Keith Schulz Jr. prepares for a play while coaching a past baseball game. Schulz Jr. will be joining the Liberal Bee Jays coaching staff for the upcoming season. Courtesy photo


 • Leader & Times


The Liberal Bee Jays season will be starting soon, and the team is excited to announce an addition to the coaching lineup with Keith Schulz Jr.

As Schulz tells it, he got his start in baseball a little late.

“I actually didn't start playing baseball until I was about 12 or 13 years old. I grew up in Louisiana and was around the game since my grandfather was a statistician for Delgado Community College team and the New Orleans Zephyrs, which was an affiliate team with the Houston Astros and Florida Marlins at that time,” Schulz said. “My grandparents on both my mom and dad's sides had also played college and professional baseball, and I just ultimately went after it. I wasn't the biggest guy ever, and football in Texas can really wear you down, so I ended up sticking with baseball, and here I am. I got my start in coaching by giving lessons, and that was with a youth team down in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and I'd also played some college baseball. After I finished with that team, I was working with a guy who was the hitting coach for the Texas Rangers at the time, so that's how I got into the coaching and giving lessons and all of that. I played baseball at Tyler Junior College, Richmond College, Arlington Baptist University, and I also played while I was in high school. I was a coach at Oklahoma Panhandle State University (OPSU) for six years, where I worked with Jared Mayeda, he was actually my first baseman for a couple of years. I also coached in the Ripken Collegiate League in Myrtle Beach, S.C., and The DBats of Amarillo and Fort Worth, Texas, and I've also coached other travel teams and school teams throughout the years. This is my fifth year at Sunray High School in Gruver, Texas, where I'm the assistant baseball coach.”

Schulz said his love of the game led to his ultimately becoming a coach.

“I got into coaching because I liked the game enough and wanted to continue being around it. I also like being around children, I'm from a big family myself, so I've always enjoyed being around them and helping them,” Schulz said. “Then, once I got into the higher levels of coaching like at OPSU and travel ball, I saw there was a need for potential players to be recruited out of high school and into college, and I learned about a bunch of those different avenues while I was at OPSU and coaching there. Helping the players learn at the high school level how to hone their skills and have baseball as a foot in the door for college opportunities, that was really important to me. I know not every player has major league goals, and that's a whole different monster anyway, but my goal was to help the players with what they wanted to do and help them grow on and off the field. As I've kept coaching, I've realized it's not always about how hard you throw or how hard you hit, it's about how you treat/work with your teammates and what you do for the community, and that's what's kept me going so far.”

All of that ultimately led to his becoming part of the Bee Jays family, Schulz said.

“I've known about the Bee Jays program for a while, it's definitely gained its reputation as a good, solid program, and I'd heard about them while playing travel ball and collegiate ball. I live in Gruver, Texas, and a family friend who also happens to know Mike Hargrove, told me about the position,” Schulz said. “And when I'd heard Jared had gotten the head coach position, I congratulated him and told him to let me know if there was anything I could do to help. I also have two little girls, and my time away from them is kind of rough on the family, so this year, we had a family discussion and I reached out to him and asked if he would consider having me on the coaching staff, and here we are.”

With the season starting in mere weeks, Schulz said there is a lot to be excited about.

“I'm excited to get back into the college setting with everything. There's a lot you take for granted at the college setting and a lot of aspects you have to refresh yourself on compared to high school/small school baseball,” Schulz said. “And that also goes the other way because there are a lot of things you think college players should be clear on coming out of high school but need to fine-tune with hitting or fielding, etc. I'm excited to help get the players ready to go and help them win plenty of games and get back to the NBC Tournament this summer. I love baseball and love working with everyone, baseball players are just a different breed and I can't wait to get to work with the Bee Jays program. A big part of me coming up through baseball with doing lessons and instruction and working with some of the professional players before they take off for spring training, there's a lot of little details to work on, like how to swing properly, because every player is different and has their own strengths and weaknesses. I'm excited to come in and help give the guys some of the necessary mental tools to help working on those things on their own. I also used to work with infield players a lot, and there are so many methods that can be taught as far as how to approach the baseball and how to read pitches and all of that. And, of course, I'm ready to meet the players and other coaches and start establishing that rapport with everyone because it can be a challenge bringing in someone new to a program.”

And with this being his inaugural Bee Jays season, Schulz said there is a lot to be excited about with that as well.

“I'm looking forward to the speed of the game. I played in college and I've coached at different levels, and the tempo is just so much different at the different levels of play,” Schulz said. “I'm also excited to be able to work with everyone and do what I can to help the team win games and have fun during the season. I'm also excited to see what kind of support the team gets because when I was a player, there were some communities that totally turned out for game nights, and I hope that happens with Liberal too, because that community support is so important, and I'm ready for game nights and being part of that atmosphere. Living in Gruver, Amarillo and Liberal are really the two 'big' cities somewhat nearby, so I'm excited to get back into the game because Seward County Community College has offered a lot through baseball that I've observed from when OPSU played them in the fall when I was there.”

Overall, Schulz said, it should be a successful season.

“I hope we have a successful season, and I hope that success leads the guys to growing not only as players but also as men. The wins will take care of themselves when the guys put in the hard work and make fixes/tweaks when needed, so the important thing is for everyone to learn and then applying everything on the field,” Schulz said. “I hope we have a good season, I hope we get the community to pack the stands at every home game. The season should be fun, and I know there's a lot of talent on the team for this coming season.”

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