Blake Schmit Standing Tall for Sioux Falls Canaries
The name of the position is a sort of irony if you get down to it. Shortstop gives the impression that smaller sized players man the position on the field, but men like Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and Cal Ripken, Jr. not only are among the biggest names in the history of the game, but also have stood tall and produced huge numbers from a position that traditionally was reserved for a guy with a great glove and an acceptable enough bat.
The American Association has their own heavy hitter lighting up the league. He is not a guy with big power numbers, but simply delivers big hits and gets on base, setting the table for his offense. In his first season in the league, he has quickly made a name for himself and is standing among the elite shortstops in the league, being chosen to represent the North in the American Association All-Star Game. He is Sioux Falls Canaries shortstop Blake Schmit.
Developing a Love for Baseball
Most professional baseball players will tell you that baseball was always their first passion. This is not the truth for Blake Schmit. He developed a love for basketball early on, but over the years he found baseball to the sport he wanted to play most often. The Eden Prairie, MN resident started to focus more of his time on the diamond and it began to pay off.
At Eden Prairie High School he starred for the Eagles. In 2010 he helped lead the team to the Minnesota state baseball title and was named to the all-state and all-conference team. He was also on the 2011 American Legion team that won the World Series and was voted the George W. Rulon Player of the Year. The skies were the limit for Blake, and it was because of his parents that he credits the success he has had.
“My parents have been amazing. They have supported me more than I could have imagined. Anything I have ever needed I know I can turn to them. My dad has taught me to be such a hard-worker and that has helped me succeed in this game. His support is something I simply cannot put words to.”
Giving It the Old College Try
After graduating high school, Blake spent a couple of years in community college, attending Dallas Baptist University. There he was blessed to have Dan Fitzgerald as his coach, a man who had great influence in helping the shortstop to take his game to a new level.
“Dan Fitzgerald at Dallas Baptist University was really good at making us players mentally tough just by the way that he ran things. Him and my dad are two of the biggest inspirations for me.”
In 2013, Schmit transferred to the University of Maryland where he was a big addition to the Terrapins’ lineup. His junior season he played in 55-games, hitting .277 with 38-runs scored while driving in 30. His hit total (54) and runs scored were second on the team and he had 14 contests where he had at least two-hits. It was not just in his bat that he was making contributions. He only made five errors in the field and was an integral part of the success of the Maryland baseball team.
In 2014, he had an even bigger year. Blake hit .309, second on the team and 18th overall in the ACC. He was first on the team in extra-base hits (20) and also lead the team in doubles (18). His 18 stolen bases ranked him eighth in the conference and he was named to the ACC All-Tournament Team.
The Greatest Dream of All
The success of his senior season garnered a lot of interest from Major League organizations. Blake Schmit was clearly a player that a lot of teams knew would be ideal in their organization, however, one pulled the trigger on selecting him and Blake could not have been happier.
He was drafted in the 26th round by the Minnesota Twins, giving Blake the opportunity to play for his hometown team.
“It was a dream come true. You grow up just 20 or so miles from where the Twins play and then to be drafted by them. It’s hard to express how excited I was by that opportunity.”
Coming out of college, Blake was sent to Elizabethton, the Twins rookie league team. There he played in 22-games, hitting .162 with 9-runs scored and 4-RBI.
The next season he split time between three different levels. He started in the Gulf Coast League, but moved to Mid-A Cedar Rapids later that season. He hit .226 there, and was moved to High-A Fort Myers. He struggled overall between the three levels, hitting a combined .248 with 2-homers and 19-RBI in 36-games.
Sadly, the Twins organization did not give Blake much of an opportunity and he was released at the end of the season. It looked like his dream may have been coming to an end, but that is when the idea of playing independent ball opened up to him.
“I get released at the end of March from the Twins. It was like six or seven hours after I was released that the Canaries called me and asked if I was interested in playing for them. I was looking to see what my options were and after weighing my options found that Sioux Falls was the best option for me.”
Proving He Has What It Takes
Blake Schmit joined the Sioux Falls Canaries for the 2016 American Association season. This was his opportunity to prove to those other clubs that they had made a mistake in not giving him a closer look. That is exactly what he has done this season.
In 64-games he has hit .319 with 4-homers and 20-RBI. He has also scored 42-runs. His .319 average is tied for 10th in the American Association. His performance earned him a spot as a reserve on the American Association, and he will be playing before his hometown crowd in St. Paul, MN.
The success he has had with the Sioux Falls Canaries has really helped to bolster his confidence this season. It has come by regaining his approach at the plate and returning to the things that help him to be successful at the plate.
“I am just focusing on one pitch at a time. If things don’t go my way, I just try to erase that and move on. I just want to play hard every single pitch. Every single pitch I’m just trying to do something positive, to get quality at-bats.”
Why Blake has been so good for the Canaries is because he doesn’t let a slump at the plate stop him from helping his team in other ways. He is not only an outstanding hitter but a great defender, and has ensured that he is using all aspects of his game to help his team succeed.
“You know I am just looking to try to do everything I can to help this team the best way I can. I pride myself on my defense. I always feel like I have been a good defensive player. I just feel like I can make plus defensive plays. That has always been my game. This season I’ve been really seeing the ball well, getting on base a lot for our guys in the middle of the order, so I could score runs. I know when I am not having success in one way that I have to help out in others.”
While having such an outstanding season, Blake admits that there are things that he still has to work at to improve his game.
“I’ve had a few instances with umpires where I’ve been struggling and something doesn’t go my way and it’s hard to let go. You look back and you ask yourself if you’re going to get another opportunity, and when you get that opportunity you have the make the most of it. See, you just have to go out and play good defense and forget about the call and just move on. Nothing good is going to come from arguing with the umpires, but you can do something good if you focus on what is happening right then.”
Being Himself to Help Him Succeed
What makes Blake Schmit so successful is that what you see is what you get. There is no façade that he is putting on. He is not trying to be one way so that teammates will like or respect him more. The Canaries star is as genuine as it gets, and that is something that he takes great pride in.
“I just want to be myself on the field, in the locker room. I think people respect a guy that isn’t out here trying to be someone else. I think earning their respect by being myself is very important.”
And what kind of guy is Blake Schmit?
“I’m a pretty loose guy. I like to joke around with the guys and keep it as loose as possible. I understand that when you are tight and not playing loose the game is not a lot of fun and you are going to be putting added pressure on yourself. This is why I just want to be myself.”
Blake has set a personal goal that he wants to be the guy that opposing manager’s hate to see come to the plate. The guy that battles through every pitch and makes a pitcher work hard every time he comes to the plate. This season he has proven to have done just that.
The All-Star shortstop has proven to be one of the finest players in the league. He has already gained a reputation for his hard work and his ability on the field. There may be players that are taller than the 6-1, 195-pounder, but you can be sure that once game time comes around, no one will loom larger.
By Robert Pannier
Member of the IBWAA