Schmidt feeling a little blue

first_img“I thought they were moving their spring training to Arizona next year, and that was one of the key factors in me choosing to sign here,” Schmidt said. “When I got here, somebody told me it wasn’t happening until 2009. If it helps them build it sooner, I’ll get a shovel and start digging myself.” In truth, Schmidt gladly will suffer one more spring in sleepy Vero Beach if it means getting the championship ring he came so agonizingly close to with the Giants. They blew a five-run, seventh-inning lead against the Angels in Game 6 of the 2002 World Series, then lost decisively in Game 7. Colletti got a share of that heartbreak, too, and his longtime association with Schmidt left little doubt in Colletti’s mind when he went shopping for free agents last fall that this was a player he wanted on his side again. “You have to have a certain type of pitcher if you’re going to go far into the postseason,” Colletti said. “He had a lot of promise when he was with Atlanta and then Pittsburgh. But he came to San Francisco the last couple of months of 2001 and for five years after that grew into one of the best pitchers in the league.” When the Giants got him from Pittsburgh at the trading deadline, Schmidt had gone a middling 44-47 in what amounted to five seasons with the Pirates. The Giants missed the playoffs that season, but Schmidt, inspired by the chance to finally pitch for a contender, went 7-1 down the stretch. He reached double figures in wins each of the next five years. “Being a young pitcher with Pittsburgh, and the fact we weren’t winning, I had a really hard time, especially being on the East Coast,” said Schmidt, who grew up near Seattle. “When I got traded to San Francisco, the Giants were in a pennant race. It was just a totally different atmosphere, and I was able to feed off that.” He fed off it to the point of posting what for now is the highest winning percentage (.678) in Giants’ history by a pitcher with at least 100 decisions. Schmidt’s best year came in 2003, when he went 17-5, led the National League with a 2.34 ERA and finished second in Cy Young Award voting. But it was the season before that one that had been Schmidt’s most difficult, and his most rewarding. Even as the Giants were forging their way to that World Series near-miss, Schmidt was trying to prepare himself for what by then was the inevitable death of his mother, Vicki. That year proved monumental in Schmidt’s maturation process. “She had been originally diagnosed a few days before spring training,” he said. “She made it to the World Series, and that was a miracle in itself. “(Her death) really messed me up for a long, long time. I think the biggest thing was that I kind of separated myself from everyone and everything. Baseball became therapy for me, a place where I could get rid of my aggression. That was good for the time being, but I think I realized later on, when the winter rolled around, that I still needed to deal with it. “It really opened my eyes to a lot of things that people go through. You hear about people having cancer all the time, but you think it only happens to other people. And then suddenly, it happens to someone close to you. I learned you definitely can’t take life for granted.” [email protected] (818) 713-3607 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! VERO BEACH, Fla. – Jason Schmidt thought he was fully aware of what he was getting into. Having spent five-plus seasons on the other side of one of baseball’s most historic rivalries, the veteran right-hander knew everything about Los Angeles, about the Dodgers, about pitching at Dodger Stadium and about the torch of deep-rooted tradition he would be carrying by donning a Dodgers uniform. But there was one thing Schmidt didn’t know and didn’t find out until it was too late. By the time someone told him, he already had signed the three-year, $47 million contract Dodgers general manager and former Giants assistant GM Ned Colletti used to lure Schmidt down the coast from San Francisco. center_img It officially still hasn’t been announced, but the Dodgers are expected to leave Florida for Glendale, Ariz., where they will share a proposed two-team complex with the Chicago White Sox. Schmidt lives in suburban Scottsdale, which is no more than 45 minutes from suburban Glendale even in the notorious rush-hour traffic of metro Phoenix. Schmidt, to whom family means everything, lives there with his pregnant wife and two young children – none of whom he will see for more than a few days between now and the birth of his third child sometime in April. For a man who watched his mother waste away from brain cancer five years ago, even as he was putting together one of the best seasons of his career, and for a man whose 3-year-old son has cried every day since his dad left for spring training, that’s tough to take. “This is the first time I have ever been away from them for this long a time,” said Schmidt, who went to camp in Scottsdale each year with the Giants. “But at the same time, if you have kids, there is a great benefit to being a ballplayer, no doubt about it. When they’re a little bit older, I think they’ll enjoy the experience. My daughter already loves baseball. She is kind of the athlete of the family, so far.” last_img