Ryan Schimpf has always hit with power.
He hit 21 home runs in two seasons at St. Paul's High School in Covington, where he was an all-stater in 2005 and '06. Schimpf had 22 home runs and 19 doubles as a senior at LSU in 2009, after which he was drafted in the fifth round by the Toronto Blue Jays.
However, Schimpf says, focusing too much on the pop in his bat cost him after being called up to the Major Leagues last season for the first time by the San Diego Padres.
“When I was up there, it was kind of all or nothing too much for a period of time,” he said. “A homer … I was swinging and missing too much. I was pulling the ball a lot instead of waiting for something over the plate and just hitting it. I just had to come back down and iron some things out and just get back to being me.”
Schimpf hit 14 home runs in 53 games with San Diego this season, but was batting just .158. After being called up last season, he had 20 home runs and 17 doubles, but struck out 105 times in 276 at-bats.
He'd signed with San Diego as a free agent in 2016 and was assigned to its Triple affiliate, the El Paso Chihuahuas. In 51 games with El Paso, Schimpf batted .355 with 15 home runs, 17 doubles, 48 RBIs and 36 runs. Just as important, he struck out just 33 times in 166 at-bats.
“It was a very nervous offseason,” he said. “San Diego signed me, and El Paso just has great stadium facilities and great coaches. And, El Paso just has the type of facilities that just make you want to come to work.
“Everything was just clicking right. I discovered some things in my hitting and approach that helped me out, keeping things simple and that smaller moves (with the bat), trying to stay short to the ball, are better for me.”
Since being sent back to El Paso on June 9 this season, he has hit 15 home runs — including three in this series vs. the Baby Cakes — but but is batting .223 with 68 strikeouts.
Scouting reports say that aside from striking out 35.5 percent of the time, which is way too high, Schimpf also hits the ball in the air too much — rating a 60 when the low 40s is considered high.
However, El Paso manager Rod Barajas, a former catcher with seven major league teams, said Schimpf doesn't need to change much. He just needs to get back to being himself.
“You want to hit the all in the air,” Barajas said. “The infielders in the league now are so quick, so fast, if you hit the ball on the ground, they often will get it.
“The reason his average was so high when he was with us is that he hit the ball to all fields. He doesn't have to pull to hit home runs, extra-base hits. He hit one to center field (Friday) night (against New Orleans). He had a leg kick that helped him with his timing. He lost that, and we're trying to get it back.”
Due to being called up last season, Schimpf missed El Paso's run to the World Series. Barajas said he'll never forget how Schimpf impacted the dugout.
“We love dthe fire that he brought to the ballclub last year, how much he wanted to play,” Barajas said.
Schimpf was known for that at LSU. With Schimp, DJ LeMahieu — an All-Star and Gold Glove second baseman — Austin Nola, Blake Dean, Mike Mahtook, Jared Mitchell, Louis Coleman and Anthony Ranaudo, LSU won the 2009 College World Series after being eliminated by losing twice to North Carolina in 2008.
“It was an exciting two years,” Schimpf said. “And, 2009 was just magical. There are guys from that team all over pro baseball.”
The 2008 season marked the opening of LSU's new Alex Box Stadium. Schimpf takes pride in having played in the old one and the new one.
“The old Alex Box was like Yankee Stadium, with all of the history, the great teams, the regionals (tournaments) and super regionals and the crowd right on top of you,” he said. “When the new Box was built, it was like we'd come from an old, run-down stadium, only because the new one is so great.”
Schimpf is looking to get back to the majors.
“It's been an adventure,” he said. “I was with Toronto (organization) for seven years, never got to the majors. It's been a ride, learning not only baseball, but life and family that hopefully keeps going a long, long time.”