Stepping up to the plate in this episode of C’s Chat is 2019 Vancouver Canadians infielder Trevor Schwecke.
The 21 year-old Wisconsin native came to the Toronto Blue Jays organization after being selected in the 13th round of the 2019 MLB draft from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He received a signing bonus of $125,000.
There was plenty of interest from major league teams about the 6-foot-1 Schwecke during the final day of the draft.
“I was actually in Milwaukee at my house with my Mom, my stepdad, my girlfriend and my couple of friends were there too. I was talking with my agent saying, ‘I got a lot of calls and a lot of texts in the morning saying ‘Hey, are you still interested in going this year?’ As a junior, I still had a year of eligibility and I can go back.
I got a lot of texts from different scouts asking, ‘Hey, I’m just making sure you’re still interested’ or whatnot. My agent pretty much told me, he’s like ‘You’re going to go pretty early here. You might not go until like the 10th or 11th (round). I’ve been hearing a lot that you’re going to go like right like after that.
I got a call from the Phillies scout and said, ‘Hey, we’ll give you what you want. It just might not be until later like in the 17th or 18th (round).’ My agent was pretty much like, ‘He’s going to go before that so like, if you want him, make sure you (draft him).’
I got a call about five picks before (being drafted by the Jays). My agent was pretty much like, ‘Hey, we just got a call from the Blue Jays asking for what you wanted.’ I said, ‘Yeah?’ He’s like, ‘There’s a chance you could go there.’ And so we were just kind of sitting there waiting, watching the (draft) ticker go by and then he texted me about two picks before. He was like, “There’s a good chance this happens right here.’ And then I just kind of heard my name. I was with my Mom, my stepdad and my girlfriend so I see them all and I just gave them a big hug. It was a pretty emotional moment.”
Blue Jays scout Wes Penick was the one who went to bat for Schwecke at the draft.
“I knew (the Blue Jays) were interested. Wes, the area scout for the Midwest. I think he might have been the first scout to contact me so I met with him. It was probably early in the winter when I was out and he came to one of our indoor practices actually. We practice inside a basketball arena. I don’t think he was probably expecting that but we were on hardwood floors taking ground balls or whatnot. I met with him after, filled out a questionnaire and just got to know him a little better.
I didn’t hear a ton of contact from him throughout the spring. I knew that there were cross-checkers and various scouts watching me throughout the spring but I heard from him when he got closer to the draft. I knew they were definitely in the top three that I knew that were in play for me.”
Born in Marshfield, Wisconsin, Schwecke says it was a challenge to get on the diamond during his high school days due to the climate.
“Obviously in Wisconsin, the weather’s not too permitting. We would get outside. I remember in high school, we had games slated for March and April. There was one year we wouldn’t play our first game until it was the like the end of April so we got in about 20 to 25 games which is what you got to schedule for but you’re supposed to come in earlier obviously.
Most high school teams are either playing in March down south and we would try to schedule games in Florida but it just never worked out. It’s a grind. It’s a challenge to not only physically to get outside but mentally to kind of stay focused throughout the season when you’re practicing like on a gym floor or whatever.
Then it changed when I went to Milwaukee, obviously, a little bit better facilities and whatnot. We have a turf facility that we use about twice a week at a hitter’s academy.
Even then, we were travelling the opening weeks, the first month, we were travelling all down south. Fly down on a Thursday and get back Monday at 2:00 am to do the exact same thing next week, do the same thing next week, the same thing next week so it’s a lot of traveling to start off but we’re obviously very fortunate to be able to go down south and play.
It’s a grind. It’s the simplest way to put it. It’s a grind to be able to stay mentally focused and physically locked in to practice.”
During his three seasons at UW-Milwaukee, Schwecke captured Second Team Horizon League honours in his first two years before earning First Team honours this season. The actuarial sciences and statistics major was also exceptional in the classroom by attaining the highest academic honour possible as he was named to the Academic All-America Division I Baseball Team.
