EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) -The Evansville Otters announced that franchise record-holder and three-time All-Star John Schultz has signed to come out of retirement and play for Evansville in 2020.
Schultz, an outfielder and West Lawn, Pa. native, is one of the Otters’ most productive players in franchise history, originally coming to Evansville in 2013.
Schultz holds career franchise records in games played (420), RBIs (207), at-bats (1,560), hits (458), runs (280), doubles (90), total bases (710), and walks (219).
“We’re excited to have John come back to Evansville and help us get back to that championship level like when he was here in 2016,” Otters manager Andy McCauley said.
“He loves the game and wanted to get back out there. John plays the right way, he’s a very good hitter, and brings a lot of leadership and experience with him.”
“I’m really excited to come back, and to get that phone call and have the opportunity not just to play but to come back to Evansville, where it all really began for me, was really special,” Schultz said.
In five seasons with the Otters, Schultz had batted .294 with 458 hits and 207 RBIs. He also had 90 doubles, 18 triples and 42 home runs through the 2017 season.
Schultz was a Frontier League All-Star in 2013, 2015, and 2017, and has also been instrumental in leading the Otters to the playoffs in three of his last four seasons with Evansville—including a Frontier League title in 2016.
“Winning the championship in 2016 was an amazing feeling, a feeling I had never experienced before in professional baseball,” Schultz said.
“In 2017, we had a good team that we thought could make a run but had an early exit to the eventual champion Schaumburg Boomers, but having that feeling of winning a championship is something I’m really looking to get again.”
At the end of the 2017 season, the Otters retired Schultz’ number four jersey, the second number to be retired in franchise history next to the late Otters manager Greg Jelks’ number 44 jersey.
Schultz could not return to the Otters in 2018, as the Frontier League eliminated the veteran status for its roster eligibility rules that year. After league expansion and some rule changes this past fall, the Frontier League brought back a tweaked version of the veteran status, allowing Schultz to sign another player contract with the Otters for 2020.
“When the rule changes became official, I got together with our coaching staff and we talked about how that would affect us and looked at our options,” McCauley said. “Of course, we all thought of John Schultz as a possibility.”
During a phone call with Schultz, McCauley said there was a mutual interest between him and Schultz in making this reunion happen in 2020.
“After 2018, I kind of thought I would be done, but I always missed playing deep down and never really got rid of that itch to play,” Schultz said. “The phone call confirmed it for me that I still have time left in this game and really some unfinished business.”
Schultz will also return as a high-level leader in the clubhouse next to pitcher Tyler Vail, serving as a voice among the position players just like Vail among the pitchers.
“John has a good feel of what’s going on in the clubhouse, and because he’s been around our staff for so long, he knows what we’re thinking ahead of time,” McCauley said. “He’s bought in to what we’re trying to build and do in Evansville.”
It’s been a year removed since Schultz last played, as he appeared in 13 games with the Sussex County Miners at the beginning of the 2018 season.
Even though the amount of time since he last played presents its challenges, Schultz has still been around the game of baseball by working in training academies, coaching, giving lessons, and doing some hitting.
“I’ve committed myself full-time to training, and I’m working harder than I’ve ever worked,” Schultz said. “I’ll be ready to do whatever the team needs me to come May.”
McCauley said he envisions Schultz being in the Otters’ lineup one way or another, splitting time between left field, first base and as the designated hitter.
After playing collegiately at the University of Pittsburgh, Schultz was drafted in the 34th round of the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft by the Florida Marlins. He spent the 2011 and 2012 seasons with the Marlins.
Schultz attributes his loyalty with the Otters to the fact McCauley gave him the only phone call and offer to play in 2013 following his release by the Marlins after 2012.
“The game had soured on me at that time in affiliated baseball, but Evansville helped me find that love for the game again,” Schultz said.
“I owe everything to Evansville, as Andy and owner Mr. Bill Bussing took me in and gave me a chance when no one else would. They’ve been so loyal to me through it all.”
Schultz also said the decision to come back to Evansville was easy for him and no way he could pass up the opportunity.
“This opportunity is especially exciting with the league’s expansion,” Schultz said. “There are some really cool places we’ll travel to, there are really good teams and coaches, and the future is very bright for the Frontier League with the continued growth.”
Overall in his professional career, Schultz has recorded a .292 batting average, while posting 365 runs, 594 hits, 110 doubles, 23 triples, 48 home runs, and 263 RBIs.
“John loves Evansville, Bosse Field, and the Bussing Family,” McCauley said. “He’s an Otter all the way through, having proved that on the field. He’s all in to help us get back to winning the Frontier League championship.”
“Last year, the Otters had a really good team, coming up just short of their goals,” Schultz said. “With the possibility of a good number of those guys coming back, it’s a good opportunity for me to come back and join a team with all the pieces that are there and help the team get another championship ring for Evansville.”
Spring Training and the exhibition season will begin in early May for the Otters. Evansville will open the regular season May 14 at the Gateway Grizzlies before their home-opening weekend series at Bosse Field against the Grizzlies May 15-17.
You won’t want to miss what’s new in 2020 at Bosse Field with the Evansville Otters, featuring some new Frontier League competition as part of the largest, independent professional league in North America!
Courtesy: Evansville Otters