By Adam Morissette
OTTAWA- Attending a Baseball Canada National Championship is a summer highlight for players, coaches, umpires and fans lucky enough to go.
Winning a championship or getting that medal-game assignment for an umpire brings even more significance to the national championship experience that is a rite of passage on the Canadian amateur baseball scene each year.
For Pitt Meadows, B.C. native Shawn Schaefer, he took that national championship experience to a whole new level after a three-week period in August that saw him fulfill three different roles at nationals, and receive unprecedented success at each.
Schaefer, 31, and currently the Grassroots Coordinator at Baseball B.C., started his run as Chef de Mission with the Abbotsford 13U squad that captured the gold medal at the DQ 13U National Western Championships in Spruce Grove, Alta. From there, as a pick-up, he put on the uniform of the Burnaby Bulldogs Senior club for the Men’s Nationals in Victoria, B.C. and toed the rubber for 16 innings that included a nine-inning performance in a semi-final win over Red Deer. The Bulldogs went on to beat New Brunswick in the gold medal contest with Schaefer recording the final outs to give him his second gold medal in as many weeks.
Two championships and two gold medals in a two-week span would be enough for most to call it a successful year on the diamond but Schaefer still had unfinished business. Trading his playing uniform in for an umpire's outfit, he packed his bags and headed east to the DQ 13U National Atlantic Championships where his fine work during the tournament earned him the coveted home plate assignment for the gold medal game that saw Dartmouth defeat Kentville in an all-Nova Scotia final.
“I figured it was a very unique situation because of how many different aspects of baseball I am involved in right now,” explained Schaefer when reflecting on his achievements. “Being an official, player, administrator and coach is something that takes up a lot of time and I don’t think that many people get the opportunity to do something like this.
“I am just fortunate that the people around me support everything that I do.”
Each role provided a different set of skills and a different set of challenges dealing with so many aspects of the game. For Schaefer, there was one element that uniquely tied all three together.
“I think the biggest commonality is you get to meet so many great people that have the same passion for the game of baseball and it really does range from coast to coast,” he said.
Aside from the euphoria of winning double gold and working home plate for a national championship game, some other memories stand out from a trio of accomplishments that might never be repeated in this fashion.
“It was my goal (to work the gold medal game) going into the tournament, and probably for most umpires at a national, so to be the one person out of a group of great umpires chosen for that assignment was very cool and I was very appreciative of it,” he said. “As a player, the (memory) for me has to be closing out the gold medal game. To be in the middle of the celebration after the entire organization has put so much into preparing to win the national, and to be the one on the mound when that happens, was an awesome feeling.
“As a chef, I think the best memory I have is watching the excitement of not only the players and coaches, but seeing the parents just as happy, or more, and celebrating with the team.”
You’d think after all he accomplished during 2017 that nothing could be left on Shawn Schaefer’s national championships checklist but one pretty special experience awaits.
“There’s only one thing that I know for sure for 2018 is that I will be back in Victoria for the Men’s Nationals with my own team, the Coquitlam Angels. It will be the first time that I get to go to the Men’s Nationals with my own team,” he exclaimed
Further proof that there’s always something new and exciting to look forward to in this game.