Transfer put Schroeder on path to Oakland
A's select former Kentucky catcher in 14th round of First-Year Player Draft
Transferring from the University of Kentucky to Polk State College may not sound like a recipe for long-term athletic success.
But it's a move that likely saved Casey Schroeder's baseball career.
Schroeder, who was drafted by the A's on Saturday in the 14th round of the First-Year Player Draft, arrived at Kentucky having recently converted from a shortstop to a catcher. As a freshman in 2013, he saw six at-bats all season. Perhaps more important, he was unsatisfied with his development defensively.
"I was fairly new to catching in high school, and I know I was pretty raw," Schroeder said. "I wanted to get to learn the position, and I didn't feel we were getting as much instruction as we needed from behind the plate. I really wanted to find someone to teach me that has been back there and has had a successful career back there."
Schroeder had originally been drafted by the Cardinals in 2012, when he was the top-rated high school catcher in Ohio. The area scout who evaluated Schroeder was Brian Hopkins, and Hopkins, from talking to the Cardinals' scout in Florida, knew Polk State's reputation.
"He said that Polk was the place to be if I wanted to grow as a catcher," Schroeder said.
Polk State College is in the Suncoast Conference, not the Southeast Conference. But the Eagles have something -- someone -- that the Wildcats lack: head coach Al Corbeil.
Corbeil, now in his fourth year at Polk, hands down the catching wisdom he received as a catcher in the Angels' Minor League system for three years in the early 2000s.
"I got in contact with him, he got me on a visit, worked me out a little bit and then offered me," Schroeder said. "And then I was at Polk."
Over the course of the last year, Corbeil morphed Schroeder from a solid catcher into a stellar one. After throwing out 35 percent of attempted basestealers and allowing just one passed ball this spring, he was named the Suncoast Conference defensive player of the year.
"Being as athletic as he was and as hungry as he was, he picked up things really quick," Corbeil said. "He's definitely got a sponge-type mentality to him. I think it was just taking the time to do the drills with him and get him feeling things how he should be.
"The athleticism was there, the arm strength was there. But he really put the work in to turn himself into a really good catcher."
Corbeil knows a good catcher when he sees one -- a handful of his former pupils are playing professionally. He feels Schroeder is as gifted as any of them.
"He is without a doubt the most athletic catcher I've coached," Corbeil said. "You can almost stick him anywhere on the field and I think he'd be able to play there.
But Schroeder has made his home behind home plate, and this season, Corbeil believes he was the best junior college catcher in Florida. In addition to blocking pitches and gunning down baserunners, he hit .321 with three home runs and 38 RBIs.
"It was the best decision I've ever made to transfer down there," he said. "It was the best year of my life."
Schroeder will no longer have Corbeil around to tutor him. With his work ethic, though, it won't be necessary.
"He's in the cages early every day, he's hitting off the pitching machine on his own, catching he's asking for extra work," Corbeil said. "He was really the same guy every day."
On Saturday, as the A's announced him as the 432nd overall pick in the Draft, Schroeder was on Cape Cod, Mass., playing a doubleheader.
Upon hearing the news from his teammates, he reacted just as expected: He got back behind the plate.
Aaron Leibowitz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.