By: Brian Frank
Davis Schneider has been red hot this month. Since April 28, the scrappy right-handed hitter is slashing .346/.407/.692 with five home runs and 15 RBIs in 14 games. He’s been a key contributor to a Bisons lineup that has caught fire the last few weeks. Buffalo was averaging 3.86 runs per game on the morning of April 28. Since then, they’ve averaged an incredible 7.06 runs per game.
Schneider grew up in Voorhees, New Jersey, where some of his earliest memories are of playing baseball.
“I remember playing tee-ball, that’s probably as far as I can go back,” Schneider said of his earliest baseball memory.
“My middle school where I grew up was like two minutes from my house, so I used to go up there and play. Even if I wasn’t playing that day, I would just go out there and hit balls with my friends. Growing up in a small town, you kind of have that sandlot vibe, where you just play tennis baseball in the street, or wiffle ball, or anything with a bat and a ball – I’d do with a bunch of my buddies.”
He grew up about 20 miles outside of Philadelphia. Mike Trout, about six and a half years older than Schneider, lived nearby.
“I’m 20 minutes from where Trout lives and a couple of my buddies live – Millville is kind of close,” he said. “So I knew Trout when I was growing up – not knew him, but heard of him. This guy’s the real deal and everything like that. He kind of put South Jersey on the map.”
Schneider grew up a Phillies fan during one of the greatest eras of the team’s storied history. He was in fourth grade when the Phillies won the 2008 World Series, the first of back-to-back World Series appearances, and right in the middle of five consecutive division titles.
“Yeah, watching Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, all those guys back in the day,” Schneider smiled. “Those were kind of the prime time Phillies days, so I grew up in a good era of Phillies baseball.”
Schneider joined the Herd at the end of last season. Photo Credit: Brian Frank, The Herd Chronicles
While starring at third base for Eastern Regional High School, Schneider was scouted by the Blue Jays and received a baseball scholarship offer from Rutgers University.
“They were the only team that came to my house,” he said of the Blue Jays interest in him. “I knew I wasn’t going to be a top ten rounder or anything like that. But they were the only team that came to watch me play and they were the only team that was interested. It’s kind of ironic because Rutgers was where I was committed to and they were the only college team that offered me or came to watch me play, so it was kind of ironic that the only two teams in my whole career that watched me play wanted me.”
He was taken by the Blue Jays in the 28th round of the 2017 Major League Baseball June Amateur Draft. It was a busy day for him, as he also played in a high school All-Star game earlier in the day.
“It was during a school week, so we’d gotten out of school that day,” he said. “They told me to keep my phone on me throughout the game just in case I got a call. So I had my phone in my back pocket when I was out in the field – and nothing happened. Then me and my dad were driving home from the game and I saw my name pop up on Twitter. I was following the draft tracker on Twitter and my name popped up. I was kind of confused at that moment because I didn’t get a call or anything like that. So I was like – is this right? I showed my dad and the scout who drafted me, Mike Alberts, called me about two minutes later and was like – yeah, that’s right. Yeah, it was me and my dad, which was pretty special.”
He decided to forgo attending Rutgers and make the jump into professional baseball.
“I was confident in my choice,” he explained. “I always thought school was going to be there for me, whether it was 20 years down the road or if I was done playing two years down the road. School was always going to be there.”
About a week after the draft, fresh out of high school, Schneider headed down to Dunedin, Florida, to play for the Blue Jays Gulf Coast league team, where he slashed .238/.371/.393 in 50 games.
“It wasn’t as big of a jump as I thought,” he remembered. “I mean, going down there, not with my parents, and kind of living on my own for the first time was kind of like going to college at that point.”
“I had a lot of good buddies on that team – Hagen Danner, Dom Abbadessa, PK Morris – all those guys made me feel at home. It’s all about who you’re playing with. A lot of good guys, a lot of good times. It kind of was normal for me. I didn’t really think that much of it. It was just another chapter of my life where I’m playing baseball for a living. We’d wake up at 6:00 AM, but life could be worse.”
The next season, he was promoted to the Blue Jays Appalachian League affiliate, the Bluefield Blue Jays, where he slashed .233/.350/.376 in 44 games.
“A lot of those guys I was drafted with were on that team too,” he said. “That team was also a good team to be around and play with. Each team is different, every year is a different experience, but I feel like each team I’ve played with so far, all the guys were really good guys. It’s all about who you’re playing with because if you don’t have that good group around you, then the season could be miserable. But in my time with the Blue Jays, it’s been really good every single year.”
Schneider has a 1.099 OPS since April 28. Photo Credit: Brian Frank, The Herd Chronicles
He got off to a slow start with the Blue Jays Low-A affiliate in Vancouver in 2019, and was sent back down to Bluefield after 17 games. The change of scenery worked, as he ended up tearing up the Appalachian League, slashing .313/.380/.550 in 34 games.
“I didn’t start out well,” he recalled. “Struggled a bit in my first 50 at-bats and then I got sent back down. Go back there and get your confidence back. It doesn’t mean we don’t like you or anything like that, just go down there and kind of restart the season.”
“I had that mindset going in and it kind of paid off for me because having a bad start kind of affects you mentally – and I’d never really dealt with that in my life. It kind of made me reset my season and go from there, so it was a good thing that I got sent down just to kind of reset the batteries.”
Then came 2020, when all of minor league baseball came to a screeching halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic that originally delayed the season – and then cancelled it altogether.
“I thought I was going to be back in two weeks, so I left a bunch of stuff in Dunedin,” he said. “I actually went to Griffin Conine’s house, he was with us in the organization for a couple years before he got traded. I went to his house for about two weeks thinking that we were going to be back playing baseball.”
