South Bend, IN 11/9/2013
After helping to lead Street Kids Softball to a 71-15 tourney record and 10 tournament wins this season, outfielder Fred Schmucker has been voted this years Most Valuable Player.
Schmucker, playing in his third season with SKS, was among the team leaders in hitting all season and finished with a .697 average - finishing only nine percentage points behind the batting champion Newell Phebus. Coming into the last tourney of the weekend, Schmucker was leading the team in hitting. Schmucker was named to a team high six all-tourney teams this season (tied with Joe Horvath and Scott Martin, who finished second and third in the MVP voting), hit 32 home runs and drove in 136 runs while also hitting 32 doubles and six triples. His extra base hits per at bat (3.26) was second on the team to Joe Horvath's (3.08).
It was not just his offense that led Schmucker to the MVP award, but his amazing play in the outfield has many considering him one of the best center fielders in the game. His speed and ability to get rid of the ball so quickly after the catch have Schmucker in a rare group of players. He has made some amazing over the fence catches, including one at the national championship that had people all over the complex talking about it.
When told that he was named the MVP on Saturday, the soft spoken outfielder was shocked.
"Wow, I am very surprised!" said the Amish right hander. "I don't know what to say, I didn't see this coming. I have always been a team-first guy, never played for myself, but wanted to make the team and the players around me better. I am honored and humbled but I cannot accept this award without thanking the players that took the field with me 66 times this year (games played)."
Schmucker has quickly grown to be one of the best players in the area, all while doing it with a boyhood smile and a quiet demeanor. His younger brother Leland was named MVP last year and along with fellow Amish teammates Faron Miller and Jeremy Hochstetler, played in the USSSA Conference - what many people consider the major leagues of slow pitch softball. Fred Schmucker continued to play his ass off while the other three Amish played part time with conference teams (Faron was full time with Line Drive in the Conference). When asked toward the end of the season if he was ever asked to play in the conference, Fred said he was never asked.
"I have not been asked directly no," he said a few months back. "But that's ok. I enjoy what I do now, I love playing right here and my focus is on Street Kids and helping this team win."
Schmucker and his fellow Amish teammates will be moving on to a new team in 2014, but it is not without some sadness as well.
"Its hard to say if the next team I play on or any other team will be able to match what we've done here the last three years," he added. "These last three years were the most fun I have ever had in softball. I will miss this team and my teammates."
In other post season awards, Kevin Lewandowski was voted this years Gold Glove winner for best defensive player. Lewandowski joined SKS full time last winter after a brief addition in 2010 and despite being 35 years old, showed amazing skill and speed in right field. Lewandowski narrowly beat out second baseman Nick Bishop.
Jay Jeffery was named the Coach Teddy Teammate of the Year award, an honor given by Teddy Panagakos to the player who best explifies the team-first spirit and leadership. Last year, Fred Schmucker took home the award and Scott Martin was also a winner two years ago.
Joe Horvath, who finished second in MVP voting, won the home run title for the fifth straight year. Horvath owns the team record of 163 set in 2011, which will most likely never be broken as the team no longer keeps track of league stats. His 92 home runs in tournaments are also a team record.
Newell Phebus was named the Offensive Player of the Year, the award given to the player who leads the team in hitting. Phebus' sweet left handed swing came up big late in the season as he stormed his way atop the leader board after the final tournament of the season. When Fred Schmucker and Todd Mase fell off pace, Phebus picked it up and finished the season at .706.
And finally, the Comeback Player of the Year was given to Chad "Cat" Marchand, who overcame a near career ending knee injury in the summer of 2012 and worked hard in the off season to get his strength back to return to the diamond with SKS in 2013. Even at the start of the season, Marchand was not 100%, but he continued to work hard to build up the strength in his leg and finished out the season strong, being named to the all-tourney team at the CSA World Series in September.