EDITOR'S NOTE: In the third of a multi-part story published in January, Jerry Schoen - long-time Hauser educator and baseball coach - started a journey he had dreamed would lead him toward a career in Major League Baseball. Following several weeks of tryouts, Los Angeles Angels' General Manager Bill Bavasi, Jr. delivered the MLB aspirant news he did not want to hear. He was being released contractually from the baseball organization.
A broken knuckle had spelled doom for Schoen. Following a rehab period, Schoen's level of play fell off, appreciably. After declining an invitation to consider coaching as an alternative to playing, the "crushed" dream-chaser headed back home to Cincinnati.
Competitive spirit had been instilled into Schoen's make-up at an early age. Throwing in the towel was not an alternative. So it didn't take the 24-year old very long to restart his journey. His former coach at Creighton (and later Chicago Cub executive) Jim Hendry was called. Schoen was in an all-out search for an alternative to giving up.
Then doing administrative work for MLB's fledgling Florida Marlins' organization, Hendry delivered an attractive thought. The Marlins were about to field a full-fledged major league team. Hendry offered his former player an invitation to a tryout to be held in Boca Raton, Florida. Schoen didn't need time to consider. His RSVP was immediate.
"He gave me the time and date and I told him I'd be there," said Schoen. "Coach told me he'd call them and tell them I was coming."
Schoen arrived on time to Bucky Dent Field.
A quick side note: Dent was the shortstop for New York Yankees when they won a pair of World Championships. He was the World Series MVP in 1978. After retiring as a player, Dent managed parts of two seasons for the Yankees and later served as a coach in several organizations. His last job in the big leagues was as bench coach for the Cincinnati Reds. Dent now resides in south Florida.
"They were waiting for me," said Schoen. "They worked me out a bunch. I hit a double, stole a base and did some other good stuff."
But not all was "good."
"After the workout, I was called up to home plate," he recalled.
Immediately, Schoen's age became the topic. He had heard something similar to this line of thought once before.
"I was told if I was 20 of 21, that they would be interested in me," he said. "But..."
At Schoen's age of 24, he "needed to be a pitcher."
"I asked about the likelihood of trying somewhere else," said Schoen.
The future fixture in Hope was not given the answer he wanted.
"I shook their hands and thanked them for the opportunity," he said. "Time had caught up with me. If you weren't the hardest thrower and couldn't hit the ball 500 feet, making these opportunities into something real were (and are) practically impossible."
Schoen's was possibly (or at least nearly) the impossible dream.
"I don't want to brag, but not too many people get the chance or even go through what I went through while I was chasing the dream," he said. "I had never had a broken bone. And my dream came down to a broken finger."
Following the dream-phase of his life, Schoen quickly entered his reality-phase.
The first year of his post-dream life was spent as a substitute teacher in the Cincinnati public schools during which he served as the junior-varsity baseball coach at Western Hills, his alma mater.
Year Two was spent with the full-time position of building sub at Western Hills.
In year three, Schoen moved across the Ohio River to Lawrenceburg where he taught physical dducation at Greendale Middle School. Again, he coached JV baseball at the high school where he served as an assistant in the girls' basketball program.
Prior to the 1996-97 school year (Year Four), Schoen applied for and was interviewed for a teaching position in Flat Rock-Hawcreek schools. Shortly thereafter, Jerry and Becky moved back to Becky's home -- Bartholomew County. Jerry became a health teacher at the middle school and began to carve a niche in the annals of Hauser High School athletics as a baseball assistant to Mike Asher.
Now, 20 years later, Schoen has called it quits on the diamond, but is still going strong in the classroom. After normal school hours, his classroom moves outside and into a vehicle where he serves as a driver's education instructor.
Schoen's passion for teaching kids remained obvious throughout this interview process. Through intermittent interruptions in our conversations, it was always obvious that a strong bond exists between student and teacher. Mutual respect runs high. It's a fact that the teacher's role at Hauser is firmly cemented in place and, very likely, that place isn't likely to waver for quite some time.
Schoen and this writer decided to put on hold a discussion of his Hauser-experience for another day. The remainder of this session started with a pretty simple question concerning the events of his short-lived experience with the "pros."
"If you could relive the two years following college, what would you do differently?" asked the writer.
The answer was free-flowing, supplied without hesitation and with total candor. Schoen's response started with a re-play of the day he last talked with Angels' GM Bavasi.
"At the time he asked me if I had thought about coaching, all I knew was that I wanted to go home," explained Schoen. "I was ready to leave. I was upset.
"I knew I had worked really hard," he continued. I knew there were kids there that didn't deserve to be there. I was pretty sure they hadn't out-performed me on the field. But it was a numbers game. Those getting paid more money get more opportunities."
Schoen certainly doesn't harbor any long-lasting negatives, but still...
"If I had stopped and listened to what he was telling me, I might be coaching in pro ball today," he said. "I look back now and still ask myself, 'Why didn't I let him finish what he wanted to say?' If I could turn something around, that would be a big one."
A few years earlier, Schoen had made a decision he sometimes regrets.
"Throughout life, the doors that we open and the doors we close are all part of the learning process," he philosophized.
His junior year in college, Eastern Kentucky was playing in the NCAA Regional. Schoen and his teammates faced off with Arizona. The Wildcats were pitching a hurler that went on to be the No. 1 pick of the Minnesota Twins. Schoen had a good game at the plate. Baseball VIPs took notice.
"I got a lot calls after that game inviting me to play summer ball," he said.
One call came from the Cape Cod League, the Cadillac of leagues for collegiate players wanting to be noticed by the pros. It was considered the elite of summer opportunities.
"I turned down that opportunity to play close to home," explained Schoen. "I had very personal reasons, but at the time, I didn't realize what I was passing up."
Schoen opted to play in the Great Lakes League. Playing for a team based in Cincinnati allowed him to work for his father and make money that would help the family. Playing at Cape Cod might have given him the chance to get signed.
"I'll never know how things might have turned out," he said. "There are things I could have done differently. But, I still got to play college ball and as a pro, I met a lot of people."
Upon the suggestion that different decisions might have prevented him from coming to Hauser and spending 20 years, Schoen smiled.
"When I got here, I never dreamed I'd be here this long," he said. "I certainly don't feel unfulfilled. I feel privileged. The last 20 years have not left me unsatisfied at all."
Coming soon: A close look at Schoen's two decades in the school and community.