Skip Schumaker’s 100 hits during UCSB’s NCAA Regional season of 2001 remains tied for the Gaucho record
Jared “Skip” Schumaker nearly took a pass on the national pastime a quarter-century ago.
“UCSB really changed my whole journey and path in life,” Schumaker said.
He was a dead man walking away from Loyola Marymount University after a spirit-crushing freshman year of 1999.
“The head coach at LMU was an absolute nightmare,” said Schumaker, a shortstop who had been recruited out of Aliso Niguel High School in Aliso Viejo. “There are a lot of guys who left that place.
“I was ready to quit, to be honest with you. I didn’t know if I wanted to play anymore.”
And then Gaucho second baseman Chad Peshke told him to give UCSB a try.
It saved Schumaker’s baseball life — one that was honored on Tuesday with the National League’s Manager of the Year Award.
“I wouldn’t be here without what happened to me at Santa Barbara,” he said, “and I’m not sugar-coating that at all.”
A Wild-Card Ride
Schumaker, 43, has taken the coaching world by storm ever since retiring from his 11-year Major League Baseball playing career just six summers ago.
He became only the eighth manager to win the Manager of the Year Award in his first season in the job.
Schumaker guided the Marlins to an NL Wild Card playoff berth this season with a win-loss record of 84-78 — their best mark since 2009. He took over as manager from Don Mattingly after the club suffered through a 93-loss season in 2022.
Bob Brontsema, Schumaker’s coach at UCSB, wasn’t surprised that he turned around the Marlins so quickly.
“I told myself, ‘Oh my God, this guy has got it … He’s got everything you need.’
“I’m not surprised with how well he’s done, but I am still so incredibly happy for him.”
It wouldn’t have happened, Schumaker insisted, if Brontsema hadn’t given him a shot.
“Peshke called me — my dad was friends with his dad — and he told me, ‘It’s a great situation up here,’” he said. “And Bronts took a chance.
“I’ll never forget him just taking a chance on me, not knowing what he was going to get.”
The Gaucho coach, now an assistant athletic director at UCSB, did lay out the task that Schumaker was facing.
“Skip came in my office and I told him, ‘Hey, we’d love to have you,’” he said. “And then I started giving him reasons to almost scare him from coming.
“I said, ‘We’ve already got a shortstop … We’ve got guys … We’ve got a pretty good team. You’re going to have to come in and earn it.’
“Skip could’ve said, ‘Hey, this guy isn’t even giving me a carrot … He’s just telling me to do this and do that.’ But he took that challenge. He took it all.”
With all-leaguers Peshke and Jeff Bannon entrenched in the middle of UCSB’s infield, Brontsema pointed the sophomore transfer toward the outfield.
“I’d never played centerfield, ever, but we took it and we ran with it,” Schumaker said. “I created my opportunity that fall.
“I was relentless after practice. I was in the cage. I worked hard in the weight room, trying to get stronger, trying to get faster, whatever it was, to prove that I could still play at the DI level.
“Maybe it would open someone’s eyes … open Bronts’ eyes. I’d make a couple of starts and it would take off from there.”
A dislocated shoulder just before the 2000 season opener delayed Schumaker’s launch for a whole year.
“That 2000 team was good, but it could’ve been a regional club with Skip in the lineup,” Brontsema pointed out. “He would’ve been the starter from Day One.”
A season on the sidelines, however, did serve to plant the seeds of Schumaker’s managerial career.
“Getting hurt in 2000 really allowed me to take a step back and watch the game for the first time in my life,” he explained. “I was always playing, playing, playing, and not really learning, watching, and breaking the game down.”
He helped turn 2001 into an odyssey of success for the Gauchos when he returned to the field.
Schumaker banged out 100 hits from the leadoff spot to tie the school record set 16 years earlier by Bill Geivett. His .400 batting average that season still ranks fifth in UCSB’s history books.
The team finished with a 40-17 record and earned a berth in the NCAA Regional hosted by Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana.
Brontsema, who played and then coached at UCSB from 1982 until 2011, said the 1986 and 2001 Gauchos were the two best he ever saw at the university.
Nine other Gauchos were drafted in 2001: Peshke and Bannon, third baseman Dave Molidor, first baseman Tyler Von Schell, outfielder Jed Stringham, and pitchers James Garcia, Rylie Ogle, Jim Bullard and Jamie Gonzales.
“We were pretty loaded in 2000, too — that team had 10, 12 guys who were studs,” Brontsema said. “But for me, Skip and the mentality he brought made that team even better and as good as it was in 2001.
“Sticking Skip at the top of that lineup made that team go.”
The Name Game
Nothing could’ve held Schumaker back when the Gauchos played an early season series at Loyola Marymount.
The public address announcer intentionally introduced him as “Jerry Schmuckler” for one at-bat, and then as “Jared Schmuckler” for another. The first name kept changing, but the insulting last one didn’t throughout the entire series.
“Skip got like 15 hits that weekend, and we pounded them three straight games,” Brontsema said. “He got the last laugh.”
Schumaker’s history with LMU’s coach had already given him an edge.
“I wanted to prove old Frank Cruz wrong,” he said. “He didn’t see eye-to-eye with me or the eight other guys who left.
“He 100% knew who I was — my name — and so did the P.A. guy. He was the same guy from when I was there.
“I ended up having probably the best series of my career there. The only home run I hit that year was in that LMU series.”
The nickname “Skip” also toughened Schumaker’s hide. His father gave it to him when he coached his T-ball team.
“We had a quite a few Jareds on the team,” he said. “I could do a lot of things athletically but I couldn’t skip real well, and he thought it would be pretty funny if he nicknamed me that.
“He didn’t like the name Jared anyway … Not that Skip is any better. I wish it had been a tougher nickname.”
Schumaker’s parents, Marlene and Wayne, didn’t toughen up the nickname any better after gifting him a 1969 Dodge Duster automobile for his 16th birthday.
“The license plate said, ‘Skippy,’” he pointed out. “So that was always fun, driving up with that on my license plate.”
All in the Cards
Schumaker had to make a name for himself at every level of baseball.
“He was undersized (at 5-foot-10), and there’s some challenges in that type of stuff,” Brontsema said. “The question was always ‘Hey, can he make it to the big leagues?’”
Schumaker made it to St. Louis for his MLB debut in 2005. He batted over .300 for three straight seasons from 2007 to 2009.
He won World Series rings with the Cardinals in both 2006 and 2011. He will be forever revered in the Gateway City for his game-winning double against Philadelphia in the decisive Game 5 of the 2011 National League Division Series.
“He attracts winners because of his personality,” Brontsema pointed out. “He’s modest — he’s self-deprecating, for sure — but he knows the right thing to do. He stands behind the right thing and he expects the right thing.
“When push comes to shove, he’s a leader. It’s not rah-rah, but he does the right things, and people see that.
“They feed off it because he inspires a lot of respect. That’s based on how he was brought up by his parents, and it’s the guy we all know and love. It plays well in the locker room for people who want to compete and win.”
Schumaker took what he learned at UCSB into both his big-league at-bats and into the way he now handles his own players.
“The best thing I ever got out of Santa Barbara is that it’s all about managing people and egos and personalities,” Schumaker said. “It’s something I still use today.
“We had a lot of different personalities on that 2001 team that really gelled, and it was because of how Bronts coached them differently.
“There are guys you have to get into a little bit, and guys you need to coddle a little bit.”
And a guy that you just had to give a chance.