HOUSTON—Former Northwestern College baseball player Drew Schutt has seen the coronavirus change his 2020 baseball season more than once.
COVID-19 cut the season short for the Red Raiders, along with the rest of the college teams around the country, and it already has affected the team he will play for next.
Schutt, a shortstop and second baseman, signed a contract with the Salina Stockade in the Pecos League on May 27.
The Pecos League, which normally has 12 teams from the Midwest to the West Coast, will only have five teams this year. The league moved the entire operation to Houston and will feature its five teams playing on two fields.
The league will have a 10-day spring training period starting June 20 and will play a 36-game season July 1-Aug. 22.
Schutt, 23, is just excited to play baseball again.
“It’s a huge blessing to have the opportunity to play pro ball, especially this summer when in a lot of higher-up leagues and a lot of different minor league teams people are getting cut,” he said. “People are not going to have seasons or other teams aren’t going to play.”
Schutt said the Stockade will mostly play games Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Thursday. Even with the tight window of playing 36 games over 53 days, Schutt is looking forward to it and said it will be fun.
“With five teams sharing two fields it’s going to be interesting to see how the fields hold up and how players can get through the season,” he said.
His Northwestern baseball career ended Friday, March 13, after a doubleheader against Hastings College.
“That Wednesday evening we got together for practice, the whole team did, and coach (Brian) Wede gave us a rundown of what he thought was going to happen and how he thought everything was going to play out,” Schutt said. “He was up front and honest with us and said, ‘I wouldn’t put a lot of money on you playing anymore. If we can get through Friday’s games, that’s a blessing for us.’ That was something that a lot of other teams didn’t get to have.”
Schutt, a Montgomery, AL, native, said he and his teammates hoped and prayed they could play their doubleheader Friday. The Red Raiders were able to play and lost their first game 5-2.
“In between games, coach Wede got a call that this was going to be our last game,” Schutt said. “So we were one of the last teams in the country to actually play. Then we just happened to be able to finish out that last game and that was it. That was a really cool time for us because a lot of other sports teams showed up just because they knew it was going to be the last organized sports event on campus for the year.”
Schutt said he and his teammates huddled before the second game and talked about things.
“Guys were getting emotional,” he said. “Some of the seniors and some of the guys just got really upset about it and I said, ‘We just have to calm him down. We have to play this last game and just play for each other because it’s something that a lot of people don’t have. Play with the thought that this is our last game, but play for those who didn’t get this chance because this is something that’s special that we have this opportunity.’”
Northwestern won the second game 11-1 in eight innings.
Schutt led the Great Plains Athletic Conference in runs, hits, doubles, RBIs and total bases. He finished the shortened season fifth in the GPAC in home runs, eighth in slugging percentage and ninth in batting average.
“It was definitely a hard thing to swallow after getting off to a hot start,” he said. “Everybody wants to get off to a hot start. Everybody wants to be on top of their game, especially when you first start off. Nobody knew that the season was going to end that way.”
Schutt said one of his favorite memories at Northwestern was during a doubleheader against rival Dordt University in April of 2019 in Orange City. The Red Raiders won the first game 10-5 and hit a homer in every inning of the game. Northwestern won the second game 6-5 when Josh Fakkema hit a walk-off two-run homer to end it.
“That was a really exciting day for everyone to be a part of,” he said.
Schutt said while playing for Salina in Houston that he wants to play for people who cannot get out on the field and play themselves, specifically people with physical or mental disabilities.
“I want to put that in my mindset and just understand that a bad day on the field is still a day on the field,” he said. “I want to put that forward and say that has guided me to be a better player, relax and just focus on the blessings that God has given me. God has given me a blessing to go play pro ball and I think that in and of itself is just a steppingstone. All I can do is just play to the best of my abilities and do what I can to just honor those people who can’t play.”
Schutt said he will always remember the faith his coaches and teammates at Northwestern put in him.
“There was never a doubt in my mind that the team we had this year was a very special team,” he said. “It stinks that it got cut short. The memories that I made with the team and the support of the guys that I had on the field was something that I hope to experience again, but if I don’t that is something I’ll never forget.”