Schweck of All Trades
One always has to keep a close eye on the scorecard to find out where Schwecke is playing on any given night. So far with the Canadians, he has seen time at first base, second base, third base and shortstop. Playing different positions is nothing new to the 6-foot-1 infielder. It became a necessity for him when he suited up for the UW-Milwaukee Panthers and the Madison Mallards of the Northwoods League.
“I kind of grew up playing shortstop my whole life. My Milwaukee coach (Scott Doffek) took pride in getting me as versatile and athletic as possible to play multiple positions because he pretty much says it’s about the at-bats that you get right when you come up in professional baseball. He said you want to see as much pitching as possible and be ready to play different positions.
My freshman year when I came in, I was kind of primarily a shortstop but my third baseman got injured so I played third that entire year. That summer I went in to play third but the coming year I came back and practiced at short all fall, all winter.
My second baseman went down and we had a freshman shortstop and was a lot more comfortable at short so I pretty much said, ‘Yeah, I’ll move over to second.’ It’s a little bit different in arm slot, a little bit different reads but I’m comfortable over there so I played second. I had a pretty good season over there.
That summer for the Mallards, I pretty much played second, third, short. I played about four or five games in the outfield and played one or two games at first. It’s kind of like a process of learning as much as I possibly can to play all the various positions.”
Madhouse in Madison
Playing in front of large crowds at Nat Bailey Stadium is not something that has fazed Schwecke. He says it’s similar to what he experienced at Warner Park, aka “The Duck Pond”, in Madison.
“It’s crazy. Those Madison fans are unbelievably crazy but they’re the best. To go out and play in front of 6,500 fans at night. It’s a lot different feel than in this ballpark because the ballpark (Warner Park in Madison) is smaller in general but it’s so enclosed. You got fans in left field and right field and fans all around the stadium. It’s a lot more compact.
It gets crazy loud here but it gets really loud in Madison just because it’s so smaller. I remember the first couple of games, I was like, ‘Holy crap!’ I played in front of like 20 people at (University-Wisconsin) Milwaukee and I’m not used to this. It was an amazing experience. Donnie Scott, the head coach, and Vern Stenman the GM obviously gave me a great opportunity there and I thanked them a bunch for that so it was a fun experience.”
The Northwoods League may not be the first summer collegiate league that comes to mind for most fans but Schwecke believes his two seasons with Eau Claire and Madison helped his development.
“People always talk about the Cape Cod League. It’s a pitcher-dominant league and you’re going to face the best arms every time you go out there. I think more importantly the Northwoods gets you ready for the daily grind, the schedule that you get to face in pro ball. You play in the Cape, I’m not sure exactly how long their season is but you know it’s not 72 games in 77 days like we had.
There was a stretch in the beginning when I wasn’t performing very well, I was only playing three or four times a week but once I got going. I played a stretch where I think I played 18, 19 straight and that just gets you, I mean more than physically, it gets you mentally ready for professional baseball.
You come out here, you’re halfway through (the first half of the first half). Right now, everybody’s talking about ‘Man, it’s just feels like we’ve been here forever.’ We’re a third of the way through, not even. (laughs)
Like I said, mentally it just gets you prepared and you get locked into baseball. It’s nice now because in the summer obviously you’re focused on going back to school and academics and all that stuff. Here, we’re getting paid to play baseball and I think it’s honestly easier than the grind it was in the Northwoods.”
The Northwoods League also gave Schwecke his first exposure to the Great White North.
“I remember just driving through (on the way to Thunder Bay) and I was like, ‘Damn, it is beautiful up here in Canada.’ When we flew into Vancouver, I was blown away by how nice it was up here. The people in general are just so nice and the atmosphere is so great. It’s never too hot, never too cold, great weather. I’m in love with it. (laughs)”
Before being drafted by the Blue Jays, Schwecke says he was a fan of the Milwaukee Brewers.
“Primarily, yeah. My whole family was kind of more Twins fans so at a younger age, I was pulled towards the Twins. My whole family was from Minnesota. All my relatives went to the University of Minnesota and they all loved the Twins and went to as many Twins games as possible. My whole Dad’s (family) line, like my aunt and my uncle, all of them live up there so I was kind of dragged into being a Twins fan.
