.
Later you will find out how he developed those hands.
After playing two years with the Pirates, Nick was drafted by the
Montreal Expos and went on to play four years in their minor league
system. I asked Nick some questions that I think a lot of fans would be
interesting in hearing, so sit back and enjoy Nick Schnabel's reflection
on his professional baseball career:
Having experienced playing professional baseball for almost four years,
what was the biggest difference between pro ball and college baseball?
A. Playing at East Carolina, the goal was to get to Omaha. That's why we
played so that the team would succeed. In pro ball every one wants to
move up the ladder. They play for themselves rather than the team.
Q. Explain the difference in mentally preparing to play a 142-game
professional schedule versus a 56-game collegiate one.
A. You really have to take everything in stride. Not getting too high or
to low. It's a long season and you have to realize you're going to have
some peaks and valleys.
Q. How big of an adjustment is it for college players going from
aluminum bats to wood?
A. It's a big adjustment. That's why I feel that summer ball played with
wooden bats is so important for these college guys. A lot of those "jam
shots" or balls off the end of the bat are going to be outs rather than
bloop base hits.
Q. Do you think college baseball should switch back to wooden bats?
A. Yes. But it will never happen. Everyone wants to see the long ball.
You put a wooden bat in some of these college guys' hands and scoring
would go way down. Then you would have to play some real baseball,
bunting, stealing bags, hit and run.
Q. Everyone talks about the adjustment college players have to make in
swinging wood, but as a second baseman what types of things did you have
to learn concerning the pivot? We all know middle guys are protected in
college, but in pro ball you're fair game.
A. I was fortunate enough to learn at a fairly young age to hop and get
out of the runner's way. On close double plays, I came across the bag,
clearing myself as I caught the ball. I had pretty good hands, which
helped me get the ball off to first base pretty quick. I got hit a few
times, but I was in the air, allowing me to take a bruise rather than a
torn knee ligament.
Q. Take us through a season where you were moved up and down about seven
times. How tough is it to adjust to the different managers and styles in
the mid stream of a season?
A. It was pretty tough moving seven times. Looking back on it, I'm glad
it happened. I played with some awesome guys and learned more that
season than any other. I had Tommy John as a coach. What a great
experience! It wasn't tough adjusting to the managers. They knew what
they were getting from me, they knew what kind of player I was. My game
didn't change. I showed up and got after it regardless of my manager.
Q. Did you find managers having the same goals as the players in trying
to make it to the big leagues? How do managers balance out trying to
win, but more importantly develop players?
A. Yes and no. A few managers I had wanted to move up and eventually
manage in the big leagues. But some were content with where they were
at, helping younger guys get there.
Q. Now that you're coaching at ECU, how different is it than playing?
A. It's a little different. But I feel good out there. I always knew
that I wanted to coach so the transition has been smooth. You're still
competing out there and that's something that won't go away.
Q. What would you advise an 18-year old kid drafted out of high school
thinking about signing to play professional baseball?
A. If you're not going to get enough money to set yourself up for life,
go to college. I can't tell you how many kids I've played with that
signed for $20,000 that got released two years later. Now they have no
education, can't play in college, and probably no money left. Pro ball
is a grind, you had better be ready not only physically but mentally.
Q. Do you think the game has changed at all over the last ten years.
A. I think the emphasis on the long ball and scoring a bunch of runs has
taken over. You see less attention given to defense and the little
things — bunting, stealing bases. Although I find it interesting looking
at the current world champs, a team that played good defense and did all
the little things.
Q. OK, I am putting you on the spot. How bad is steroid use in the game
A. Bad!!! Minors on up. It's almost like if you haven't taken steroids
there is something wrong with you. Organizations know their players are
using. That's a fact, but they don't care. The "do whatever it takes"
approach is where players are at today. Because if you don't, you might
be out of a job.
Q. Can MLB do anything to stop it?
A. They could try to test everyone, but the players' union would not
agree to that. I think the fact is they don't want to. Take away all
those home runs, do you think those stadiums sell out? Do you think
television ratings would be as high? No way. Not to mention the fan
backlash if they found out most of the position guys are on the juice.
Q. You're commissioner for one day. What would you do to the game, as
far as making any changes?
A. That's a tough question. I don't really know. I wouldn't change the
Pete Rose ban like Selig might do.
Q. Tell the readers what your HS coach made you do to have better hands.
A. Juggle. If you can juggle and get good at it, you can catch a ground
ball and react to funny hops. Get away from the video games, go outside
and throw a ball off the wall until it gets dark. Practice!
Q. Last question. What was your greatest ECU moment in baseball.
A. This is my favorite question because I have so many great memories
from 1999 and 2000. I would have to say scoring the winning run in the
conference tournament against VCU. It epitomized one of Coach Leclair's
teams —play hard all game, fight and claw until it is over.
Fire your best pitch at
Sound off to Coach LeClair...
02.23.07 10:27 AM