Logan Schafer languished in Class AAA ball for most of the 2012 season before he got a call in early September telling him to pack his bags and report to Milwaukee. A few days later, he found himself pinch-hitting for Brewers starting pitcher Shaun Marcum in the bottom of the fourth inning.
- PHOTO COURTESY OF CAL POLY ATHLETICS
- LOOKING BACK : After leaving Cal Poly in 2008, outfielder Logan Schafer spent five years climbing up the Brewers farm system.
Milwaukee trailed the New York Mets 4-1 with two on and none out when third-base coach Eddie Sedar pointed in Schafer’s direction.
“I didn’t have any nerves,” Schafer recalled. “Honestly, I was so in game mode that I was ready to go.”
Schafer stepped to the plate and belted a line-drive triple to right, bringing home both runners, and then scored to tie the game on a wild pitch by reliever Jeremy Hefner. The Brewers took the lead later in the inning and held on for a 9-6 win to inch closer to playoff contention. However, the team finished five games behind the second wild card, missing the playoffs and ending Schafer’s second brief stint playing Major League Baseball.
Now, as spring training begins in Northern Arizona, it appears Schafer will get the opportunity to spend an entire season with a major league club. The Brewers organization recently confirmed what many suspected all off-season: That Milwaukee would not chase a veteran free agent to be its fourth outfielder, and instead would go with its third-round 2008 draft pick out of Cal Poly.
“He should have a great shot to be one of our backups,” Brewers manager Ron Roenicke told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Feb. 14. “Schafer can really play defense.”
Of course, Schafer heard similar praise prior to last season, only to end up back playing for the Class AAA Nashville Sounds. One year ago, Milwaukee appeared cursed to start the 2012 season with superstar left fielder Ryan Braun suspended for 50 games and right fielder Corey Hart out indefinitely with a knee injury. A hole in the roster opened and Schafer seemed primed to fill it, but the opportunity vanished as quickly as it appeared.
- PHOTO COURTESY OF CAL POLY ATHLETICS
In January 2012, the Brewers forked over $2 million to the Tokyo Yakult Swallows for the rights to negotiate with outfielder Norichika Aoki. General Manager Doug Melvin later signed the 30-year-old former Japanese League all star to start for the Brewers in right field. Meanwhile, Braun became the first player in baseball history to successfully appeal a suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs.
Without so much as striking out or shagging a grounder, Schafer wound up on a plane headed for Nashville.
“It’s been a long journey,” Schafer said. “When it comes to this game, you can’t count on anything happening. I knew that if I continued to play and work hard, I’d get the opportunity.”
The opportunity eventually materialized as a result of Schafer’s solid defense. Braun and Aoki don’t project to miss many games because of their lofty positions in the batting order. That means the Brewers fourth outfielder will spend most of his time spelling Carlos Gomez, a speedy center fielder with a penchant for suffering minor injuries in pursuit of fly balls. Schafer believes he’s up to the task.
“I am a center fielder,” Schafer said. “I take a lot of pride in taking hits away from the other team.”
Schafer returned to San Luis Obispo on Feb. 9 to participate in an alumni exhibition game against the 2013 Mustangs. Although the majors feature a few former Cal Poly players—most notably pitchers Bud Norris and Kevin Correia—neither could attend the alumni match, which gave the humble Schafer top billing for the event.
“I’m not too much a center-of-attention kind of guy,” Schafer said. “It’s just fun to come back and see how your college team is doing, and see the town and the people. I mean, you know—you live in SLO.”
Staff Writer Patrick M. Klemz can be reached at email@example.com.