By Marty Farmer
Based on his rapid improvement rate, Riverside-Brookfield High School catcher Michael Schicker appears on pace for a superior senior season. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound junior has already shown dramatic growth during three years as a varsity starter.
"I've never seen a kid make improvements in a one-year span from his sophomore to junior year like Michael," RBHS assistant coach Joe Ruge said. "He's constantly trying to get better and takes baseball very seriously. It's been a pleasure watching him grow up. Thank god he's only a junior and we will have him back another year."
According to Ruge, Schicker adjusted his batting stance which has made a huge difference. Defensively, he's a game-changer.
"He's just dangerous because he's on every pitch as a hitter," Ruge said. "He's more straight up now and right on the baseball. The improvement offensively has been night and day. Defensively, he's outstanding. He can make pinpoint throws on his knees to any base. Other coaches ask where he's going to college and say he must be 27 years old."
Schicker's maturity and talent have definitely attracted recruiting interest. He committed to Purdue in fairly short order.
"Last summer, Purdue saw me play at one of our local tournaments," Schicker said. "My Team DeMarini travel team (Rake City) coach told me to call them right after the game. We talked a bit and they watched me play the rest of the summer."
After visiting the campus, Schicker decided to become a Boilermaker.
"It feels pretty nice and takes a lot of pressure off," Schicker said about his commitment. "At the same time, there is some pressure because everybody knows who I am and is watching me. I don't think about that though. I'm just trying to have fun and relax. It's awesome to know I'm going to Purdue in about a year and a half."
During the offseason, Schicker benefits from facing elite competition across the country as a Rake City player. The team competes in tournaments in Indiana, Georgia, Florida and Tennessee.
Before heading to West Lafayette, Indiana, for college, Schicker still has work to do with the Bulldogs. RBHS is 12-4 this spring and in contention to win the Metro Suburban Conference with a 3-1 record. His considerable part in the team's success consists of hitting .370 with three home runs and 20 RBIs.
"I want to win conference because we fell short last year," he said. "It was so sad because we only had to win one game against Wheaton Academy but we lost both games. Hopefully, we can win conference and maybe a regional. From there, we can see what happens because we have a super-tough sectional."
Other players have stepped up for RBHS as well, notably Schicker's cousin and promising freshman Owen Murphy (.415 batting average, .475 on-base percentage, 2 HR, 13 RBIs), junior third baseman Marco Ruiz (.377, 12 RBIs) and junior Liam Corbisiero (.356, .453 obp).
Murphy, who plays shortstop, also headlines the Bulldogs' pitching staff, with contributions from Nate Roberto, Tyler Swanson and Jeremy Fox.
"Obviously some guys have stepped up this season," Ruge said. "Tyler Swanson threw a gem against Ridgewood. We also have about a half-dozen guys who are hitting the ball decently with a good on-base percentage. We're just taking it game by game and trying to stay relevant."
When scouting the Bulldogs, Schicker is a point of emphasis for opponents. His development is palpable.
"It's been a great year so far," Schicker said. "I'm seeing the ball a lot better than last year. The catching has gone better, too. I'm just shortening up a lot of things since my body is so big. I try to get my footwork in synch and let my arm do the work. I'm just trying to improve on everything and it's been going well."
Murphy offered nothing but praise for his older cousin. Whether its in the weight room or on the baseball diamond, Murphy and Schicker have a great relationship on and off the field.
"Mike's the best catcher I've ever had catch me," said Murphy, who also plays quarterback on the Bulldogs' varsity. "He has an extremely good arm that keeps kids off the bases. I can focus on the batter and keep on my game because I know Mike will take care of the runners. His hitting has definitely improved from previous years. He is clutch in needed situations with his bat, and he can hit the ball a long way."
RBHS takes on host Aurora Christian on Thursday, April 25. First pitch is at 4:30 p.m.
"The team has some improvements to make but, as time goes on, we will become stronger," Murphy said. "We have a shot the conference title for sure."