Eastern Michigan University will play Bowling Green State University at Oestrike Stadium this spring. In the Bowling Green dugout will be EMU alumnus and long-time Falcons coach Danny Schmitz. His path from being a Huron to being a Falcon was quite a journey.
Schmitz is from Ferndale and, thanks to his father, grew up to love baseball. After his senior year at Hazel Park, he decided on continuing to play baseball at EMU for coach Ron Oestrike’s Hurons.
“[EMU] not only was an opportunity to have a great education, but also learn the game of baseball from the best,” Schmitz said of his decision.
In a career that spanned from 1974-77, Schmitz earned a letter in all four of his years at EMU as an infielder. The Hurons won the Mid-American Conference championship in 1975 and 1976 to earn a spot in the College World Series.
After finishing fifth in the College World Series, EMU was runner up to Arizona in the 1977 CWS.
Eastern Michigan had to beat Maine and Clemson before upsetting the favored Arizona State, which had 13 future major leaguers on its roster. But the magical run came to an end in the championship game with a 7-1 loss to Arizona.
Schmitz was drafted in the 1977 in the 20th round by the New York Yankees and was assigned to Oneonta in the New York-Penn League. He spent six seasons with the Yankees organization before getting traded to the New York Mets.
Schmitz went between the Mets and Minnesota Twins’ minor-league systems before ending his playing career in 1984 in Toledo. He played in eight minor league seasons with 857 games and did not get called up to the majors.
Schmitz’s coaching career began in the minor leagues when he was a player-coach near the end of his playing career. He was hired by Minnesota to manage its minor league team in Visalia of the California League, where he managed the team for three years.
EMU called him back to return as an assistant coach under Roger Coryell. He was offered the job for the Bowling Green baseball team in 1991. Thanks to recommendations by coach Oestrike and Coryell, Schmitz got the job and has held it ever since.
“Coach Oestrike knew the [athletic director], and he made some calls on my behalf,” Schmitz said. “I became the head coach, and I’ve been very fortunate and God has blessed me these past 22 years.”
During his time coaching for the Falcons, Schmitz has seen many players go on to be selected in the major-league draft such as Nolan Reimold, an outfielder selected in the 2005 MLB draft by Baltimore, and pitcher Burke Badenhop, who was selected by Detroit in 2005 and is now in Florida with the Marlins.
In 2005, EMU elected Schmitz into its Athletic Hall of Fame. He is in there with four teammates from that 1976 national runner-up team.
“What a tremendous honor for me to be among the greats and among my teammates,” Schmitz said. “Those four years at EMU are something that I’ll always remember.”
Heading into the 2012 season, Schmitz is 568-517-5 at Bowling Green State and led the Falcons to four MAC regular-season championships and two MAC tournament titles. He was named MAC coach of the year three times with his most recent award in 2009.
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