Jaime Schultz: Castleton's King

  • Name: Jaime Schultz
  • Age: 25
  • Organization: High Point Panthers, Durham Bulls, Tampa Bay Rays

(Photo courtesy: High Point Athletic Communications.)

Author: Patrick Kinas, DNAOfSports.com creator.

The story was always best told by Jaime Schultz’s grandfather.

Jaime was three years old and our family was on the beach throwing a whiffle ball around. A stranger comes up and asks if that is his grandson. He’s got a hell of an arm.

I think one day he’s going to be in the big leagues.

After years of heavy fastballs, injuries, surgeries and bouts of wildness, Schultz is a rising star in the Tampa Bay Rays organization. He’s migrated from miles away from Tropicana Field to mere blocks. He’s ascended from remote high school fields of New York to luminescent stages of Triple-A.

The fastball reaches 97mph now, but the story of how he arrived is not nearly as quick.

Schultz’s story is one of grand perseverance, dedication and trust.

Jaime Schultz was born in Albany Medical Hospital, growing in up Castelton-on-Hudson, New York, truncated by many to simply Castelton. His Maple High School class had only 96 walk through graduation ceremonies. The school was so small that it didn’t have a football team, and hasn’t for years. His dad played on the last Wildcat squad in the 90s. Most every kid played practically every sport, it’s how Maple High was able to field teams.

“We had a limited amount of sports to pick from,” Schultz recalled. “We basically had the same team of players our entire lives.”

“I was most talented in baseball, but really enjoyed soccer. We had four or five state titles, and I actually won one my sophomore year,” Schultz said. “I’m still the leading goal scorer at Maple Hill.”

But from Castleton to Durham and the cusp of the major leagues, life threw Schultz plenty of curveballs. He was passed over for the draft exiting Maple Hill, suffered an appendectomy, underwent Tommy John surgery and didn’t have any major college baseball opportunities upon graduation.

To his credit, Schultz has remained resolutely undeterred.

High School

“I was mainly an outfielder and shortstop,” Schultz recounted. “I never thought pitching was going to be my mainstay. I like to hit. I made some plays in the outfield. I hit leadoff, batted 2nd, 3rd. Pitching – well, I had a good arm and a decent breaking ball.”

“For the first three years, it was hit or miss. I had a lot of control issues. I had four no-hitters, but it didn’t seem like I knew what I was doing. My senior year, it kind of all clicked and I started throwing more strikes and I pitched in every one of our playoff games except for one.”

The problem was obvious. It had nothing to do with Schultz’s talent, more to do with Schultz’s location. Pro scouts tend to find players in every remote field in America, and now across the world. However, that doesn’t make getting there any easier. As the draft approaches, time is of the essence as scouts and cross-checkers criss-cross thousands of baseball fields.

“There just wasn’t much visibility,” Schultz said. “Being from the upstate, not a lot of guys make it up there to see us play. I had an Angels scout call me asking if I was pitching today, and the game wound up getting rained out. I called him back to ask if he was coming back tomorrow, no, I don’t have enough time. That was about the only contact I had out at the high school level.”

As a result, draft day was like any other for Schlultz. No hopes, no expectations. No phone calls.

“I was hopeful, confident in myself, but I really didn’t expect anything.”

The phone never rang.

College

The next questions for Schultz to answer was where he was going to college, and more importantly, which sport Schultz wanted to pursue.

“I had a few scholarship offers to play D1 soccer, but I didn’t feel there was much of a future in the game. It’s pretty hard to make a good living in that sport. The biggest school was Maine, and I don’t know if they even have their program anymore.”

They don’t. The Black Bears suspended their men’s soccer (and volleyball) program in 2009-10, which saved the athletic department nearly $250,000.

“I was always thinking a four-year school,” Schultz said. “My parents always told me that an education is very important. I had some letters from some big schools inviting me to walk on. I really wanted to go to Florida State. I don’t know why I became such a big Florida State fan, so I sent them a bunch of information on myself, but they never replied.”

“I got offered scholarship at the University of Albany, which I gave a verbal commitment to, but that was before I did any showcase tournaments. I went to Georgia and I threw four innings of one-hit ball against the Georgia Stars with a bunch of good players like Jason Heyward. Then I got asked to visit a few schools and a couple of guys I had been playing (on travel team) had been recruited to High Point.”

“I fell in love with it.”

“I’ve never seen anything like a school that was that beautiful,” Schultz said. “I fell in love with the campus. I met with Coach (Craig) Cozart, a great guy, and great coach. He told me that this was my 1st recruiting class and that we are going to be the first stepping stone of the program. I knew a couple of guys that were going there and I knew it was going to be a good core to the team.”

“When they called and asked me to come, I went to visit. I pulled up and I saw the electronic signs, I saw the signs that said welcome Jaime Schultz from Albany, NY. So that was pretty cool to see.”

“I started off as freshman, went through fall and started lifting. I never really lifted before. Holy crap, that was pretty intense and gained 20 lbs. I started as reliever, then started our last four games and was 2nd team all-conference. We were in the conference tourney, and I was throwing a 1 hit shutout. Then in the 4th inning, I threw a curveball and felt a pinch in my elbow. I threw two more fastballs and those felt good, still 90-1, then threw another curveball and knew something was up.”

“I had Tommy John surgery and sat the whole next year.

“I came back as reliever again, easing into it, pretty decent team, 3rd in conference, and ended up starting last four games again. I didn’t do too well in conference tourney. I came back for my redshirt junior year, broke my hand in winter, and started late again. I missed two games, but started back again as a reliever, then started the last six games. We were the 2-seed, thought we had a shot (to win the tourney), and I was scheduled to pitch 3rd game in tourney, and we went two and out.”

“After that, I thought I was done with college ball.”

Draft

“Again, I really didn’t know what to expect,” Schultz said. “I had a lot more interest. People were calling me. But I saw a lot of guys from the conference going ahead of me, and I was kind of getting upset. The Rays called me on second day and said they’d take me between 7th and 10th rounds. I sat around waiting, rounds went by and I got a call from the scout and said we decided to go somewhere else cheaper. So now I don’t know what’s going to happen at all. That put me down in the dumps. The third day I was kind of sitting there, had a few calls from some different teams like the Yankees and Toronto. I wasn’t even sure if the Rays were interested anymore. I went upstairs and didn’t play much attention. My name wasn’t getting called. Finally, I got a call from my scout, and he said congratulations, you’re a Ray. It came up out of the blue. I didn’t know we were going to take you.”

In his four years in the Tampa Bay Rays organization, Schultz has made that transition from a thrower to a pitcher. He’s turned into one of the top strikeout pitchers in the organization.

“It seems like a world apart. I can’t compare the two. I had zero clue where it was going in college, to now where I know where it’s going and know the ins and outs of pitching.”

“I look back on where I was in college, and I thought I was pretty good in college, but would not have expected to be at this point this fast in my career.”

“Here I am on the doorstep.”

Schultz said he allows himself to think about that first major league call-up from time to time.

“I don’t know if I’ll be excited or break down crying.”

“Hopefully it comes to fruition.”



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