If what Cam Schiller’s father told him is true – that baseball is the closest game to life – the Spokane Indians second baseman could be likened to a few things.
He’s been a change-up – moving from shortstop to second base in college; a fielder’s choice – his college coach, prior to his senior year, said he’d be the top defensive player in his league by the end of the season; and a ground ball – the kind of even-keeled, level-headed player that doesn’t seem to ever get rattled.
But above all, he’s been a catch for the teams he’s played ball for. This all came after 22-year-old Schiller caught diamond fever from his father, John, early in life.
“He made sure I had every opportunity in this sport,” said Schiller.
Schiller’s dad played at Central Washington University and spent a year in the San Francisco Giants organization in the Northwest League. Cam’s grandfather, Ken, also played minor-league ball for three years.
“I grew up with baseball in my blood, but it was never forced on me,” Schiller said. “I wanted to play. I wanted to learn.
“But the best stuff I’ve learned from him was about life, and he compared that to baseball. He made sure I stayed grounded. That I could handle the ups, but more importantly the downs, because it seems like there is more failure than success in life and baseball.”
Make no mistake, though. Schiller’s father, who grew up in Yakima, taught him about baseball, too.
“He was my hitting coach – which could be a lot of fun or really frustrating depending on the day,” Schiller joked. “But, seriously, with his background, I was lucky to have him. Especially because we moved around a lot.”
Schiller was born in Wenatchee, where he returned during his college years to play summer baseball with Indians teammate and Gonzaga University product Royce Bolinger. By the time he reached high school his family had reached Prescott, Ariz.
His father coached him at Prescott High, where he met Kelli, his wife of just over a year, and Schiller chose to stay local and join the baseball program across town at Yavapai (Community) College following high school.
“I could’ve gone to a Division I school but I wanted to play right away,” said Schiller.
At Yavapai, Schiller helped his team to regular-season league titles in 2009 and 2010, before moving on to Oral Roberts in Tulsa, Okla.
“You don’t really wake up one day and say, ‘My dream is to move to Tulsa, that’s where I want to go,’” said Schiller. “But I liked what they had to offer.”
And they liked what he had to offer.
As a senior, the switch-hitter posted a .374 batting average, drove in 87 runs and homered eight times.
Then came draft day this summer, when Schiller was picked up in the seventh round by the Texas Rangers, who signed him and shipped him to Spokane.
Spokane finished 12-26 and last in the first half of the season, but the Indians have improved over the last two weeks. So has Schiller, who just had a seven-game hitting streak snapped on Wednesday night.
“(Class A short season) is a grind; I think that’s what we’re here for more than anything,” he said. “We come here and we can all play well, but with this schedule you learn really fast how exhausting it can be.
“Baseball has a way of making you feel like you’re behind the curve, but I’m learning a lot this summer.”
But thanks to his roots, at least Schiller’s learning curve won’t likely be likened to a strike out.