Baseball players, particularly collegiate baseball players, are strange creatures. Dedicating a significant portion of your life to a game as frustrating as baseball is already crazy enough, but putting twenty-seven 18-22 year old guys who are all this strange on the same team is asking for chaos. Where this can be seen most often is in college baseball interviews, especially come tournament time. Typically, it’s behind the camera gags from teammates or a Gatorade bath for the game’s hero, but this weekend we were given an absolute gem of an interview from a University of Virginia relief pitcher, Stephen Schoch. I do not say this lightly when I proclaim this is the BEST baseball interview of all-time, and I will happily defend my case. Before we hop in, check out the majority of the interview here and the incredible glove toss after he locked the game up for the Cavaliers here.
Question #1: Unfortunately, the ESPN video cuts off the first part of Schoch’s interview, but we can safely assume the first question he is asked is something to the effect of “What is it like playing in this hostile environment as a relief pitcher?” (Virginia was playing South Carolina, who was hosting their Regional and drew many local supporters)
Answer Breakdown: Out the gates, Schoch is hot. Acknowledge the opposing crowd and how it can be intense, but lead it back to how your teammates get the job done. Humble, and PR-friendly, but not at all boring. It’s a perfect introduction. He even drops a classic “kick ass - I mean - kick butt” in there, and then apologizes for swearing like the gentlemen that he is, but it’s not needed. With 5 Ks in 2 ⅓ innings, Schoch is right. He, and the rest of the team, kicked their asses.
Question #2: “What are the emotions like going into the ninth inning?” A connection to the last question, Schoch starts to light up at the sound of this question. You can tell this is what he lives for.
Answer Breakdown: “Emotions are: go in, win.” What a G. Why complicate something so simple? And if the pressure of the game wasn’t enough, Schoch tells that one of the raucous Gamecock supporters offered him free Dippin’ Dots if he blew the save. Now, Schoch is a smart man. Once informing the interviewers and audience that, with inflation, the price of Dippin’ Dots is “unreal”, we can understand why he had a brief moment of consideration to the offer (as we all would, Dippin’ Dots smack), before he finally comes to the conclusion that a win would lead to more per diem money, which can then in-turn allow him to not only buy his own Dippin’ Dots, but also be a winner. If there is a better combination, I don’t want to know about it. And just when you think Schoch is done with this question, we get a deep dive into what goes through this competitor’s head on the mound, which can be boiled down to three words. Schoch mentions that the first word is a swear word that starts with the letter F, which he chooses not to say on television because Schoch is for the family-friendly content, followed by the words “attack” and “win”. F---, attack, win. I can only imagine those are the exact words that go through a lion’s head before taking down a buffalo. Now, if Schoch walks a batter, he motivates himself through a few other choice words, but other than that he stays on the repeated cycle of three words, and dammit it works. To bring it home, Schoch shouts out his defense again, saying that it makes the game a lot easier, and that all he has to do is keep the “ball in the yard” to give his team a chance, and it ties up an absolutely incredible answer in the most humble way possible.
Question #3: “Does anything make you nervous?” This is an absolute heat-check pass from the interviewer. It reminds me of when Steph was passing up open looks during Klay Thompson’s 37-point quarter because he knew Klay was in the middle of an all-time performance. Give Schoch this question, and get out of the way.
Answer Breakdown: After a moment of reflection, Schoch provides one thing on Earth that might possibly make him nervous: caves. At this point, the interviewers are laughing, the audience is absolutely captivated, and Schoch couldn’t look more sincere with his answer. As Schoch is quick to mention, there are no caves on baseball fields, and without their presence he has nothing to be nervous about. Elevating the question and his answer, Schoch takes this moment to speak about how in the grand scheme of life, there are going to be “way harder” things than playing a game. How a man can go from questioning where caves are most common to the deep intricacies of the difficulties life presents without even the slightest hitch is fascinating, and Schoch makes it look like the easiest thing he’s done all day. With this outlook on life, Schoch explains how it keeps him away from the “jibber-jabber” from those who wish him failure, and how his own opinion of himself (he thinks he’s a cool guy), his dogs’ opinion of him (they think he’s “awesome”), and how his teammates and friends see him (they both “like” him) is more than enough to keep him focused on his goals of attacking and winning. It’s rare I find things I want to write on my bedroom ceiling for motivation in post-game interviews, but this is one of those key exceptions.
Question #4: “When people say Kenny Powers, what do you think?” If the last question was a pass, this is a lob from half-court with prime Vince Carter streaking to the hoop. So few people on Earth exude Kenny Powers energy, but Schoch has just enough to finish off this flawless interview with a bang.
Answer Breakdown: If Schoch is being compared to Powers, he is very satisfied, thinking he’s doing a “good job”. As a shoutout to the legend, Schoch reminds everyone that Powers took an 86 mph fastball to the big leagues after being stuck in the minors. It is widely considered the greatest achievement in athletics history, and Schoch is just happy to be in the same conversation as such a legend. He does show that their are some differences in their games, including Schoch having some more velocity on his fastball due to Kenny’s affinity for “boozin’ and doin’ drugs”, activities which Schoch does not allow to be as big a part of his life. But, even with his vices, Kenny P is a winner, and so is Stephen Schoch after an incredible pitching performance and delivering the greatest baseball interview of all-time.
UVA advanced to the Super Regionals with a walk-off win over Old Dominion today, which is outstanding news because we have another chance at a Schoch interview. We will all be watching earnestly, hoping to catch another three minutes with the founder of the “F---, attack, win” mindset, which is more than we could ever deserve.