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Your Random D-Back: Konrad Schmidt

Just another guy with a moustache.

Milwaukee Brewers v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

“A good moustache makes a man for many reasons”

I have a thing with moustaches. I loved Keegan’s and recently I tried one myself and thought it was hilarious. I looked myself in the mirror, took a selfie and sent it to my family saying “Freddie Mercury says hi”. It was a blast. My family laughed, my friends laughed, my colleagues thought it was cool but my wife told me to take it off: she wasn’t getting any of it and prevented me from taking on any roles in early 90s Polish crime movies. So now I am left with a moustache-less face, admiring other people’s ones like Konrad Schmidt’s.

Konrad Schmidt had a great moustache and that is also the way how Jim McLennan remembered him once he got claimed off waivers. I am perhaps a bit disappointed that it wasn’t a 19th century or early 20th century German one that would fit his name. One of those thick moustaches, with a little twirl. Not one of those French finesse ones, too thin just like their fries, but a rough one that shows determination. Because that fits his look and his baseball career.

But then again, this Konrad Schmidt isn’t German but all American. And American he definitely looks. You’d expect him to ride a bike, an American chopper, with a leather jacket and probably one of those pot helmets (although being a catcher he came pretty close to the pot helmet). But as far as I could find out, he played baseball and is still close to baseball as he is, at least until recently, commentator for the D-Backs Triple A Reno Aces’ home games at Greater Nevada Field.

The Biggest Little City in the World

Konrad grew up in Petaluma, California, a town of 60,000 inhabitants, and went to Petaluma High School. According to his Wildcats bio he then attended junior college in Santa Rosa where, he got quite some honours (but also suffered a torn labrum), before transferring in 2006 to the University of Arizona. His time there didn’t last long as in the summer of 2006 he was told he wouldn’t be allowed to continue with the Wildcats. His dream to play pro ball looked like it was over even before it had begun until the University of Nevada called and offered him a scholarship for 2007. In Reno he had a strong season with a .957 OPS, but would still go undrafted in the 2007 amateur draft.

But the Diamondbacks were prepared to take a flier on him and signed Konrad as an undrafted free agent, although the expectation was that he was not going to make it far.

“I thought Konrad would play a couple years of pro ball,” Skip said, “and that would be it.” – Konrad’s father in a 2011 interview with The Press Democrat

Schmidt would play short season with the Yakima Bears (former Hillsboro Hops) in 2007. Schmidt proved to be a patient hitter, without a powerful bat, but with an above average BABIP and OBP while keeping the SO under relative control. He took advantage of injured catchers, like 2007 first round pick Ed Easley, and moved up steadily until he hit Triple A by the end of 2009 at 24 years of age. A remarkable rise for an undrafted player who wasn’t supposed to get there.

“When I came into pro ball, I had such an advantage over the other guys because of what Damon Neidlinger [his coach at STJC, DBE] taught me. It was the little things, what to do in certain situations, that made it so much easier for me. The other guys had to be taught them. I didn’t. I don’t think I would be the player I am today if it wasn’t for Damon.” – Konrad Schmidt on his success in pro ball in a 2010 interview with The Press Democrat

Although pointing out only the influence of a coach would be underestimating his own efforts:

“I don’t know if I could have stuck with it like Konrad has,” Skip said. “I really admire him for going after his dream. We are kind of in awe of him, to tell you the truth.” – Konrad’s father in a 2011 interview with The Press Democrat

“Welcome to the big leagues, kid”

At the start of the 2010 season Konrad Schmidt gets an invitation to Spring Training and impresses with the coaching staff. Afterwards he starts the season at Double A Mobile BayBears where he earns All Star honours in the Southern League. He eventually finishes the season there with a .315/.373/.490 line and gets rewarded with a September call-up to the Arizona Diamondbacks once Kirk Gibson requests for a third catcher on the roster.

He makes his debut against the Reds on September 13 and, as later recalled, is told not to swing until thrown a strike. He walks on 4 pitches. “Welcome to the big leagues, kid,” said Reds first baseman Joey Votto.

In his third game he is the starting catcher at Dodger Stadium and get his first, and only, major league hit. His mom and dad receive the bat and baseball that did it.

“Even if it ends today,” said Skip Schmidt, “there’s nothing that can be taken from Konrad, from us. This (display) represents the culmination of all the sacrifices he made.” - Konrad’s father in a 2011 interview with The Press Democrat

In 2011 he spends the entire season in Reno, but not batting for much. In 2012 he gets a brief May and September call-up but has an unimpressive season in Reno despite shooting bow and arrow in the outfield for mental preparation. At the end of the 2012 season he is put on waivers by the Diamondbacks and gets claimed by the Texas Rangers.

The Rangers release Schmidt early 2013 and the Cincinnati Reds sign him to a minor league contract but is released again in June.

It looks like he loses his appetite for professional baseball after that. Schmidt apparently returns to what has become his new home Reno and starts in 2014 as a (co-)commentator for the Aces. It looks like his time in Reno has made and makes him a popular member of the community, as in 2018 he becomes the first Reno Aces’ player to be inducted into the Aces’ Hall of Fame.

Maybe he deserved that not only because of his baseball skills, but also, of course, thanks to the moustache.