On his way to the Independent Leagues, the Padres gave him an opportunity in tryout camp and signed with a promise to give him a chance in the short-season Northwest League.
Nick was what they call an “organizational player” players needed to fill out a roster with prospects. But after 12 games in Eugene, he caught a break when Fort Wayne needed an outfielder and proceeded to hit 341/.386/.545 in 49 games and started to shed that label.
Last season in Lake Elsinore was a down year for him, but he has bounced back this season in San Antonio hitting .293/.352/.415.
As an undrafted free agent, to get up and stay to Double-A over players that the organization has invested substantial amounts of draft money in is an amazing accomplishment in itself. Schulz, 25, a right-handed hitter with some pop, made the most of his chance and is the kind of player that everyone is going to pull for; because everything he has accomplished in his career, he has earned on the field.
You have come up with some big hits this year. How are you able to perform with the pressure on?
Nick Schulz: It’s all about relaxing and trying to stay in the present. I’m going to spout off a bunch of cliches, but it is really is about trying to get a good pitch to hit and not trying to do too much. I know everyone says that, but its also true.
About every guy on this team is going to say the same thing, but not everyone can do it. How are you able to get yourself mentally into that space?
Nick Schulz: In the off-season I worked on a lot of mental drills, which is mainly breathing exercises and staying in the present moment. What that means is not thinking backwards or forward, just in the present.
That way I react and trust the process. It’s starting to pay off.
Your closer Jason Jester spoke the other day about taking advantage of players trying to take the “hero swing” or trying to hit the “five-run home run” in big moments. These past few days I’ve seen you in a few big moments and you are not giving away strikes.
Nick Schulz: No, I’m not. I grew up a lot last year in Lake Elsinore and didn’t always do what I should. I learned that in tight situations that you get burned by trying to do too much. Everyone wants the attention and to be the hero, but you also learn to do what the game asks you to do. What it asks you to do is get a good pitch to hit and get the run across.
It’s about staying with the process and not worrying about the results. Everyone wants results, but you have to do things the right way to get results.
If you get caught up in results, things aren’t going to go well. What works best for me, and again it is a bit of a cliche, is just go one at-bat at a time.
You had big year in 2014 in Fort Wayne and a year that you didn’t like last year in Lake Elsinore but it also seems like you grew the most from last season.
Nick Schulz: Last year at Lake Elsinore when I did get my pitch I would foul it straight back which really annoyed me. I learned in Double-A with pitchers having better command and being around the plate you are going to get a good pitch to hit in your at-bat and you have to be ready. So I think that helped me focus more.
Understanding what your plan is in certain counts and being on time is the biggest thing.
Why have your numbers gone up here as compared to Lake Elsinore earlier in the year?
Nick Schulz: Part of it is I think the Padres see something in me so it was definitely a confidence booster. I think it helped me believe in myself more, which is always good.
Pitcher Micheal Kelly also pointed out that he is starting to gain confidence from the preparation not the results. It sounds like you are that way too.
Nick Schulz: Very much so, especially in baseball when you can do everything right and not have anything to show for it. That is another part of the maturation process which has helped me improve from last year to this.
You look like you are more comfortable in right field this year.
Nick Schulz: I’ve always been on the corners, especially in college. It kind of comes naturally and I’ve had a few games in center. I need to work there.
I just feel I get better reads in the corners.
You are one of the first outfielders that I have ever met that doesn’t claim he sees the ball better in center or that is their natural position.
Nick Schulz: When I was little I used to play center in travel ball but in college all of my reps were in the corners, so the more practice you get at anything, the more comfortable you are going to feel.
You guys always want to improve at every part of your game, but if you had to pick one what would it be?
Nick Schulz: It is everything but if I had to pick one it would be my base running. In certain situations I need to get better. I think I have improved at the plate this year, but I can always get more selective and I will have to be if I want to move up.
You just try to get better each day, that is all I want to do.