By Troy Mauriello
McClancy’s rising senior Kyle Schaefer knows that it’s possible. In fact, he saw it happen twice earlier this summer.
The goal of making it into the major leagues is probably one shared by every top high school baseball player in the country, but for Schaefer, that goal seems just a bit more attainable after this summer.
Back in June, McClancy standout Quentin Holmes became the highest New York City player selected in the MLB Draft in 21 years when he went 64th overall to the Cleveland Indians. Just one day later, his teammate, Charlie Neuweiler, was selected by the Kansas City Royals in the fifth round.
For a Queens high school baseball program to have two players selected that high in a draft usually dominated by schools in hotbeds like Texas, California and Florida certainly did not go unnoticed by many. But now for McClancy, the question becomes, who is next in line to follow in Holmes and Neuweiler’s footsteps?
Enter Schaefer, who in 2017 was named to TimesLedger’s All-Queens first team as a junior catcher. Schaefer ended the season batting .336 with 17 RBI and 10 extra-base hits, along with gunning down 70 percent of base-stealers behind the plate as the Crusaders made a run deep into the CHSAA “AA” playoffs.
“Playing with a guy like Charlie and a guy like Q [Holmes]… it opened my eyes,” Schaefer said. “It motivated me a lot more to be much more focused on the baseball field, and just do what I have to do and help the team win.”
Now, the expectation is for Schaefer to take that next step into the elite prospect category. But instead of letting those lofty goals get to his head, he’s using them to fuel motivation for his final year at McClancy.
As Schaefer sits months away from his senior season, he noted advice that he will take from both Holmes and Neuweiler as they depart from the program.
From Holmes, Schaefer said he learned how to deal with the expectations and the flurry of scouts and press that will be keeping a watchful eye on him during every game next year. He cited a practice conversation with Holmes during this year’s playoffs that made the most difference.
“I was like, ‘Q how do you deal with all this? Like how do you deal with all the scouts here, all the press are on you, to be Quentin Holmes?’ He’s like, ‘I don’t do anything special, I just do what I have to do and play.’ So what he told me last year at that practice will definitely help me this year,” Schaefer said.
Schaefer also added that Neuweiler was not the type of player who would be considered a top MLB Draft pick when he first started playing with McClancy, and that he built himself up with his own hard work. This, Schaefer said, taught him that, “if you work hard, you’ll achieve what you want.”
So far this summer, Schaefer has done just that. Playing with the Midville Dodgers 17U travel baseball team, he hit .364 with four RBI in his first nine games. Last week, the Dodgers had a chance to take a road trip to Cincinnati for the Dinger Wood Bat World Series, an experience that Schaefer hopes will prepare him for his future playing days.
“It feels like I’m in pro ball right now,” he said. “We went on a coach bus to go 13 hours to Cincinnati, so I definitely feel like a pro ballplayer, in the leagues. It’s been cool, it’s been really fun with the team and everything.”
Those professional aspirations will have to wait to pan out until sometime in the future. Looking ahead, Schaefer’s goal for next season remains to lead the Crusaders to a city championship, and perhaps more important, to enjoy his final season of high school baseball.
“I want to take this year as a whole thing. Because it’s my senior year so I really want to enjoy it, just go out there on the field and have fun with the guys and everything,” he said.