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CEDAR RAPIDS — It’s serious business now for Scott Schebler. He’s aware of that.
When you’re in Double-A, you can smell the big leagues.
“You try not to think about it, but then again, you see kids on other teams getting moved up there,” said the Chattanooga Lookouts outfielder and former Cedar Rapids Prairie all-stater. “It’s happened a couple of times where a couple of pitchers, a couple of position players on the other team, you played against them the night before and they’re in the big leagues the next day. I’d be lying if I said I’ve never thought I’m that close. But you’ve got to try not to think about that.”
It’s not thinking too much that has Schebler on the upswing offensively. He has hit in eight of his last nine games going into Saturday, including accomplishing one of baseball’s greatest feats by hitting for the cycle in a 16-9 loss to Mobile last week.
He got a duck-snort single over the shortstop’s head in his first at-bat, then tripled to the right-center gap and doubled down the right-field line. He homered against Mobile closer Jimmy Sherfy in the ninth inning.
“I kind of knew in the back of my mind that I needed (a home run)” he said. “But when they brought their closer in, I thought maybe I should just try and put it in play because the guy throws pretty hard. I don’t know, he was just throwing fastballs, and I was sitting dead red. Got a pitch I could handle ... Never done anything as cool as that.”
If you don’t know his story, Schebler was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 26th round in 2010 out of Des Moines Area Community College. He was going to continue his college career at Wichita State, but played so well that summer in the amateur Northwoods League the Dodgers signed him for $300,000.
The lefty hitter’s first three years in pro ball were OK, but he burst onto the prospect scene last year with a monster season at high-Class A Inland Empire. He hit .298, led the California League in extra-base hits and was second in slugging percentage and home runs (27).
The Dodgers named him their minor league player of the year.
“It didn’t really hit you until you go see the other names that are on that list, players that have won it before,” Schebler said. “I’m in really good company. You kind of let it sink in a little bit, then for me, personally, it was like ‘Wow, OK, now I’ve got some expectations placed on me’ because of that.
“Maybe I let that get out of control a little bit, as far as putting too much pressure on myself. I feel a lot better now, but, yeah, there are expectations that come with that. I’m trying to learn to like that because that means they are expecting something out of you.”
Dealing with those expectations and the big jump from high-Class A to Double-A have been difficult, but Schebler is determined to block everything out and just go play. His batting average has climbed to .260 in 59 games and he has 11 doubles, seven triples and 11 home runs.
“I wouldn’t say I was intimidated, but I didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “I had heard so many things about Double-A. How it’s the biggest jump and all this stuff, and I think I let it get to me a little bit. There are some differences, but they are not as big as your brain can make them if you let it.
“It’s just getting comfortable, just getting back to the basics, as far as just being on time (with his swing) and letting the rest be the rest. Instead of trying to beat the league, just play your game. That’s what’s gotten me here, so I should be staying with my plan, as far as that. Not trying to change because the league changes.”
Around the horn
•More Iowans went Saturday, the final day of the 2014 Major League Draft.
They included Ankeny Centennial High School Keaton McKinney (28th round, Mets) and Urbandale third baseman Ryan Lillard (30th round, Royals). McKinney was considered a potential top-five round guy and almost certainly will not sign and wind up at the University of Arkansas instead.
Others with Iowa ties drafted Saturday were Sioux City’s Damek Tomscha (Auburn University third baseman taken by the Phillies in the 17th round), Sioux City’s Dominic Thompson-Williams (Iowa Western CC outfielder taken by the Cardinals in the 19th round), Wilton’s Alec Crawford (University of Minnesota pitcher taken by the Rockies in the 25th round), Iowa Western pitcher Quinn Crawford (17th round, Blue Jays) and Buena Vista University pitcher Scott Harris (27th round, Phillies).
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