Patrick Schuster is far from the friendly confines of his hometown of Trinity, but the former Mitchell standout is enjoying plenty of success at the minor-league level.
Schuster, who was selected in the 13th round by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2009 Major League Baseball draft, is best remembered for pitching four straight no-hitters as a Mustangs senior during a 13-day span between April 3-21, 2009.
He saw limited time in 2009 for the Missoula Osprey, the Diamondbacks’ rookie affiliate. In 2010 he went 5-4 with 60 strikeouts in 76 2/3 innings.
This season with Arizona’s Class A affiliate, the South Bend (Ind.) Silver Hawks, the 6-foot-2 hurler is 6-3 through 13 starts and 16 appearances on the mound. He has struck out 58 and has a 3.18 ERA in 85 innings.
“It’s a whole different ball game out here on the minor-league level,” Schuster said. “Going into the first couple seasons I still had that high school mentality and wanting to strike out everyone. My coaches sat me down and let me know that this is a different level, and I need to locate my pitches and just get more ground balls.”
Schuster and former Gulf player Brandon Decker, a first baseman for Los Angeles Angels affiliate Cedar Rapids, had the opportunity to face off against each other in May, but Decker was injured and did not play.
“Me and Brandon have kind of joked about finally facing each other,” Schuster said. “It’s going to be pretty cool when I finally get to pitch against him because back in Little League he was known as the big home run hitter and I was known as the strikeout kid. So hopefully it happens.”
Decker’s home run surge continues: Home runs have been a benchmark of Brandon Decker’s game since he was in Little League.
That trend has hardly eased the past few years, as the 6-3, 240-pound first baseman combined to hit 43 home runs, drive in 163 and hit .402 and .420, respectively, in two seasons at Valdosta State in 2009 and ’10.
Now with the Los Angeles Angels’ Class A affiliate, Decker is tied for the team lead in home runs this season with eight in 225 plate appearances through 65 games played for the Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Kernels. Last summer, the Holiday native batted .341 with 13 home runs and 47 RBIs in 52 games for the Angels’ rookie club affiliate, the Orem Owlz.
Injuries have hindered Decker, 23, his first couple seasons in the minors. The former Gulf standout missed 23 games last season for the Owlz and 23 this season for the Kernels through 88 games.
“The injuries I’ve had are frustrating, but you just have to fight through them,” Decker said. “They’ve slowed me down a little bit, but I don’t let them get me down at all.
“Playing at this level is tough because you really have to study every pitcher and really prepare for every game your playing in. It’s been a great experience so far.”
Ex-Pirates star on way up: Former Pasco standout Robbie Shields, a third-round pick out of Florida Southern in 2009 by the New York Mets, has enjoyed a couple of promotions in his travels through the Mets’ minor-league system, including a recent move to the St. Lucie Mets, the Class A advanced club.
The Dade City native was named the All-Sunshine Athletic Conference’s Pasco County Player of the Year as a senior in 2006, batting .553 with 18 home runs and 40 RBIs. Shields went on to shine at Florida Southern, and as a freshman was named to the NCAA South regional all-tournament team.
Shields has played 11 games for the St. Lucie squad. He’s batting .270 and with six RBIs. While with the Savannah (Ga.) Sand Gnats last season he was selected a South Atlantic League All-Star, batted .274 in 60 games, notched 20 doubles and stole nine bases.
Photo: Former Gulf standout Brandon Decker
Credit: Special to the Times