Schultz Interview

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Do you know who is the winningest high school coach in the country? Would you be surprised if he came from a school that plays a summer high school season? Here's an interview with the winningest high school coach in America -- Coach Gene Schultz -- Kee High School -- Lansing, Iowa

High School Baseball
Coach Gene Schultz
Kee High School
Lansing, Iowa

Question: You are the winningest high school baseball coach in the country. I have talked to many people that marvel over the consistency of your program. What do you feel the key to that consistency is?

Answer: One of the reasons why our high school has had great success over the last 3 decades is that baseball has always been the number one sport in our small community. Boys from 3 and 4 years of age on up have had a chance to learn baseball, play and develop. Thanks mainly to the communities summer recreation programs. Carrying these skills over in Jr. And Sr. high school, and keeping the older (junior/senior) athletes out for baseball is another reason for our success.

Question: How many years have you been a high school coach? How many of those at Kee High School? What is your current overall coaching record (wins and losses)?

Answer: I've been coaching high school baseball for 31 years, all at the same school (Kee High School). My overall coaching record is 1260 wins and 276 losses.

Question: In your time as a high school coach you have seen many changes to the game. Which changes have most helped the high school game?

Answer: Changes that have helped high school baseball have been the "re-entry" rule; the designated hitter (dh); and the designated runner (dr). Each of these rules give more players a chance to participate. New "styled" equipment (gloves, bats, etc.), the safety base at first .... and the "speed-up" rules have helped to keep baseball a great sport. Also increasing team tournament rosters and playing schedule dates has helped.

Question: Which changes do you feel have been the "least positive" for the high school game?

Answer: Restricting the number of games a team can play - especially during the Iowa summers at 40 games ... many schools would like to play more. I would like to see baseball in Iowa begin with a practice date of April 1st and games starting in late April or May 1st. We now have team practices starting May 1-5 or so. I would also like to see changes made to help the game.
1) Let defensive changes be made at any time
2) Unlimited "subbing" on defense

Question: In your time as a high school baseball coach you have seen the advent of the aluminum bat versus the wooden bat. Did you think the metal bats would last - Or did you feel that they were just a "fad"?

Answer: I knew that because of the durability of "metal" that they were going to last ... But I didn't think they would take over the H.S. baseball scene as they have. Personally I would like to see H.S. ball do what the colleges have done and go back to good 'ol wood ... cracked bats, broken bat singles and inside pitches are all part of "true baseball." A good wood bat line drive is a sound of the past.

Question: What thoughts do you have on the discussions of metal bats versus wood bats? Dangers, trampoline effects, making average players good hitters, etc.?

Answer: Metal bats have definitely increased the offense in H.S. Baseball - If they were really good for the sport - The Major Leagues would be using them! Bunts have gone for doubles, inside pitches for home runs, and a 95 lb. freshman can hit a baseball 350+ feet. I'm really surprised that more H.S. pitchers are not injured by the "liner" up the middle - Balls jump off the bat and make baseball a high scoring game, rather than a strategic battle!


Question: Would you like to see a return to the wood bat for the high school players?

Answer: Yes, For all the reasons listed above ... Including the "Texas Leaguer."

Question: You coach in the state of Iowa. Iowa high school baseball is played in the summer months - after school is out. Would you like to see high school baseball changed to a spring sport in your state?

Answer: I would like to see Iowa start earlier - Because we do have some great spring weather. Part of baseball is "spring-training." It would be great to have a spring/summer combination season. Practice in April ... Play the first of may to July and then have tournaments and everything completed by mid July. Players would have a little time to continue ball with town teams / Legion squads, or just take a break from it all for a few weeks .... before football begins.

Question: We all hear the comments about kids not being interested in playing sports in high school any longer, due to too many distractions. (cars, jobs, etc.) Have you seen a significant change in the high school athlete from the start of your coaching career until today?

Answer: We have lost several very good athletes from our program due to the cars/money, etc .... Girls. However, the important priorities for most of our upper class baseball players are to have a successful regular season and an even better tournament season. That's really why we have been competitive for so many years ... Our upper classmen stay out for baseball. While at a lot of schools they go to their jobs, college, cars, etc. We've been fortunate ... The pride of the past teams haunts the present teams to do their Best!

Question: In 30+ years of coaching high school baseball you have undoubtedly had some special athletes. What tips would you give a player that is interested in playing college baseball?

Answer: If you plan to play in college:

  1. Get your grades in order ... Honor Roll B+ or better
  2. Get along with your teammates, coaches and opponents
  3. Always practice and play like there is a college coach or pro scout in the stands watching you
  4. Work on your weaknesses
  5. Look into the mirror each day and ask if you are the player that you would recruit
  6. Be coachable, work on attitude, self-discipline and control - You can play in college!

Question: So many high school players have the attitude that if they do not play college baseball at one of the D1 top 40 programs they have failed. What advice can you offer a high school player regarding the "big school" stigma?

