There was a between-innings promotion last weekend at Royal Athletic Park when a couple of Victoria HarbourCats fans were asked, without peeking at the game program, to spell “Schuknecht” in order to win a prize.
They never came close.
The brothers with the hard-to-spell, and even harder-to-pronounce, last name have been making an impact this West Coast League season. Catcher David Schuknecht is batting .286 with six runs and seven RBIs in nine appearances despite missing five games after twice being pinged by the ball off the same elbow. Infielder John Schuknecht is hitting .300 in the three games since joining the club.
The crazy thing about the Schuknecht brothers being with the HarbourCats this season is that neither sibling knew the other was coming.
“It was by luck,” said John. “One day, I called and asked David where he was playing summer ball this year and he said Victoria. I said: ‘No way! Me too.’ ”
Perhaps it was destiny for the brothers. John won the California state high school baseball championship in his Grade 10 and 12 years at Palm Desert High School, sharing the first one of those state titles with his older brother David.
With the HarbourCats (10-4) off to a WCL-best .714 start — and ranked No. 11 among all collegiate summer league teams across North America — it might be fitting to share another championship in Victoria.
Although teammates now and in the past, the Schuknechts grew up as many brothers do. Asked about sibling rivalry, John chuckled: “Oh, yeah. Real bad. We each wanted to be the best. That’s still going on.”
They were each good enough to be recruited for NCAA collegiate ball, John by Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and David by the Pac-12 University of Arizona Wildcats. The six-foot-one David, a year older, was the starrier of the siblings and selected out of high school by the Colorado Rockies in the 12th round of the 2011 MLB draft. But he had to work through a rotator cuff injury that ended his freshman season at Arizona. The recovery has gone through Riverside City College, where David was managed this season by HarbourCats field boss Dennis Rogers.
David Schuknecht, headed to UC-Santa Barbara in the fall, still has a big upside. His bio on the WCL website states: “Now fully recovered, Schuknecht is projected to be a potential first-round pick when he re-enters the MLB draft following his college career.”
That’s heady praise for a guy who has described himself as “bad” at the plate as a youngster. “I’ve worked through a lot of stuff as a batter,” he says.
And if it’s a HarbourCats sibling triple play you’re looking for in the years ahead — there’s another Schuknecht brother still playing at Palm Desert High School.
Meanwhile, the Schuknechts and their teammates are on a rare five-day break this week as they gear up for their upcoming six-game road trip which begins Saturday against the Cowlitz Black Bears (7-8) in Kelso/Longview, Wash.