Welcome everyone to another “Project Prospect” interview.
If you are new to what Project Prospect is, it is a full interview segment that tells stories about prospects in Major League Baseball’s minor league system’s. The prospects will join a site reporter and talk about their baseball days growing up, in high school and college as well as talk about their MLB Draft process. This will be an ongoing segment on the website. If you are a Minor League Baseball prospect and would love to get featured in an interview please contact me via email at JustinKish@365SportsNetwork.com.
In today’s interview, I am being joined by former San Jose State and current San Diego Padres outfielder Nick Schulz. Nick was signed by the San Diego Padres prior to the 2014 Major League Baseball Draft. Since joining the Padres in 2014, Nick has been a rising star in the Padres farm system and currently sees himself at Double-A San Antonio Missions. Please enjoy the interview with Nick Schulz.
Justin David Kish: Thank you so much for your time, Nick. How are things going for you today?
Nick Schulz: Things are going well. We got back from an 8-day road trip late Tuesday night, so it’s nice to be back home. It’s fun playing in front of the home crowd at Wolff Stadium–we have the best fans!
Justin David Kish: Every interview I like to start to where it all begins. How was baseball first brought to your attention?
Nick Schulz: As a kid, I loved to play every sport. I brought home a flyer from school one day for Pony Baseball, so my parents signed me up. I was 6 years old and in the first grade. That was the beginning! A couple of years later, my parents were contacted by a travel baseball team called Starmakers. They wanted me to try out, so I did and made it. Playing with that team really contributed to my passion for baseball.
Justin David Kish: What was your Pony Baseball years like growing up?
Nick Schulz: I played Pony Baseball. It’s really similar except it’s considered more like “real” baseball. You are allowed to steal bases, so you learn the fundamentals of lead-offs, watching a pitcher’s moves, and sliding techniques at an early age. The diamonds are also different sizes in Pony Baseball than in Little League. At every age group, the base paths and the distance between the pitching mound and home plate get’s longer. So, players are prepared for high school baseball much better if they play Pony. I loved playing Pony baseball. I got to play with a lot of my school friends, so that was fun. I also played for Starmakers the same time I was playing Pony, so it was a lot of baseball! With Starmakers, I traveled all over the state and country to play in tournaments. It was extremely competitive, so I learned a lot. The highlight was playing in the 12-year old World Series in Cooperstown, New York. It was so cool.
Justin David Kish: Being a native of Mountain View, California you must have watched most of the California team’s growing up. What was your favorite team to watch growing up and why?
Nick Schulz: My favorite team to watch growing up was the Oakland A’s. My grandparents have had season tickets since the early 70’s, so we went to a lot of games. Even when the A’s didn’t have great seasons, I still enjoyed watching them. I guess because I went to so many games, the players were familiar to me. A lot of people in the Bay Area are Giants fans, but I was always an A’s fan.
Justin David Kish: Some players like to model their game after their favorite player growing up. Who was your favorite player growing up and do you model your game after him?
Nick Schulz: I loved watching Eric Byrnes for the A’s because he was also an outfielder but also because he was so intense and passionate about the game. I do try to model my game after him–I work hard, stay positive, and keep trying to improve every day. Apparently, when I was really little, I used to imitate Gary Sheffield at the plate.
Justin David Kish: You attended St. Francis High School in Mountain View and St. Francis has developed some solid prospects in the MLB from Daniel Nava to Tyler Goeddel. Tell us about your time at St. Francis?
Nick Schulz: I really enjoyed my time at St. Francis. They have an excellent athletics program there. Ever since I was in grade school, I knew I wanted to go to St. Francis and play sports. Besides baseball, I also played football all 4 years and basketball 3 years. I played with some incredible athletes.
Justin David Kish: While at Mountain View you were coached by Mike Oakland. How big of an impact has Coach Oakland have on your career and what advice did he give you prior to College Baseball career?
