Worth a Schott: After years of hard work, Warren catcher getting noticed in Division I college baseball; named to Johnny Bench Award Watch List

Warren-native Brandon Schott has spent most of his baseball career flying under the radar.

He was never the most sought-after player at Warren Area High School, or at Allegany College of Maryland – a junior college – despite being a key part of both programs.

“He’s never given up,” said his mother, Renee.

The secret is out, as the Greater Wichita Area Sports Commission recently named the now University of Maryland Eastern Shore senior to its 2013 Johnny Bench Award Watch List.

Yes, that Johnny Bench.

The Watch List consists of the top 48 NCAA Division I catchers in the country. The list will be cut down over the course of the season until a winner is voted on June 27, but Schott is honored to be on the list.

“I read the article and, to be honest, I was shocked,” said Schott. “To even be on the same list as some of the players that were mentioned is an honor.”

Fittingly, Schott was hard at work when he found out.

“I found out when I got a text from my dad asking if I had seen the article,” said Schott. “I said no, and then he told me what it was for. I was in the middle of working out when I got the text, and he said that I was one of the 48 to make it on the Watch List for the award.”

Schott is the only catcher from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference on the list. Many of the nominees come from powerhouse programs such as Texas, South Carolina, LSU, and Florida State. Former Johnny Bench Award winners include Major Leaguers Mike Zunino (2012), Buster Posey (2008), Jeff Clement (2005), Kurt Suzuki (2004) and Kelly Shoppach (2001).

Schott is in his second year at Maryland Eastern Shore, which was the only Division I program to offer him a scholarship. When it came time to choose a school after junior college, the decision was easy.

“I chose UMES because it was the next step in my dream, which was to play Division I baseball,” said Schott. “It seemed like the right place for me at the time and I would fit right in with the team, which was where one of the pitchers I played with transferred to after Allegany.”

His dream is also why he opted to take the junior college route after high school rather than go to a smaller four-year school.

“I feel like going to junior college was the best decision I could have made,” he said. “I was talking to a few Division III schools during high school, along with Allegany. Going to junior college was another opportunity to make my dream of playing Division I ball possible, so that’s what I went with. So far, I feel that it’s paid off.”

It certainly paid off for UMES, where Schott hit .266 with nine doubles, a home run, and 23 RBI last year. This season, he is hitting .293 with five doubles and seven RBI in 11 games played.

He is also second on the team in slugging at .415.

“He is working extra hard with two catchers active right now, doing his work and also helping with bullpen sessions,” UMES head coach Pedro Swann said. “With his work ethic, he is very deserving of the nomination.”

To be eligible, players had to participate in at least 75 percent of games at catcher the previous Division I season.

Schott’s former high school coach, Jeff Passaro, said “he deserves to be where he’s at. He’s worked hard.”

In high school, an injury gave Schott the opportunity to start at catcher during his sophomore season, and he started his junior year and senior year as well. He was named a District 10 Region 6 first-team all-star his junior and senior years, hitting .410 with a team-leading four homers and 24 RBI his senior season – in which the Dragons were region champs.

“You could watch his growth and he just developed over the years,” said Passaro.

Schott’s father, Darren, said you could see a spark in Brandon almost immediately after he advanced to the Pennsylvania American Legion All-Stars East-West all-star game back in 2009 at Metro Bank Park in Harrisburg.

From there, Schott was introduced to baseball people such at Phillipsburg Major League scout “Keno” Beezer, and Allegany College of Maryland’s Steve Bazarnic, the winningest active NJCAA baseball coach in the country.

Schott would even drive 5 1/2 hours to Parkersburg, W.V., to work on his swing with Steve Swisher, father of current Major Leaguer Nick Swisher.

“His drive comes from within,” said his father, Darren. “Ever since he got that bug for getting stronger and getting better, (he has).”

Brandon was named a team captain his first year with the UMES, and continues to be a leader for the Hawks behind the plate.

“As a captain, I try to bring leadership and experience to the team which also comes from the role of being a catcher, who is, for the most part, the leader on the field,” said Schott, whose UMES squad (www.umeshawks.com/) is 3-13 with a home game vs. Coppin State on Saturday. “We have a young team, mostly made up of freshmen and sophomores so, as a captain, besides being a leader on the field, I also have to help them transition into the atmosphere and level of play in college baseball.”

Schott was also named to the 2012 MEAC Commissioner’s All-Academic Team, awarded to student-athletes who maintain a 3.0 grade point average.

In addition to Allegany College of Maryland and University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Schott has played summer baseball with the Kersey Diamonds of the Continental Collegiate League and the Carolina-Virginia Collegiate League’s Lexington Chops. Schott’s collegiate career will come to an end this spring, but he doesn’t expect to be through with the game just yet.

“My future plans in baseball are still to be determined,” he said. “Playing Independent ball or getting drafted would be the next step. If I don’t get drafted then I plan on trying out for some independent teams. I can’t let baseball end for me after this season and I will work as hard as it takes to play at the next level, whatever that may be.”

Darren has been the voice of reason.

“That’s his dream, for sure,” said Darren of professional baseball. “I’ve tried to always be the voice of reason, no matter how well he’s doing. Good grades have to be number one. But I’ve told him, ‘Plan B can be whatever you want it to be – dream as big as you want.'”