GREEN RIVER – From the very first time Joe Schultz stepped onto a baseball field as a 4-year old, he knew right away that he wanted to go as far as he possibly could with the sport.
Fourteen years later, his dream of playing at the college level finally came true. Just over one month ago, the Green River Knights shortstop signed his national letter of intent to play baseball at Dawson Community College in Glendive, Montana.
“It’s a dream come true,” Schultz said. “It has been a goal of mine since day one to play in college. Now that it’s here, It’s hard to describe just how happy I am.”
Growing up in Lake Alfred, Florida, Schultz not only had the luxury of playing the game year-round, but as a single-sport athlete he focused all of his time on trying to become a better baseball player.
Over the next few years, Schultz continued work toward his goal, and by the time he reached junior high school he began to notice some big changes between himself and the rest of the competition.
“Going into my eighth-grade year, I wasn’t just bigger than the other players, but I was faster and could throw the ball a lot harder,” he said. “That’s when I realized I might actually have what it takes to get there (to the college level).”
Around the same time, Schultz was hit some heavy news. He was told that he and the rest of his family were relocating to another small town in Wyoming called Green River.
“It was an adjustment at first,” he said. “But as soon as I got back on the field, it made the transition that much easier on me.”
Even though Schultz was living in a new state, his goal remained the same. After four years of attending numerous camps and showcases, he realized if he wanted to get to next level, he was going to need some help.
Fortunately for Schultz, prior to the start of this season, Green River hired head coach Ben Lail to take over the Knights program. The two immediately hit things off and teamed up to make Schultz’s dream a reality.
“At first I didn’t even know who Joe was,” Lail said. “Once I found out about him, I immediately got him on the phone and asked him what it was he wanted to accomplish. Once he told me he was looking to play at the college level, I said … OK then, let’s get you there.”
With the help of his new head coach, it wasn’t long before the talented shortstop began getting offers sent his way. In just a few short weeks, Schultz had four different schools contacting him, each one willing to sign him.
“It was crazy,” he said. “Just knowing that these schools wanted me was special.”
In the end, Schultz not only picked Dawson because it was the best offer on the table, but after traveling to Glendive for a campus visit, he knew right away he had made the right decision.
“It just felt right,” Schultz said. “DCC isn’t a big school. Campus life up there is small and simple. It’s not too overwhelming.”
The campus vibe helped land Schultz, and after talking to Phil McClure, DCC’s head baseball coach, and visiting the facilities, he felt as if the program was headed in the right direction.
“Talking to Phil and having him explain to me where he sees the program going over the next few years really helped make my decision easier,” Schultz said. “Dawson had a great season last year and I can’t wait to get up there and be a part of it all.”
Moving forward, Schultz will wrap up his final season in a Knights uniform this summer and prepare for his freshman year at the next level.
However, before the star shortstop joins his new team next fall, Schultz knows he first needs to improve a few things.
“Coach Lail preaches every week to his players to perfect the little things and work on the big things. That’s what I plan to keep doing,” he said.
As for Lail himself, he will miss having Schultz in the infield for him, but overall the coach couldn’t be happier to see a player make it to next level.
“It’s one of the best feelings in the world as a coach to see your players succeed,” he said. “Joe is an outstanding player and has a ton of work ethic. His leadership ability is second to none and I couldn’t more proud to see him move on to greater things.”
Just like all of the good coaches do, Lail has left Schultz with some strong words of advice before beginning his new journey.
“I always tell him that he needs to carry his confidence with him at all times. Joe needs to know he’s one of the best players in the entire state and if he keeps that confidence, only good things will happen for him,” Lail said.
Once the soon-to-be Buccaneer arrives on campus, Schultz expects to remain in the infield. However, he could see time at both second base and shortstop during the course of next season.
“Right now it’s still up in the air as to what position I’ll be playing,” Schultz said. “I just know wherever it may be, I’m going to do the best I can to help us be successful.”