Tucson Padres: Lost at UA, catcher finds way

Schmidt gets shot with D-backs after transfer to Nevada pays off
2012-07-17T00:00:00Z 2012-07-17T07:57:50Z Tucson Padres: Lost at UA, catcher finds wayDaniel Berk Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
July 17, 2012 12:00 am  • 

Konrad Schmidt came to Tucson in 2006 ready to be a star.

Fresh off a junior college season that saw him garner All-America honors and a California Junior College championship, the catcher was ready to be coach Andy Lopez's main man behind the plate at the University of Arizona.

"I thought I had the game figured out," said Schmidt, now with the Reno Aces, Tucson's opponent Monday night. "And in this game, when you do that, it will kick you where you don't want to get kicked."

Schmidt was kicked - hard.

He was anything but a star in his one year at UA. Schmidt started 47 of the team's 58 games, but hit just .282 with two home runs and 21 RBIs.

He wasn't flourishing in Tucson. He was floundering.

"I used to be so bitter about it," Schmidt said. "I just didn't fit in. Me and Lopez didn't get along. I didn't perform. I did horrible in school. It was a hard place for me to succeed.

"I just didn't fit into the program."

So he left.

One season in Tucson was enough. Frustrated and angry, Schmidt searched for a school to finish his college career at.

He eventually settled on the University of Nevada and found the stardom he was looking for. He hit .349 and drove in 47 runs.

After the season, the fifth-year senior signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks for $5,000. He reported to the rookie-ball team in Yakima, Wash., and was the team's fourth-string catcher.

The same player who battled adversity at the UA was face-first with it again.

"I thought I was signing and going in there to be the guy," said Schmidt before Reno's game against Tucson at Kino Stadium Monday night. "Then, we drafted a catcher in the first round.

"I think I caught every bullpen session that season," Schmidt added. "I wouldn't let anyone else catch them.

"I was just going to work until I got my chance."

He got his opportunity the final 10 games of that season when the other three catchers were all hurt. He started every game during the stretch and caught the eye of the D-backs organization.

Schmidt worked his way through the farm system the next two years. In 2010, after a breakout season at Double-A, Schmidt was called up and played four games in the big leagues.

His debut was in Cincinnati against the Reds.

When Schmidt came in the D-backs' clubhouse afterward, there was a bottle of champagne waiting for him from fellow Petaluma, Calif., native Johnny Gomes.

Attached was a note with a famous saying around Petaluma that Schmidt used a lot during his year in Tucson.

"Tough times go away. Tough people don't"

"He's a grinder, a dirt bag, whatever you want to call him," Reno manager Brett Butler said. "He's always been an underdog and now you're seeing that underdog mentality he has pay off for him."

Schmidt got his second taste of the big leagues earlier this season when he went up while starter Miguel Montero was battling an injury.

"It was nice to be reassured that I'm still a part of the Diamondbacks' plan going forward and not just a flash in the pan," Schmidt said.

When baseball eventually ends for the 27-year-old, the plan is to move back to Northern California and serve as a firefighter.

Schmidt was a volunteer firefighter for six years in Wilmar, Calif., before playing for the Wildcats.

Twin bill tonight

The Tucson Padres' game Monday night against Reno was suspended with the Aces leading 1-0 after three innings.

The game was suspended because of heavy rain and a wet playing surface at Kino Stadium. A rain delay began shortly before 8 p.m., and lasted more than hour before the umpires officially suspended it.

"The field was just too wet under the tarp," Tucson manager Terry Kennedy said. "It would have been hard to get it in."

The two teams will pick the game back up tonight at 5:30 p.m. in the top of the fourth inning. A seven-inning game will follow after the completion of the suspended game.

The suspension came one night after Tucson's game against Fresno was postponed because of rain and lightning.

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