One family provides Atholton's strength up the middle

May 01, 1994|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,Sun Staff Writer

Atholton coach Kevin Kelly believes the baseball axiom that for a team to be successful it has to be strong up the middle.

The Schneider brothers, Derrek and Ryan, have given the Raiders that kind of strength this season and are a key reason that Atholton (9-3, 5-2) is still in the hunt for a county title.

The Schneiders have nearly identical offensive stats, but have quite different defensive skills.

Derrek, 18, plays center field and is batting .390 (16-for-41, 14 RBIs) with three doubles, one triple and three home runs.

He has speed, something his younger brother lacks. Like his brother, however, he has a strong arm, throwing out a runner at the plate against Liberty.

Atholton doesn't run much. The Raiders have stolen only 12 bases. But Derrek is 2-for-2 on steals.

Ryan, 17, catches and is batting .379 (11-for-29, 19 RBIs) with four doubles, one triple and three home runs.

His strong arm scares off most would-be base stealers, but he has thrown out five runners. He is adept at blocking pitches in the dirt, has a quick release and calls a smart game.

"They are the smartest players, along with Brian Van Deusen, that I've ever coached," said Larry Thompson, who coached them on Atholton's junior varsity and on the Columbia Reds summer team.

Ryan is quick to recognize a pitcher's strength on a given day and to get him to focus on that pitch.

In a crucial 6-4 victory against Glenelg Tuesday, Ryan kept calling for Keith Schultz's changeup even though Schultz's best pitch is usually his curve.

"He recognized right away that I was getting it [changeup] over and keeping it low," Schultz said. "He deserves a lot of credit."

Neither Derrek nor Ryan homered last year, and both are excited about their power this season.

Atholton hit only three homers as a team last season, and each brother already has equaled that total.

And they wasted no time getting started. Both homered in Atholton's first game, against Liberty.

Derrek also homered to beat Mount Hebron in a 1-0 game, and Tuesday against Glenelg he had a triple that drove in two runs.

Ryan's best game was against Westminster when he homered twice, doubled and drove in six runs.

The brothers were born in Oakland, Calif., and later lived in Georgia before moving to Maryland.

"I've got a lucky [Jose] Canseco T-shirt that I hang in my locker and wear sometimes," Ryan said.

"I wore it during our first game this season against Liberty and got a home run my first at-bat."

The brothers have played baseball for as long as they can remember on teams that were coached by both their mother and father in Georgia.

"My dad taught me most of what I know about catching," Ryan said.

They credit two Reds coaches, Thompson and Paul Donovan, with helping them to improve their hitting.

One of the highlights of their baseball careers was getting to play at Memorial Stadium last summer with the Reds.

"It was exciting and cool," Derrek said. "We played on a perfect field, the grass was like a carpet, and some kid asked for my autograph."

They give a lot of credit for their success this season to other hitters in the Atholton lineup.

"Guys hitting in front of us like Jason Sandner, Bill Hite and Brandon Eierman are getting on base a lot so teams can't really pitch around us," Ryan said.

"They throw us first-pitch fastballs most of the time. It's much harder to hit when you get first-pitch curveballs."

Both usually get their bat on the ball. Ryan has struck out twice and Derrek four times.

Ryan led Atholton in batting last season at .346 and Derrek was second at .338.

They are looking forward to making the Class 2A playoffs, but first they're hoping for help from some other teams to catch league-leading Centennial, which as of Thursday, held a two-game lead in the county race.

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