Schaeffer begins coaching in Rockies' organization
After toiling for six seasons in the minor leagues, Warren Schaeffer made a major decision.
In January, the Vandergrift native pulled a surprise retirement from baseball at the age of 28 to pursue a coaching career with the organization that drafted him, the Colorado Rockies.
Odd jobs in the offseason — Schaeffer moved furniture, worked on a chicken farm and gave personal baseball lessons — opened the shortstop's eyes to a cold reality: it was time to awaken from the baseball dream.
“The writing was on the wall for me,” said Schaeffer, who played his high school baseball at Greensburg Central Catholic before a college career at Virginia Tech. “If I kept playing I was a defensive utility guy, at best. I came to a point of realization. It wasn't a terrible thing, it was an eye-opening thing.
“I put a lot of thought and prayer into it.”
Schaeffer got married three years ago to his college sweetheart, Callie Rhodes, a former Virginia Tech star softball outfielder. The couple settled in Virginia, where Callie is a fifth-grade teacher.
Back-and-forth trips across the country, for little income, wore on the couple.
In 2010, Schaeffer was called up to Class AAA, a step away from the bigs.
“I got called up because of injuries,” he said. “I had the feeling that my name could be called any day. I thought I was an injury away.”
But that day never came, and life became stagnant.
Schaeffer, who has played at every level of baseball except the majors, felt his career was stalled in Class AA, where he was last season when he opted to close the book.
“It was halfway through the year and I wasn't having fun playing any more,” said Schaeffer, who hit .214 with nine home runs, 161 runs and 137 RBI for six teams. “It almost became like a burden to have to wake up and go to the ballpark. I felt like it was just a job and I was getting beat down.
“I wasn't making any money and it seemed right to move on.”
Schaeffer then called the Rockies' scouting director to ask about coaching opportunities.
“I felt I had a lot to share,” Schaeffer said. “There were three jobs available and I got one.”
He is set to begin a stint as hitting coach for the Tri-City Dust Devils, the Rockies' Class A short-season affiliate. That's where he began his minor-league career.
“I want to focus my attention on somebody else and help them,” Schaeffer said. “I am tired of focusing on myself.”
A a dazzling defensive player who could hit for power when he played for GCC, Kiski Valley Legion and Virginia Tech, Schaeffer was picked by the Rockies in the 38th round of the 2007 MLB First-Year Player Draft.
But the glitz and glamour faded over time.
He said he signed “for $1,000 and a plane ticket.”
“After taxes, that $1,000 was about $550,” he said. “What I am doing now is steady. It's a lot better. It's a gateway to help people, I can make a living and still be around baseball.”
In the minors, Schaeffer said he made about $1,900 a month, which came in two checks.
“And you're not paid in the offseason,” he said.
That's where the odd jobs came in.
Maybe a 28-year-old coaching in the minors isn't as off as it sounds.
Bill Beckner Jr. is the local sports editor of the Valley News Dispatch. Reach him at email@example.com.