CINCINNATI — Scott Schebler believed in himself, his faith never wavered, even when the first impressions he left with the Cincinnati Reds were pretty ugly. His mission: “Make the Reds believe in me.”
Schebler, a 25-year-old outfielder from corn country, Cedar Rapids, Ia., came to the Reds last December from the Los Angeles Dodgers, along with Jose Peraza, as part of the Todd Frazier deal.
That’s immediate pressure. Frazier was one of the most popular players wearing a Reds uniform and Schebler wondered not only how he would be accepted by the fans, but how he would be greeted in the clubhouse.
THEN HE FOUND HIMSELF in a platoon situation in left field with Adam Duvall, an argument he lost decisively, so decisively that he and his .188 batting average were shuffled off to Class AAA Louisville on May 8.
And that’s where he stayed for two months. But he didn’t pout or feel sorry for himself. He worked. And he worked hard. In June he hit .362 with 12 home runs, 31 RBIs and in one game he hit for the cycle while going 5-for-5.
When the Reds traded Jay Bruce at the trade deadline, Schebler was called back and played nearly every day in Bruce’s right field position. From Day One he has looked as comfortable as a retiree in a new LaZ-Boy. Not only has he done well, both offensively and defensively, he has achieved his goal — the Reds, too, believe in him, enough that he probably will be the right fielder next year.
SCHEBLER ADMITS THAT WHEN the season began and he was platooning with Duvall he was in the try-to-impress mode, and that didn’t work.
“I wasn’t playing every day and I was new to everything over here,” he said. “I had never been traded so I was around 24 new guys, a new coaching staff, everything was new and that played into it.
“I put pressure on myself to try to impress people, tried to show everybody what I could do,” he said. “That’s just not going to happen in one day. That happens over time. Once I got rid of that idea that I couldn’t impress everybody in one day, I settled in a little bit.”
THE SETTLING IN PROCESS, of course, happened in Louisville and was a two-month ordeal.
“No doubt I could have sulked,” he said. “But I saw it as an opportunity to play every day and do exactly down there what I was trying to do up here — prove myself. I wanted to show them down there and the people up here that, ‘Hey, I can play up here. I believed that and I was trying to get them to believe in me.”
During his month-and-a-half as the Reds regular right fielder, Schebler has pushed his average from .188 to 250 and contributed seven home runs and 32 RBIs.
“Playing every day is huge,” he said. “Getting up here and playing in the majors the whole experience is different and you have to get settled in. Getting those every day at bats, well, I’ve struggled through some things but knowing you’ll be in there the next day to fix them makes it easier to work through things. Getting only one at bat and then sitting on it for three or four days is tough.”
TO SAY SCHEBLER IS AN athlete is to say GM has a few Chevrolets to sell. At Cedar Rapids Prairie High School he played baseball, football, basketball and soccer. And, oh yeah, he ran track fast enough to set school records in the 50-meter sprint, long jump and 800-meter relay.
So it shouldn’t be too startling when he leaps against the wall to yank back a ball headed for the seats or when he makes a laser show throw to wipe out a base runner. He has done both more than once since his return from exile.
“When I was in Louisville I got to play a lot of center field,” he said. “That doesn’t make the other positions any easier, but your focus in center field is a little more extreme. That fine-focused what I was doing and helped out playing right field and left field.”
MANAGER BRYAN PRICE CERTAINLY has noticed Schebler’s contributions.
“He has shown us an ability to get better and to find comfort in playing every day,” said Price. “He now can go 0 for 4 and come back the next day more resiliant and still believe in himself. There was an ebb and flow to his season when he was splitting time with Adam and when he first came back to the big leagues.
“He was putting so much pressure on himself he just wasn’t able to do it,” Price added. “He is finding his way, showing he is a multi-positional player, can play all thre outfield positions well. And he brings a lot of energy. He is an athlete. We’re impressed and very happy to have him.”
Well, not as happy as Schebler is to be back again for a second look and he likes both what he sees on the field and in the mirror.