Answer: Unless a player is an "elite" which is the uncommon. Most H.S. players have a college waiting for them to join. It really becomes a matter of "want". The D1's will come to you if you give them the reasons - However the NAIA, DII, DIII and jucos are really great places to play college ball. To me baseball at a good DII or III school is great baseball with the chance to develop without all kinds of pressure and stress ... many professional players have come out of DII's and III's, etc. .... But playing the game .... That's the most important aspect of college ball. Give it a try and most will never regret having played baseball - No matter what the level.

Question: Are the players on your teams involved in a structured weight-lifting and/or conditioning program? If so could you tell us a little about it?

Answer: Our players mainly "lift" during the off-season on their own and only a handful really "hit the weights." We as a team do arm weights with 5-8 lb. hand weights following a daily routine of arm weights to strengthen, tone and protect the throwing arm. We also use weight bats, pipe, weighted balls and a bat speed indicator to help our hitters. We also use a "speed/time" ball to give our pitchers a sense of mph. We try to develop the arms slowly with timed "throwing" and a lot of "long-toss." As we get a few weeks under our belts - Our overall conditioning philosophy is "You're Only As Good As Your Legs!"

Question: Your teams have won 10 state championships. Do you have a favorite team or player story that you could share with us?

Answer: Each state title team certainly was unique - But if I had to chose one it would probably be the 1st State Championship team .... 1973. We were still able to play spring ball and our schedule had us playing some of the best and biggest schools in our area. We went 47-0 that year with a solid group of seniors - Our own Kee High players were joined by players from a catholic school, Lansing St. George, which closed in May of that year. So we picked up a solid group of excellent ball players and went through undefeated. The state at that time had only 2 classes, so we competed with many more "BIG" schools and held our own. We won the first nine games the next season which ran our winning streak to 56 in a row ... before losing.

Player - Wise: I would like to tell you about a baseball "addict" from the time he was born. His name is Kip Peters .... he wore a baseball glove and threw a rubber ball from the age of 3 to 17. He actually wore out the cement blocks on a downtown building! But the unique aspect in Kip Peter's baseball life came when he was in high school. As a freshman he was one of our main pitchers and had a so-so season ... when we went to the State Tourney he pitched the Championship game AND WON! We and he repeated the same feat again the next year; and the next year and "4-PEATED" once again his senior year! Thus pitching and winning the State Championship Game all 4 years of his high school career. I've never heard of anyone else who's done that. What a life long accomplishment! (1989-90-91-92) 170 wins - 16 losses.

We had a player named Tom Imhoff who in 1980 excited our fans with 5 home runs in a double-header plus putting together a 43 game hitting streak. The longest streak on record, at that time, for a high school player. He made the Sports Illustrated " Faces in the Crowd" for his achievement.

One other player; Pat Heiderscheit played at Iowa State and was drafted by the Montreal Expos, in 1988. He played in the Expos organization as a pitcher and then as a coach for a half dozen years. He returned to our area to head up a dying town team program, plus spearheaded a new baseball park renovation at our local field. This spring we will be turning on the lights for the very first time! Thanks to his enormous efforts!

We really have had quite a history of games and players!

Question: How important is a player's physical appearance? I do not mean is he 6'-1" tall and weighs 205 lbs. What I am referring to is tattoos, body piercings, odd hair styles, manner of dress etc. Are any or all of these items a "negative" when you see a player for the first time?

Answer: To me a player's physical appearance ranks right there with his ability to perform. I guess it relates back to the Pride factor of representing not only yourself but the school, alumni, city, etc. We at Kee High discourage any blatant appearance -- We have a hair rule / including facial hair and sideburns, etc. How one presents himself off the field is as important as on the field. We wear our uniform a certain way - We wear our practice uniforms the same way. We dress up (shirt and tie) on the few days in the spring when we play games.

Question: Lansing is a small town tucked in at the top of Iowa. Do you think that the small town environment has been one of the factors in your team's success over the years?

Answer: Really our success comes from having good youth programs and good enough athletes to compete with the bigger schools and towns. Being a small town enviornment gets everyone involved; they grow up together ... play all sports together - We have very few one sport athletes. And our players look forward to the challenge of "Carry On The Tradition".

Question: Do you feel that the baseball fundamentals are being lost - or are they just not being taught?

Answer: Probably a little of both - I think that a lot of coaches get right into the game mechanics and forget the BASICS due to time - absences by players and a short pre-season with all the team members. We still very much stress the BASICS. (bunt / scarifice, squeeze, sliding, proper throwing, running, the swing, etc.) Plus self discipline ... Our practices try to cover specifics and we try to keep all players on their toes, moving, throwing, pitching, catching, running, etc. - NO STANDING AROUND!

Final Thoughts: Any other advice or thoughts are welcome

Answer: First of all, thank you for the chance to reflect on our program. The questions were great and I just hope that you can decipher my printing .... Secondly, we have had the success we've had (at Kee) due to the quality of the people who surround us daily - from parents and fans to pride-ful athletes of the past and present who really deserve all the credit. Our area of the country really loves baseball and it is great being a part of it!!

** The last time that I wrote so much at one time was for my college master's final exam.... !!

Bob Note: I'll bet the master's thesis that Coach Schultz turned in was one of the best that professor had ever seen!!

Coach Gene Schultz
Head Baseball Coach
Kee High School
Lansing, Iowa 52151


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Revised February 09, 2003 .