Looking to the Future with Nate Schierholtz

Nate Schierholtz has made quite an impression in the Giants organization since being a surprise 2nd round pick in 2003. It wasn't a surprise to Schierholtz, though. Now that he's tearing up the minor leagues, it may not be long until he's living every boy's dream: Playing for his favorite team in the major leagues.(Free Preview of Premium Content)

The scene: A packed house against the Seattle Mariners. A runner is on first base and Seattle's set up man, Shigetoshi Hasegawa is on the mound. And up to the plate steps a suddenly calm Nate Schierholtz, about to take his first at bat in a San Francisco Giants uniform. "I wasn't even sure I was going to play that day," Schierholtz recalls. "I was nervous the entire time waiting, but when the time came, it all just went away."

The nervousness wasn't the only thing going away. After working the count full, Schierholtz crushed a fastball over the right field fence, a 2 run homer, though in a loss. He was playing for coach Ron Wotus in a split squad game, a man he knew from living in Danville, and whom he worked out with at SBC Park in the offseason. Sure, it was only Spring Training. But the way things are going, he may be seeing SBC Park during the regular season in the not too distant future. Giants fans sure hope so.

But when the Giants picked up the third baseman out of Chabot Junior College of Hayward in the 2nd round of the 2003 draft, no one was sure what to think. The announcers from Baseball America's radio broadcast of the draft spent a few minutes frantically looking for information on the young player, even mispronouncing the name of his school. They called it ‘Cha-Bot,' ‘Cha' as in ‘Orlando Cepeda's Cha-Cha Bowl', and ‘Bot' as in what someone from Wisconsin calls their rear end. But it wasn't a shock to Schierholtz. "it wasn't much of a surprise to me. I had gone to like 6 major league workouts…I was just sitting at home in front of the computer with my family and Don [John, Schierholtz's youth baseball coach]…it was definitely one of the best days of my life, when the 63rd pick came around." If there were any surprises to be had, it wasn't if Schierholtz was to be drafted, just when. "If you had asked me, I would've thought 3rd round or 4th."

Schierholtz had lived in Huntington Beach until he was 7, when he moved to Danville, a small suburb nestled in the hills of the east bay along 680, between Concord and Pleasanton. There, he started playing baseball. He grew up a Giants fan, and was a big fan of both Mark McGwire and Alex Rodriguez. His father got Schierholtz to start batting lefthanded, and Schierholtz played under Don John throughout his years in youth baseball.

But Schierholtz really began to catch people's eyes by playing for Chabot in Hayward. He hit .400 with 18 home runs, 20 doubles and 60 RBI in 42 games for the Gladiators. Though he signed to play with Long Beach State University for the 2003-2004 season, it wasn't a hard decision. "I had signed with them, and it just made me feel safer, knowing that the draft wasn't my only option…but it wasn't a hard decision at all, going to play pro for my favorite team."

Since turning pro, Schierholtz has proven himself at every level he's played. He made his debut in Arizona, playing for Scottsdale in the Arizona Rookie league, but it didn't take long for him to dominate. After only 11 games, he was called up to Short Season A-ball in Salem-Keizer. There, he hit .306 in 35 games, with 6 doubles, 2 triples and 3 home runs in 124 at bats, and 29 RBI. Baseball America rated him the 3rd best prospect of the Northwest League, and he earned high praise from opposing managers. "If I sit back and look at the whole league in a few years, he might top it out," were the words of Tri-City manager Ron Gideon. "He hits lefthanders well, goes to all fields, has some power and moves well for a big kid. Everything he did was solid."

Things began a little rough for him this year, though, in Hagerstown, Maryland. "I was sick for the first three weeks I was here, and I was adjusting to living here. I'd never really been on the east coast before," Schierholtz said about his slow beginnings in Hagerstown. He had been hitting only .266 through the 29th of April for Hagerstown, and only had hit 2 home runs. "I just had to find my swing. One day, I had like 3 or 4 hits in a game, and I just got my confidence back." That day, happened to be the 1st of May, when he went 4 for 5 against the Lexington Legends with a home run, and that started an incredible month for Schierholtz.

For the month of May, Schierholtz hit .339 with 12 doubles and 12 home runs, to give him a share of the league lead. He also had 30 RBI and scored 25 runs, and he leads the Suns in both Runs Scored and Runs Batted In. But it's been a very busy month in more ways than one for the young star. In only his first full pro season, Schierholtz started every one of the team's amazing 33 games in 31 days, including 5 doubleheaders, while getting only 2 days off. Schierholtz remains optimistic, though. "We had a day off [June 1st], so I should be ready to go for another month or so."

And so Schierholtz's path to the majors continues. Still only in A-League ball, though recently promoted to San Jose, he has at least a couple of years to go before the major leagues become a real possibility. Schierholtz is keeping a realistic, but still positive view when looking at his future, though. We reminded of another minor leaguer's first major league hit, Brian Dallimore's Grand Slam, he was asked what he thought his first major league hit would be. "Oh, first major league hit? Probably a double. Hopefully against the Dodgers. It could possibly be better though."

That's what a Giant fan likes to hear.

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