“After I left his house and went back home (to New Jersey), I knew we probably weren’t going to be back playing that year with everything that was going on.”
“I still worked out. I didn’t hit as much or do anything baseball related. I just wanted to stay in shape because I felt like if we were going to go back, they would have told us a couple weeks prior, and I could’ve got back into hitting. But I didn’t really do anything crazy. I played a lot of golf, worked out, kind of enjoyed my summer for the first time since high school. It was a good experience to have just to kind of let loose and not worry about baseball.”
When the minor leagues resumed in 2021, Schneider returned to the Vancouver Canadians, who were now the Blue Jays High-A affiliate. However, the team had to play it’s games in the United States in Hillsboro, Oregon, due to the U.S.-Canada border being closed because of the ongoing pandemic.
“We played in Hillsboro 80 games of the year – so we only had to go on the road for 40 games out of 120,” he said. “We kind of had 80 home games, even though we played Hillsboro most of the time. But it was kind of cool that we didn’t have to travel as much because the Northwest League can be brutal with all the travel. I enjoyed it. That was the first year with the six game series and the off day on Monday – so it was kind of cool adjusting to that. Wearing the mask for the first month kind of stunk – on the field especially. That was kind of brutal. But we kind of got used to it and we were out there just playing baseball.”
Last season, Schneider rocketed through three levels of the Blue Jays system. After playing 50 games at Vancouver, he moved up to Double-A New Hampshire, where he slashed .283/.368/.476 46 games, before finishing the season with Buffalo.
“Like this year – or like every year I should say – I started out so bad,” he said. “I was batting .130 until June last year. I was one of the worst hitters. Then you have that game where you get two hits or three hits and something just clicks for you, where you see the ball better, hits are falling, you’re hitting the ball harder. It’s all about having confidence in this game – and once you have your confidence, nothing can really stop you.”
“I got my confidence at the beginning of June, started hitting well. Then I got to New Hampshire – didn’t start out well in New Hampshire either, but then turned it on at the right time. Got to Triple-A at the end of the year, just because they needed guys here. I thought I did pretty well to be able to finish like I did. I wish I started out a little bit better – but you can’t really control that, you’ve just got to worry about the next day and what’s happening now.”
“You can’t really get away with taking pitches down the middle like you did in High-A or Double-A,” he said of his adjustment to Triple-A. “Here, if you miss your pitch, then you might not see it for the rest of the at-bat. You’ve got to take your advantages when they come. You can’t really be passive. You have to go in with a plan or approach and stick with it and make sure you stick with that approach the whole time. These pitchers are way too good for you to give them anything. You’ve just got to stick with your plan and try to capitalize on their mistakes.”
He saw an increase in his power last season – hitting a career high 16 home runs between the three levels. He also set a career high in stolen bases – with 17.
“I feel like I always had that pop, but it’s all about getting stronger and faster,” he said. “I was always a strong kid, but last year I put on a little bit of muscle, a little bit more weight, and I feel like that helped a lot. I was always able to hit the ball in the air a lot, it’s just capitalizing and not missing those pitches. I did that well last year – where those balls that were at the track before were homers last year. I made the jump in that way – getting stronger and capitalizing on those warning track fly balls to go over the fence.”
“Last year, I was kind of in the two hole when I was in Double-A, so I wanted to put myself in scoring position more,” he explained of his rise in stolen bases. “I was like – I think I’m capable of stealing bases, so I just kind of went for it. I got more than I thought I could, so I just kept going and going until I got thrown out. I just took more chances than I did a couple years ago.”
He also improved his versatility last season, adding the outfield to a defensive repertoire that already included third base and second base.
“It definitely took some time to get used to, just because of different ball flights and different early work to get used to,” he said. “But as long as you put the work in, I feel that confidence wise, you’ll be at the right spot. It’s all about being confident, because if you’re not confident in the position you’re playing at then you’re kind of screwed.”
He’s made numerous eye-opening plays this season for the Herd at second base, third base, and in left field. One particular play that stands out is a double play he turned while playing second base when the team was in Worcester. He was running toward second to field the ball, when it ricocheted off the pitcher, and was fielded by a stretching Schneider with his foot on the bag – and seemingly in one motion – he fired to first for the double play. The fielding gem is certainly an early candidate for Bisons defensive play of the year.
“David Hamilton was on first and he steals second base every time he gets on, so we knew he was running and I was going to cover the bag,” he explained about the amazing play. “The ball was coming right at me, but (Paul) Fry, the pitcher, kind of redirected it and I had to make that adjustment on the fly. It wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be, but I made the play and had my foot on the bag and luckily, at the time, I just threw it. It all kind of happened bang bang, in a split second. It’s all reaction. I’m not really thinking about it, just because it hit off his glove and I just had to make the play at the time.”
Although a cold start to this season had him hitting just .170 with a .592 OPS on April 28, his torrid 14 game stretch since then has raised his numbers considerably. In the last 14 games, he hit .346 with a 1.099 OPS – which has already raised his season average to .257 and his OPS to .842.
Focusing on making consistent hard contact and decreasing his strikeouts has helped turn things around.
“Just trying to hit the ball hard no matter what,” he said. “Also, I wish I could limit the strikeouts a little bit more. I’m not really a power hitter, so I’ve got to limit the strikeouts as much as I can and just try to get on base no matter what. Put the ball in play. When you put the ball in play, good things happen.”
Good things have certainly been happening lately for Schneider – both at the plate and in the field.