April 27, 2011

Pitcher Schmeltzer Sets Sights on Pros After Several Crossroads

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In terms of making decisions, things have not always come so easily to Cornell senior pitcher and first baseman Jadd Schmeltzer. He chose to attend Cornell (9-27, 6-10 Ivy League) over baseball powerhouses in the Atlantic Coast Conference and Big East. He opted to quit playing football after his first year in Ithaca and took a gamble by leaving baseball for several months in 2010 following a difficult junior season.In the end, however, it has all amounted to being within arm’s reach of signing a professional baseball contract — Jadd would become the second Schmeltzer to do so.“It’s sort of interesting — neither my dad or my mom was really into [baseball],” he said. “My older brother had a brief professional stint, and it’s sort of the thing where I looked at him and started to get into the sport and I just went from there.”A standout football tight end and baseball player at Bergen Catholic High School (N.J.), the 6-5, 245-pound Schmeltzer was sought by several elite baseball programs. The right-hander from Tappan, N.Y., a hamlet in Rockland County, turned down offers from local Big East schools St. John’s and Villanova, among others.“It’s pretty big in terms of the gap [athletically, between Cornell and the other schools],” Schmeltzer said. “I had Virginia Tech, Boston College, Connecticut, ’Nova, St. Johns and some others looking at me. But I think it was the combination of the education at Cornell and the ability to continue playing football. At the time, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to play just baseball or both baseball and football, but Cornell gave me both opportunities.”As a freshman, Schmeltzer appeared in 27 baseball games for the Red with 19 starts — six at first base and 13 as a designated hitter. He posted a .246 batting average with two homeruns and 12 RBI, following a promising season as a big target on the Cornell junior varsity football team. Schmeltzer decided to lay down the pads, though, and focus solely on baseball.“It was probably the toughest decision I have ever made besides choosing to come to Cornell,” the Applied Economics and Management major explained. “Football was too tough on my body. Between practices and everything my body took a beating, so I decided it was best for me to go ahead and finish out the season, then play baseball. It was a pretty tough decision, but I am happy with it, especially with where I am now — I still live with half of those [football] guys and I’m still able to keep in touch with all of them.”Schmeltzer’s batting average dropped to .220 during his sophomore year, but he belted five homeruns, tallied 14 RBI and recorded four multi-hit games. His biggest impact came on the mound, where he finished with a 2-3 record and a 4.01 earned-run average in nine appearances. Schmeltzer placed second on the club with 42 strikeouts on the mound.Two of those Ks came in the eighth inning of the regular-season finale against Princeton on April 29, 2009, when Schmeltzer combined with senior Corey Pappel, Stephen Osterer ’09 and David Rochefort ’10 to record 18 strikeouts (a Cornell record) on Hoy Field, and help the Red advance to the Ivy League Championship Series, shutting out the Tigers, 9-0.“My highlight at Cornell was winning the game to go to the Ivy championships my sophomore year, and being nailed in the dog pile after we beat up on Princeton in that extra game,” Schmeltzer said.In game one of the championship against Dartmouth on May 2, Schmeltzer struck out eight batters for the third time in the 2009 season; however, he allowed four runs in 4.2 innings and the Red fell in a close battle, 8-6. Cornell rallied to win game two, 14-12, but the team was unable to complete the comeback effort in the deciding game, where it was blanked by the Green, 10-0. Cornell missed out on the Ivy League’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament after failing to defeat Dartmouth in that series.After Cornell earned its second trip to the Ivy League Championship Series in program history, expectations were high for the Red — and for Schmeltzer — entering the 2010 season. Schmeltzer shared lofty goals, but suffered his worst collegiate season. While he batted .242 with three homeruns and 14 RBI, Schmeltzer struggled mightily on the mound, finishing with an 0-4 record and an 11.65 ERA in five starts. Half of the junior’s 10 strikeouts came in the season opener against Florida Atlantic on March 23.“Last year was probably my most difficult season because I had so many expectations for myself,” Schmeltzer said. “I wanted to be pitcher of the year; I wanted to get drafted. I think all of that put so much pressure on me to the point where I overworked myself. I basically over-trained and it was tough because year-to-year we were expecting me and the team to have great seasons.”According to Schmeltzer, his difficult experience during Cornell’s 18-20 season — an improvement upon the Red’s record the year prior — led him to temporarily stop playing any form of baseball.“[My struggles during junior year] are why I had to take the summer and fall off. I took time off from baseball for about six to eight months. All I did was work-out, train, get my body in shape and take classes. That period really helped me grow both physically and mentally.”The respite paid dividends for the Red, as Schmeltzer has a team-best 4.20 ERA in eight starts through 36 games. The righty hurler has allowed only nine extra-base hits, and despite his 2-4 mark, has been one of Cornell’s most reliable forces on the mound in a disappointing season.Schmeltzer noted the inverse relationship between his level of performance and that of his team.“It’s tough to go from pitching pretty poorly while the team is at .500 to throwing lights-out and the team is well under .500,” he said. “You kind of scratch your head about that, but it’s just the game of baseball. The more we’ve gotten out on the field, the better we’ve looked.”In fact, Cornell has won five of its last seven games, including taking three of four in its home-opening Ivy series against Penn. The latest victory was a 13-4 thrashing of the Quakers on Monday.“If we were starting the season right now, we’d be looking pretty solid,” Schmeltzer said. “There’s nothing you can do about the weather — you can’t prevent snow or rain — and those factors didn’t help us early on.”Schmeltzer was vocal in his frustration towards the Ithaca weather earlier this season — the longest and most severe winter of the pitcher’s four years at Cornell — and often daydreams in jest about what could have been playing for an ACC school.“I’ve talked about it a lot with a couple of my teammates, my brother and my parents,” he said. “Sometimes I joke like, ‘Man, I wish I was down somewhere warm,’ but at the end of the day there’s no other place I’d rather be than here.”Schmeltzer is here for only six more games, though. The pitcher hopes he can use his team’s recent momentum to move forward individually.“I’m just trying to make the most of what I can. Hopefully we continue to win in the games we have left — winning is always better, especially because the door will open up in the future for my baseball. I’m hoping in June to get drafted or sign as a free agent or just be able to get out and play.”

Original Author: Quintin Schwab