By Rodger M. Wood
What A Difference A Year Makes!
Hitting #2 in a strong 300 hitter loaded Aberdeen batting order, 22-year old left fielder Kipp Schutz is feasting off NY/PA League pitching with a 344 BA, 3 HR, and 27 RBI in 154 AB in 41 games played.
The Baltimore Orioles have thought highly of this youngster since Day One, drafting him twice, 30th after high school in 2006 and 19th in 2009 after his torrid junior 392 BA, 5 HR, 34 RBI season at Big 10 Indiana University, where he also played varsity basketball as a walk on his junior year.
After signing in June, 2009 he was immediately assigned to Rookie A Bluefield where he struggled at the plate in July but hit over 340 in August to finish his 40-game season of Appalachian League ball with a misleading 252 BA, 1 HR, and 15 RBI.
Schutz explained his slow start. “I was injured most of July and hit about 202 for the month, but improved the month of August hitting about 350 and raising my batting average 50 points to 252.”
While fully recovered from his injuries and eligible to advance to full season Low A Delmarva out of spring training this past April, the Orioles held him back in extended spring training.
The young outfielder thinks that decision and his hard work last winter were the reasons for his hitting improvement at Aberdeen this season.
“Bluefield was a struggle. During the off season I worked out with Dodgers coach and Yankee great, Don Mattingly and his son, Preston, then was held back in extended spring training, which was a blessing because I could work on my hitting, and all those other little things you can’t during the regular season.”
Iron Birds hitting coach, Leo Gomez thinks Schutz’ hard work in extended spring paid back
“He goes to the plate now more focused, confident, organized, relaxed, and looking for his pitch. He is a 100% consistent, has a good 2-strike approach, and is the kind of hitter you want up there in a tight situation. He doesn’t swing at everything and waits for a pitch he can drive.”
The youngster is not resting on his laurels.
“I’m working on everything at Aberdeen. In the right situations, I want to be able to lay a bunt down, hit to the opposite field, advance the runners, and get a better jump on fly balls.”
Coach Gomez thinks he also needs to work more on his defense .
“When a hitter hits like he does, you don’t want to say too much to him, just look for your pitch to hit. He will be line drive hitter like Joe Orsulak, but he needs to work on his throws, hitting the cutoff man, throwing to the right base, and becoming stronger. If he learns to do these things well, he has a good chance to advance.”
In the bottom of the 11th inning of a 5-5 tie against the Tri City Valley Cats in late July, the young hitter remembered his coach’s advice. He took a couple pitches, made the opposing right hander throw a strike and drilled a walk off grand slam homerun over the right field fence to win the game 9-5.
Oh, what difference a year makes!