Photo by Brigham Berthold
For home-town kid Paxton Schultz, playing for Utah Valley means actualizing an aspiration of playing college ball.
Schultz was born and raised in Orem in the shadow of Brent Brown Ballpark. He began playing baseball at the age of six and quickly realized he had a talent and love for the game. By the time he was 14 years old, he was attending baseball camps at UVU and becoming familiar with the coaching staff.
“I’ve been around them for a while. I just got comfortable with the coaches,” Schultz said.
By the time high school rolled around, Schultz was playing on summer teams with UVU head coach Eric Madsen’s son Mick, a Wolverine recruit who will join the team following his two-year LDS mission. It was then that the conversations between the coaches and Schultz became more serious, as Madsen and company looked to secure a commitment from the prep.
“I wanted to be part of this,” Schultz said. “I knew what the coaches were about and what kind of guys they were like. I really thought highly of them, and when they offered me [a scholarship] it was an exciting day.”
In high school, Schultz was a pitcher first. When he wasn’t throwing, he played first base in order to keep his bat in the lineup. Despite batting over .400 his senior season at Orem High School, he’s devoted his efforts at UVU to pitching, where he believes he can realize his full potential on the diamond.
The transition to a full-time pitcher at the collegiate level, where designated hitters are utilized, has not been a seamless adjustment. Although he enjoys being able to focus entirely on the art of pitching and how to get batters out, Schultz is seeking to find his role to help the team on days when he is not scheduled to pitch.
In the opening game of the season against Wichita State, Schultz was the first man out of the bullpen in the sixth inning. The nerves did nothing to distract the freshman from his job as he cruised through three innings of relief, struck out four and issued no walks.
“I was pretty nervous for my first time out. I had some high adrenaline and was pumping pretty good,” Schultz said. “Once I got the first out, everything was clicking and I felt comfortable again.”
Before a hometown crowd Sunday, Schultz started the first game of his career at Brent Brown Ballpark as a Wolverine. Being pulled after giving up five runs in four innings to a good Indiana State lineup was not the performance Schultz envisioned. However, the big right-hander will have plenty of time to make his mark on the program he grew up next to.
Before the start, Schultz said he was excited for the opportunity to pitch for UVU in front of family and friends.
“That’s what’s nice being around here,” Schultz said. “I love looking up and seeing people I know just cheering me on. That’s what you do it for, those people.”
Ty Bianucci is a life-long fan of the San Francisco Giants, 49ers and Golden State Warriors who started on the sports beat for The Review, but now contributes investigative stories. He, along with two of his colleagues, were awarded the Sunshine Award in 2018 by the Society of Professional Journalists.