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Pride of the youthful Yankee

August 14, 2008
Andy Rennecke

David Schmidt's a dedicated guy.

The Winona State freshman football player and recent TMB graduate just joined the Warriors last Friday.

With the permission of head coach Tom Sawyer, Schmidt will drive up from Winona Thursday afternoon to play with the Milroy Yankees in the Class C state amateur baseball tournament. The Yankees open with the St. Patrick Irish at 8:30 p.m. tonight in Shakopee.

"I'm going to drive up and drive back that night," Schmidt said. "The coach said it was all right. Since I'm a redshirt freshman, I guess he figured it was OK. If we (the Yankees) keep winning, I think I might be able to come back up. The coach just said to keep him posted."

Schmidt and recent Wabasso graduate Christopher Eichten have played key roles for the 27-7 Yankees this season. It's not that often that two players out of high school get the chance to play in the state amateur tournament, but the gifted youngsters have given Milroy an added boost of speed and enthusiasm.

Eichten is starting at shortstop and batting eighth. Before last Sunday's game against Sacred Heart in the Region 9C championship game, Eichten was hitting .274 this season. He had 11 RBI and 17 hits while having scored 20 runs. Schmidt is hitting .237 with nine RBI and 14 hits and has scored 12 runs. He'll bat seventh in the lineup and play in left field tonight.

Eichten, the co-Independent high school baseball player of the year along with teammate Johnny Pistulka for the Class A state champion Rabbits, didn't expect to be starting for the Yankees this season. To make room for him, Milroy moved regular shortstop Eric Dolan to second base.

"It was shaky at first and I was really nervous," Eichten said of starting. "I didn't want to let the guys down. Now that I've been playing with them all summer, it's gotten a lot easier. I think they respect me now. They're just a great group of guys. During high school ball, I knew I might start. But once I showed up and I was starting, I was a little surprised."

Schmidt has had to make the move from shortstop to left field in amateur ball. He played short for TMB and for Milroy during the Legion season.

"I wasn't absolutely sure where I'd be if I did play," Schmidt said. "I just really wanted to play with my brother (Andy). He's about 10 years older than me and I've always looked up to him. The transition to left has been all right. I had never played there before."

Yankees manager Ryan Rohlik said he kept it from Eichten and Schmidt that they'd be playing key roles on the team this season.

"I knew it was going to be a tough decision with our outfield," Rohlik said. "We have a lot of veterans. Plus, Cory Schmidt got hurt earlier in the year with a broken hand. Dave was willing to move to left and I didn't want to have to choose between Chris and him at short. They're both tremendous athletes and it's good to have them both on the field at the same time.

"I feel Dave out in left makes us a stronger defense. I asked him in Paynesville if he wanted to play out there and he's been there ever since. Chris and Eric have been great as a tandem up the middle. They're getting used to working with each other."

Eichten will play college baseball at Southwest Minnesota State. He's moving into his dorm room next Thursday. If the Yankees win tonight, they'll play next Friday.

Eichten admits he's "pretty blind" going into next season at SMSU. Playing fall ball will tell him where he's at with the other players on the roster.

"Hopefully I'll get a good look," Eichten said. "I think college ball is going to be different. There are a lot of really good players. I love playing with the Yankees, though. In the summer, that's where I'll be for a while."

Eichten and Schmidt developed a little bit of a rivalry over the years playing against one another at Wabasso and TMB, respectively. Ironically, the two are distant relatives. Both guessed they were third cousins with both of their moms being cousins.

"We're good friends," Eichten said of his relationship with Schmidt. "I called him the other night to see how things were going with football. To leave football practice to come back and play one baseball game, that says a lot about David."

Said Schmidt of Eichten: "It's finally good to be his teammate. We've been playing against each other a long time. We've always been good friends, but it's different being in the same dugout now. It's nice."

Schmidt, who is expected to redshirt as a wide receiver for Winona this year, said he's trying to soak up all the information he can right now at football practice.

"It's been good. There have been a lot meetings to go to," he said. "We're going from 8 in the morning until 8 at night. There's a lot of mental stuff to take on. I'm just soaking it all in. The guys have been awesome down here - way better than I expected. I'm doing a lot of studying and they're doing a lot of helping."

Both Eichten and Schmidt were on Milroy's state tournament roster last year. However, neither were starting.

"I might be a little nervous, but I've been in big games before. I've played in the high school state tournament and this should just be a regular game for me," Eichten said.

Schmidt, on the other hand, doesn't think he'll be anything but excited.

"I'm really excited," he said. "I'm just pumped for it."

Probably not for the drive to and from Winona, however.



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