Baseball: Schmitz wraps up North Marion career in style
Try as he might, Andy Schmitz can't seem to walk away from high school baseball. Despite officially finishing his career with the North Marion Huskies in a 1-0 loss in the state semifinals to the La Grande Tigers on May 29, the 2018 Oregon West Conference Player of the Year keeps finding ways to put on that familiar green and white uniform this summer.
Two weeks after the Huskies fell shy of their state championship aspirations, Schmitz represented the team in the 2018 4A All-Star series in Roseberg, helping the North sweep the South in three games to capture this year's series.
The event is an annual celebration of the best graduating seniors in the state at the 4A level, featuring a veritable all-star team of talent on both sides of the field. After the North won the first game 16-6 on June 16 and followed with wins of 11-7 and 16-3, respectively, on June 17, Schmitz was named series Most Valuable Player.
"It's a great feeling to know that I played like I know I can," Schmitz said. "It turned out in my favor. I was proud of myself. The other players were proud of me and it was fun to play with and it was."
Heading into the series, Schmitz admitted he was a bit apprehensions about suiting up and joining forces with a bunch of players he had been striving to beat throughout his high school career. But at least he wasn't alone.
While Schmitz was the lone North Marion athlete to suit up for the All-Star Series, he wasn't the only one wearing Husky green in the dugout. North Marion head coach Randy Brack, and assistant coaches Ty and Tucker Brack were selected to coach the North, giving Schmitz a trio of familiar faces to play with over the weekend.
And with the Bracks by his side, and the wins coming in, all former rivalries seemed to melt away in the blink of an eye.
"The most fun part was probably getting to play under the Bracks," Schmitz said. "Going in I thought it was going to be kind of difficult to play with some guys who have been rivals the last few years. Once I showed up, it became kind of easy to get to know them. Now they seem like friends and teammates. They're really fun to play with once you get to know them. It didn't take long to bond and develop good chemistry."
Being named the best player in a series featuring the best players in the state would have been a good enough way to cap his high school career, but Schmitz was back at Bob Brack Stadium less than two weeks later, suiting up for the Bracks in the North Willamette Valley uniform for the Huskies' Triple-A team on June 27.
Schmitz has been living in Tacoma, Wash. over the summer, preparing to play collegiately for Pacific Lutheran University. But as many former North Marion players can attest, when the Bracks call, it's hard to ignore the phone.
"They really know how to run a club," Schmitz said. "They really know how to make it a successful positive environment."
Schmitz began playing under Randy and Ty in eighth grade as a part of the Huskies' summer legion team and has been an integral part of the program over the past four-plus seasons. Tucker Brack joined the coaching staff when Schmitz was a sophomore, and they've been an instrumental part of his growth as a baseball player.
Under the Bracks, Schmitz earned First Team All-Conference honors in each of his last three seasons, was an All-State Honorable Mention as a sophomore and an All-State First Team honoree his senior season.
"A lot of the game is mental and they understand that," Schmitz said. "They help us with our approach, how we should be approaching the game. Every at-bat. Every pitch. Your team can only go so far without good coaching, and it's awesome to have coaches like that in all aspects of the game."
Making the accomplishments even more impressive is the number of injuries Schmitz had to endure over the course of his high school career. Elbow surgery as a sophomore, wrist surgery as a junior and a torn left labrum for much of this season wasn't enough to slow down Schmitz, who led the Huskies in a number of statistical categories this year, including batting average, hits and steals.
"I was really proud about how I was able to overcome those injuries," Schmitz said.
Following his sophomore season, Schmitz blew out his elbow in the second to last game of the summer legion season in Medford, putting his junior season in jeopardy. After getting the elbow surgically repaired, Schmitz was cleared to hit his junior year.
He played little to no defense his junior year, and played the whole season with torn cartilage in his left wrist, requiring surgery over the summer to repair the damage, but he was still named to the All-Conference First Team after the season.
Schmitz made it about halfway through this season before suffering another injury, diving back to first on a pickoff attempt against Newport in the first game of the series. As he dove into the base, the impact jolted his shoulder, partially tearing the labrum, the piece of cartilage attached to the rim of the shoulder socket that helps keep the ball of the joint in place.
Schmitz played the second game of the series, but sat out the final game after the discomfort became too much of an issue. As luck would have it, that series led into a two-week break for the Huskies, courtesy of Yamhill-Carlton shuttering its varsity program midway through the season. When North Marion returned to action 16 days after Schmitz's injury, he was ready to go.
"It was actually really good timing," Schmitz said.
Schmitz's final game under the Bracks came July 1 in a double-header at home. From here, he'll continue his career in Tacoma under a new coaching staff for Pacific Lutheran, which began recruiting him to the Lutes at the end of his junior season. While he's still getting to know his new teammates, Schmitz says the PLU coaching staff is similar to that of North Marion, making it a perfect transition heading into the next stage.
But one things for sure, he'll never forget the time he spent with the Huskies, the memories he helped create with his teammates and how much his coaching staff helped foster and grow his love for the game.
"One of the things I'll be able to look back over the last four years was playing under the Bracks and the group of guys I got to grow up with and play in high school," Schmitz said. "The last four teams I've played on, I've loved each and every guy I played on that team."