When I moved to Milwaukee, being closer to Miller Park and also like with the Milwaukee Bucks, I was in love with the city and I was in love with the team.”
A recently-retired Minnesota Twin was Schwecke’s favourite player as a youngster.
“Growing up, watching Joe Mauer, even though he was a catcher, I just idolized how much of an athlete he was. Great mentality, his attitude towards the game too. I mean, you just love that. Being a shortstop, I just loved watching (Derek) Jeter too. I watched as much of him as I possibly could.”
After a tough start to his pro career, the 21 year-old Schwecke is finding his stride. He rattled off three straight two-hit games June 19-21 but the season highlight so far was a five-hit eruption against the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes July 6. The 6-foot-1 right-handed hitter says he was not exactly feeling the greatest before the game.
“It’s honestly kind of funny because the morning of (the game), I woke up and I just had this throbbing pain in my left palm. I talked to Luke (Luke Greene), our trainer, about it. He was like, ‘Are you going to be playing?’ I’m like, ‘I don’t know. It’s been bugging me for like the last 24 hours.’ Like swinging with the knob obviously on my palm, I’m like ‘It’s kind of been killing me a little bit but I’m like no, I’m going to push through it obviously. I’m going to play.’
I remember him coming up to me after the game. He said, ‘Thank God I didn’t tell you to not play!’
Baseball is such a funny game where you can just be feeling it one day, you can wake up the next day, something can change but when you’re seeing the ball well obviously, it’s a lot more enjoyable and you get a lot more and you get a lot more relaxed, especially when our team was absolutely on fire that game.
When you get that mentality, you get that rhythm, nobody wants to make the last out of the inning so you just get a lot more confidence in everybody.”
Getting used to the level of pitching in the Northwest League is something Schwecke is dealing with.
“One of the biggest adjustments I’m making is to the pitching. The pitching’s obviously a little bit different coming from a mid-major. At UW-Milwaukee, you’re facing 88-90 (miles per hour fastball) which is usually pretty straight, probably a good secondary (pitch). Now you’re getting here and you’re facing 90-92, up to 98 with a pretty sharp slider and a lot of movement on their ball.
I think it’s just making the approach I’ve been making. I came in here thinking I’m going to see a faster-paced velocity, I got to make sure I’m getting down early and thinking pull side but you just got to stay with what your approach has been that’s going to let you be successful.
Playing everyday, you kind of get that mentality of if you have a bad game the day before, it’s easy to just like focus on that and be down on that but here, you’re playing every single day so you got to kind of flush it and get ready for the next day.
Versus college, you play Friday, Saturday and Sunday, you got to wait another four or five days to play so you’re just thinking about the mistakes you made but here, you pretty much get instant feedback. It’s a normal job so you get to go from day to day and knowing that you’re getting better.”
Looking back on his baseball journey, Schwecke lists two family members, a former major leaguer and his son for helping him reach the professional level.
“Some of the biggest influences were my family with my Dad and my brother (former University of Minnesota pitcher Aaron Schwecke). They developed an early passion for the game. They pretty much instilled that in me.
Growing up, playing with Daulton Varsho (Double-A catcher with Arizona) and (former major league outfielder) Gary Varsho and that entire family has pretty much put just countless hours with me and went to go out of their way no matter what for me. I came to University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee pretty much because Daulton’s Dad talked to our head coach and told him to give me a chance and so I basically got a walk-on spot there.
I idolized Daulton and his work ethic. Everything that he does on and off the field. He’s such a humble person too. Such a great guy to be around. He’s pretty much instilled the passion for the game in me too.”
Schwecke will celebrate his 22nd birthday on December 18.
Thanks a million again to Trevor Schwecke for taking the time to talk in this episode of C’s Chat. You can follow him on Twitter @TSchwecke03. Also a tip of the cap to C’s Media Relations Assistant Jordy Cunningham for arranging the interview.