Arrow-right Camera

Hard work leads Mead Panthers’ Schrader to triple crown Jake Schrader is Mead’s catcher after playing first base as a junior. (Colin Mulvany) Jake Schrader is Mead’s catcher after playing first base as a junior. (Colin Mulvany)

There’s no magical answer as to why Jake Schrader boosted his batting average by more than 200 points this spring.

There’s nothing romantic about a kid saying he’s spent much of his free time the past year working out and taking as many swings as possible.

Much like how diets actually are effective, though, the increased productivity for the Mead senior came by way of hard work. Suffice to say the dedication paid big dividends for the Mead senior. He won the Greater Spokane League’s triple crown, finishing as the regular-season leader in average (.614), runs batted in (35) and tied for most home runs (six). In two other statistics, he ranked sixth in runs (28) and eighth in doubles (nine).

Mead coach Jason Reich has had several good hitters, but none who has sustained it for a whole season like Schrader.

“He’s been on fire the whole season,” Reich said.

His peak average came at .690. Last year, he averaged .412 and the three-year starter had a .328 average as a sophomore.

“It’s his offseason work ethic,” Reich said. “He set some goals this year. He talked about it last spring, about things he wanted to accomplish his senior year. He’s a hard worker and that’s a trait we noticed all along. It’s come together his senior year.”

Schrader does it from both sides of the plate. He’s been a switch-hitter since former Eastern Washington University coach Jim Wasem Sr., encouraged him to try it when he played for him during the summers in middle school.

As a junior, he had a better average from the right side. But things evened up on both sides this year.

“He’s added the power piece this year,” Reich said. “He’s been potent from both sides. That’s something that’s usually not common for a switch-hitter.”

Schrader gives much credit to Wasem and his son, Jim Wasem Jr., Rogers’ head coach who has coached Schrader in American Legion.

“Both have helped me a lot,” Schrader said. “Both are (former pro players). I feel like I owe them a lot because they taught me the game and how to play it the right way.”

Jim Wasem Jr., saw Schrader’s production up close this spring.

“He’s always been a capable hitter,” the Rogers coach said.

Schrader arrived at Mead as a pudgy 165 pounds and 5-foot-6. He leaves having grown to 6-0 and 190.

“This year he’s a rock physically,” Reich said. “He’s about as fit as he’ll get.”

Schrader worked out all winter with a personal trainer. He lost 6 pounds initially and put on 10 pounds in strength.

He took a liking this year to a nutrition and fitness class taught by head track coach John Mires.

Twice a week, the class goes out on runs. Schrader runs about 5.3 miles. After the class with Mires it is straight to weightlifting.

“I’ve really noticed a difference in my strength this year,” Schrader said. “The ball is coming off the bat a lot harder.”

Schrader is headed to Lower Columbia, a two-year school in Longview, Wash. He had some interest from four-year schools, but they backed away because Schrader admits he’s lacked dedication in the classroom at times.

By going to Lower Columbia, Schrader will have the opportunity to go on to a four-year school or be eligible for the amateur draft twice. His ultimate goal is to play in the major leagues.

Schrader, a catcher, said one of his favorite pros is New York Yankees catcher Jorge Posada, who is also a switch-hitter.

Schrader started at first base his sophomore season and was slated to start at catcher last year. But a preseason injury to his throwing arm, suffered while he was taking batting practice, required him to play at first a second year.

He was extending his arms to reach an outside pitch when he felt something tear under his right arm between his wrist and elbow. An MRI revealed a frayed ligament and the doctor told him to refrain from throwing.

So Reich kept Schrader at first. No teams picked up on his inability to throw. During pregame warmups and in between innings, a teammate would throw ground balls around the infield.

“All I ever did was toss it underhand,” Schrader said.

The injury healed by the end of last summer, and he’s had no difficulty throwing from behind the plate this spring.

“He’s a phenomenal first baseman, but catcher is his natural position,” Reich said.

Schrader’s favorite game this spring was one against Mt. Spokane in which he fell a double shy of hitting for the cycle. He thought he had it in his final at-bat when he hit a line drive to left-center. But speedy Washington State University-bound center fielder Nate Blackham made a diving catch to rob Schrader of the cycle.

“It was a great catch,” Schrader said. “It was disappointing not to get the cycle, but you’ve got to tip your hat to him. After the game I told him it was a great catch and we hugged. He fully laid out to make the catch.”

Wasem sees a good future in the sport for Schrader.

“He’s always hitting, always in the gym, always working out,” Wasem said. “It may be a lot of coaching from the Wasems over the years, but it’s a lot of hard work by him.”