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Daily Pilot High School Male Athlete of the Week: JT Schwartz sparks CdM baseball’s run

03/31/2018, 9:45am PDT
By Andrew Turner; Daily Pilot

Fathers do not always tell their children what they want to hear.

Rather, it is one of their foremost duties to convey to them what they need to know.

In the eighth grade, JT Schwartz's father told his son that the time was coming where he would have to consider focusing on primarily one sport.

Schwartz played both baseball and basketball, and although he would continue to play both in high school, he devoted most of his time to the former.

A year later, Schwartz had just completed his first baseball season at Corona del Mar High, when the two of them sat down for a conversation again.

"My dad actually called me, and he said, 'You might want to take a seat for this. I got something to tell you,'" Schwartz remembered. "I had no idea what he was about to tell me, and he just said, 'You got an offer from UCLA.'"

Schwartz said he was shocked by the news.

"Normally, it's not as positive as that," Schwartz chuckled when asked about the usual tone of talks that begin with his pops asking him to sit down. "I'll say that."

Schwartz probably showed the most surprise of anybody that he had been offered. Sea Kings coach John Emme said his talent was evident from the moment he took the field.

"As a freshman, his nickname was Hobbs, which was for Roy Hobbs, 'The Natural,'" Emme said. "He's just a natural. He works very, very hard. He's always in the cage. He's always around the field. He's baseball's version of a gym rat, and there's a reason why he's been so successful."

Four years of the same work ethic and Schwartz has developed into one of the best shortstops in Orange County. He has filled out at 6 feet 4 and 200 pounds, adding to his tools. More arm strength and greater power at the plate have made him a difference-maker for the Sea Kings.

Last week, the left-handed hitting senior went eight for 14 with three home runs and 10 RBIs. He had a two-homer game at University and a grand slam against Northwood.

CdM capped its three-game week with a 16-1 victory over Newport Harbor in the Battle of the Bay.

"We actually got swept last year, and then my freshman year, we got swept, too," Schwartz said of facing the Back Bay rival Sailors. "We definitely did want to put it on them this year, and we sure did that."

Since making his commitment to UCLA, Schwartz says the pressure has been off. The Sea Kings' star infielder said that the most he has pressed while playing baseball at CdM was the initial push to make the team.

Starting pitcher Chazz Martinez and center fielder Preston Hartsell have also been on the team for four years, but they made the roster before Schwartz.

"There was definitely some pressure then," Schwartz said of trying to join his close friends on the varsity team. "Chazz and Preston got called up before me that summer, so especially seeing them get called up, it was kind of motivation for me.

"I just looked at that, and I was like, 'All right, now it's my turn.' I just tried to perform, and I eventually got the call up, too."

Hartsell, a senior outfielder who hits for power from the left side, gave his college commitment to USC. It is hard to tell who is looking forward to the matchup the most, but it might be Emme, who is set to hang up his uniform at the end of the season after coaching the team for 21 years.

"I can't wait," Emme said of potentially seeing his former players compete against each other in college. "That's going to be a treat."

The current season has provided its own brand of excitement. The Sea Kings (7-4, 4-1 in the Pacific Coast League) have won five consecutive games going into perhaps their most important week. After losing the first game against Beckman, CdM has two games against the first-place Patriots (9-2-1, 5-0) to swing the league race.

Last season, CdM captured its first league title since 2006. The postseason, however, was a disappointment, as the Sea Kings were eliminated in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division 2 playoffs.

While he has enjoyed having the core of Schwartz, Hartsell and Martinez in his batting order, Emme says it was critical to lengthen the lineup.

"We finally have some bats behind them, and it's the only way for them to be successful," Emme said. "If you only have to worry about the three of them, you're going to be in trouble. Our four through nine hitters had no hits and nine strikeouts last year in the playoff game."

Emme gave credit to junior Luc Stuka, sophomore Kieran Sidebotham and freshman Blake Butcher for adding protection for the top of the Sea Kings' order.

"I think this team definitely has the talent and the opportunity to win another league title and hopefully CIF," Schwartz said. "I don't see any reason why we can't. We have the capability to do so, so we just got to put it together."

*

JT SCHWARTZ

Born: Dec. 17, 1999

Hometown: Newport Beach

Height: 6 feet 4

Weight: 200 pounds

Sport: Baseball

Year: Senior

Coach: John Emme

Favorite food: Chicken tikka masala

Favorite movie: "Interstellar"

Favorite athletic moment: Schwartz takes pride in being part of the team that helped CdM baseball break an extended league title drought. The Sea Kings won the Pacific Coast League last season, their first league crown since 2006.

Week in review: The UCLA-bound shortstop went eight for 14 with three home runs and 10 RBIs. His offensive outburst helped lead the Sea Kings to a pair of PCL wins and a victory over Back Bay rival Newport Harbor.

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