A good third baseman needs a big bat, strong arm, soft glove, good field sense and lightning reflexes. It truly takes a special ballplayer to handle the proverbial hot corner, and after losing Brock Koman to the Houston Astros’ organization, Michigan coach Rich Maloney was in a bind.
But, in sophomore A.J. Scheidt, Maloney may have found his new man. After only one collegiate appearance at third base, the second baseman and former high school catcher was forced to adjust to a new position for the second time.
When he first came to Michigan, Scheidt was short on luck with Chicago Cubs’ draft pick Jake Fox behind the plate. And this season the Wolverines are set at catcher with junior Jeff Kunkel and sophomore Matt Rademacher. Scheidt tried his hand at second base and performed admirably last season, but with sophomore Chris Getz playing the position- a solid fielder who transferred from Wake Forest – Scheidt was again forced to change positions.
Now, with Koman gone and third base wide open, Maloney turned to Scheidt, knowing that all Scheidt needed was a chance.
“As a walk-on, (Scheidt) played games hard,” Maloney said. “He is just a scrappy player, so it was just a matter of finding a position to call his own.”
And with the incredible start Scheidt’s having, it seems as though he has finally found a home. Through the first eight games, Scheidt leads the team with a .452 batting average and 9 RBIs. Though his experience at other positions has helped, he is learning more every game about how to best handle the new position.
“The throw for a catcher from home plate to second is a fairly equidistant throw from third base to first base,” Scheidt said. “But for the most part, it is just getting a feel for where you are in the infield and making the throw.”
Maloney is impressed with his performance to date.
“He is doing extremely well,” Maloney said. “He’s made a few errors, but also a lot of nice plays. He’s grown immensely in a short amount of time, and is beginning to emerge as an outstanding player for this program.”
Scheidt gives a lot of credit to Maloney for his defensive development as a third baseman. Maloney spent many hours making sure Scheidt was prepared for the intricacies of handling the position.
“Working with (Maloney) a lot, he put us in every single situation possible,” Scheidt said. “(Third base) is a lot more reactionary, so indoors we take tons and tons of ground balls and make tons of throws just so we get that repetition.”
As for Scheidt’s outbreak at the plate, both he and Maloney point to his experience in the Northwood’s League last summer as the key. Unlike college, the league requires hitters to use wooden bats, and his 53 games of experience in that league helped Scheidt build patience and confidence. Coming back to the collegiate game and aluminum bats has increased Scheidt’s production.
“You feel more comfortable when you see what you can do,” Maloney said. “This picture is becoming much clearer for (Scheidt).”
Scheidt agreed, saying that his summer at-bats helped him see what he can do when given a chance day-in and day-out.
“This year I’ve become a lot more calm, a lot looser,” Scheidt said. “I’m just trying to stay relaxed at the plate and just be confident in the gifts that I’ve been given.”
Scheidt is hoping he can continue to spark his team to achieve their goals of a .965 fielding percentage and a Big Ten Championship. The Wolverines have a chance to extend their three game winning streak when they face Dayton, Kentucky and Youngstown State in Lexington, Kent. this weekend.