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Adjustments key to Schaeffer's rise

| Sunday, July 20, 2008

Vandergrift native Warren Schaeffer was living in an apartment in Asheville, N.C., but things got a little too expensive.

So Schaeffer moved into the pool house of one of his father's friends who lives nearby.

Such is life as a Single-A baseball player. Schaeffer, 23, is a utility infielder for the Asheville Tourists, an affiliate of the Colorado Rockies.

"I was in an apartment, but I had to get out of there," Schaeffer said. "My dad knew a guy, and I moved into his pool house. It's basically a shed. I cleaned it up for about two weeks. But it's worth it. It's free."

Schaeffer, a graduate of Greensburg Central Catholic and Virginia Tech, is trying to making it to the majors, but he knows there are dues to pay.

He's enjoying his time in the minors, but there are challenges.

The biggest hurdle Schaeffer is facing on the field is adjusting from aluminum to wood bats. Through 60 games, he was hitting .213 with three home runs and 22 RBI.

During his senior season at Virginia Tech, Schaeffer hit .292 with three home runs and 33 RBI in 54 games.

"You have to change your swing," Schaeffer said. "In college, if you're a contact hitter, they teach you to chop down on the ball and try and hit it through the infield. If you chop down with wood, the ball doesn't go anywhere. Now, I have a slightly upward swing, more level."

Schaeffer, who started at shortstop at Virginia Tech, is confident in his glove work and versatility. He serves as the fifth infielder for Asheville and has played at first, second and third base and shortstop.

Despite being moved around, he has committed only four errors.

"My fielding is there," Schaeffer said. "Hitting is a constant struggle. One day I feel good, and the next day I feel (lousy). I need more consistency."

Schaeffer produced some fireworks on July 5 by hitting two home runs in a 13-6 win over the Rome Braves at Asheville's McCormick Field.

"It was the best game of my pro career by far," Schaeffer said. "There was a big crowd the day after the Fourth of July, my parents were in town, and my girlfriend was in town. I had one home run in pro ball up to that point."

Last year, after graduating from Virginia Tech, Schaeffer played for the Casper (Wyo.) Ghosts of the Advanced Rookie League. He said he regularly had to endure bus trips of 10-13 hours. This year, the trips are usually a little shorter.

Asheville is considered a Low Single-A team. Schaeffer hopes to be promoted to Colorado's High Single-A team -- the Modesto (Calif.) Nuts -- by next year.

If that time comes, Schaeffer knows learning to adjust will be the key.

"You have to adjust immediately," Schaeffer said. "Some guys can't do it and lose the mental battle."

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