Nick Schulz: Coach Oakland was one of the best coaches I ever had. He was so great at communicating with the players and helping everyone achieve their potential. I guess you could say that Coach Oakland was the first coach to recognize that I had the skills to eventually become a professional player. He had a lot of faith in me!
Justin David Kish: Before we get into your college career what was your favorite moment at Mountain View?
Nick Schulz: It’s hard to pick a particular moment, but being co-champions of the WCAL my senior year was definitely one of my favorites! I was also blessed to be given the Daniel Descalso Award by my coaches at our senior banquet.
Justin David Kish: During your college recruitment you decided to commit to San Jose State University. Why was San Jose State your college of choice? Was it more of a close to home decision?
Nick Schulz: I chose San Jose State because I wanted to go to a university where I would play a lot. It was also a good fit for me academically. It was nice that it was close to so my family could attend all my games.
Justin David Kish: During your time at San Jose State you played under both Sam Piraro and Dave Nakama. What was the transition like getting new knowledge and coaching about the game when Dave Nakama came into the fold?
Nick Schulz: It is always difficult when there is a coaching change. Coach Piraro and his staff had coached us for 3 years, so to get a new set of coaches my senior year was a little tough in the beginning. But a new coach also brings in new energy, so that inspires optimism that we will be even better than the year before.
Justin David Kish: You spent 2010-2013 with the Spartans, please tell us more about your time at San Jose State.
Nick Schulz: I enjoyed my years at San Jose State. I made great friends; had awesome teammates and continued to learn more about baseball. I got particularly close to Assistant Coach Mark O’Brien. He helped me improve my game a lot–especially the mental aspects of it.
Justin David Kish: What does it mean to be a San Jose State Spartan?
Nick Schulz: When I think of being a San Jose Spartan, I think of dedication, hard work, competitiveness, discipline and team pride.
Justin David Kish: After a very accomplished San Jose State career you are now on track to an MLB career. At any time at San Jose State did you speak to any MLB scouts?
Nick Schulz: Yes, there were often scouts at our games so I had the occasional conversation with them. It wasn’t until my senior year that I had serious discussions with the Seattle Mariners scout who said they were interested in drafting me.
Justin David Kish: Before the 2014 MLB Draft your dream came true and you signed your first MLB contract with the San Diego Padres. Tell us about the feelings you had signing the contract?
Nick Schulz: I had just finished playing in the California Winter League in Palm Springs and got a call from a Padres scout, asking me to come to their High-A facility in Lake Elsinore for a tryout. I felt I did well during the tryout, but they just said they would be in touch. So I drove back to the Bay Area that day. The next morning, I got a call from the director of player development for the Padres and he offered me a minor league contract. I can’t even begin to tell you how that felt. My mom was there with me when I got the call and I remember we hugged and she cried. It was very exciting, to say the least.
Justin David Kish: You are currently at Double-A San Antonio Missions, how is your season going on a personal stand point?
Nick Schulz: It’s been a great season so far. The team is doing well and my numbers are better than last year. I try to approach each day with the intent of becoming a better baseball player in every aspect of the game. There is always something to learn and adjustments to make.
Justin David Kish: Since joining the Padres you have exceeded expectations and have been promoted just about every year you have been in the minors. When do you see yourself making your MLB debut?
Nick Schulz: I don’t think anyone can predict when they will make their MLB debut. The important thing is to just keep doing the work and concentrate on getting better every day. The opportunity will come.
Justin David Kish: We have a couple questions left. What advice can you give to high school and college athletes wanting to play professional baseball?
Nick Schulz: My advice would be to learn as much as you can from your coaches. Ask questions. Be disciplined. Put the work in. It’s a grind, but it pays off.
Justin David Kish: Lastly, It has been an honor having you here at 365 Sports Network and before we let you what are we to expect from you going down the line of your career?
Nick Schulz: Well, obviously I want to make it to the Big Leagues and have a successful career there. After I retire from that, I would like to be a hitting coach at either the major league or minor league level. Thank you.