Ozark isn’t quite home for Brant Schaffitzel, but as much time as he spends walking through it, it may as well be.
The baseball infielder who led the nation in on-base percentage is living a dream some older men can only wish for. Schaffitzel takes a walk in the park every day, sometimes more than one.
Schaffitzel leads the Show-Me Collegiate league with a ridiculous 43 walks in 27 games, an average of 1.59 walks per game. He has walked multiple times in 13 Show-Me Collegiate League games and sports an on-base percentage of .579.
The Ozark Mountain Wild infielder chalks up his near math-breaking walk taking to his disciplined plate approach.
“I’m a leadoff hitter, so I like to see a lot of pitches and work deep count at-bats, and just try to see as many pitches as possible for my teammates. Usually that results in deep counts and a lot of walks,” Schaffitzel said.
Schaffitzel walked four times in a single game on June 6 against the Queen City Crush. More recently, on July 18, he managed to go 3-for-4 with three hits, three runs scored, a double, an RBI, a stolen base and—wait for it—two walks.
“Pesky” is the word Schaffitzel’s teammates use to describe his approach to hitting. Opposing pitchers have other terms to describe it, but those terms aren’t suitable for publication.
“I don’t know if it’s difficult to throw strikes against me or if I just fight off a lot of 0-and-2, 1-and-2 pitches, and just take the close balls and fight off the strikes. It results in deep counts,” Schaffitzel said.
As a freshman at Drury University in 2018, Schaffitzel led the entire nation, all of NCAA Division-II college baseball, with an on-base percentage of .545. He walked 49 times in 45 games.
Schaffitzel grew up in Springfield and graduated from Hillcrest High School, where he was valedictorian of his class in 2017. Ozark has become a second home, and rightly so, given how often Schaffitzel can be spotted walking from home plate to first base at U.S. Baseball Park.
“We’re out here quite a bit, driving out here for practice and for games. Definitely, my truck knows the way here,” Schaffitzel said. “I love this field. It’s a great field, it’s really fun to play on. You always get a true hop in the infield.”
Schaffitzel’s high school coach was his father, Ryan Schaffitzel. His dad and younger brother, Brock Schaffitzel, shared their own opinions with the Drury infielder about his unique on-base percentage.
“We don’t really talk too much about stats. We just think it’s funny, you know, I’ll go 0-for-0 with four walks one game,” Schaffitzel said. “They give me crap like, ‘Dang, boy, you gonna swing the bat or what?’ But it’s all fun.”
It’s not that Schaffitzel doesn’t swing his bat. He’s currently second in the Show-Me Collegiate League in batting with a .363 average, 29 hits, two doubles, a triple and 11 RBIs.
When he isn’t taking multiple walks per day with the Drury Panthers or in the summer league with the Wild, Schaffitzel is working on his grandparents' farm. The Show-Me Collegiate League at U.S. Baseball Park afforded him the chance to play baseball and live in Springfield this summer.
“I just wanted to stay close to home, live at home and be able to work, and that was a big factor just staying around here with my friends and family,” Schaffitzel said.
The league also gave Schaffitzel time to get to know some of his Drury teammates, present and future.
“It’s great just talking to them. We’re really excited for next season. It’s great getting to know everybody and just getting closer with everybody. I think everyone is excited for 2019,” Schaffitzel said.
Drury, which plays all of its home baseball games at U.S. Baseball Park in Ozark, won the West division of the Great Lakes Valley Conference in 2018. Schaffitzel was a second team all-conference selection. However, Drury went 0-2 in the conference postseason tournament and ended the campaign on a down note.
“We’re ready this year whenever we get in the GLVC Tournament to make a run,” Schaffitzel said. “We’re ready to work hard in the fall and see where that will take us in the spring.”