Garrett Schoenberger was thinking about playing in the Northwoods League in Wisconsin this summer when the call came. The Peninsula Oilers of the Alaska Baseball League were offering a spot to Schoenberger, a 2000 Juneau-Douglas High School graduate who is playing college baseball for Arizona State University.
Schoenberger, a catcher, jumped at the chance to join the Oilers.
"I thought it was the perfect opportunity," Schoenberger said in a phone interview. "I really wanted to come back to Alaska. I'm really confident about it. Even though it's not Juneau, I feel like I'm going home to play."
The Alaska League is a summer league of college all-stars that is considered one of the two best amateur summer leagues in the country. Last year, the Anchorage Glacier Pilots won their fifth straight National Baseball Congress World Series title and the Alaska League's 15th championship since 1969. The Oilers won NBC World Series titles in 1975, 1991 and 1992.
The Alaska League is the next step in Schoenberger's development, a process that's seen him go from being the only walk-on player to make the team at ASU to being a member of the Sun Devils' 25-man traveling roster.
"He's kind of a self-made player," said Jay Sferra, an ASU assistant coach and the team's recruiting coordinator. "He's really a huge success story. He came to one of our camps with a bunch of other Juneau guys and he was the best player of the group.
"The next fall, he shows up on campus and made the team as a walk-on. It starts out with 50 to 70 guys, and we weeded it down to a dozen. Garrett was the only survivor."
A redshirt freshman, Schoenberger has seen little playing time this season for the Sun Devils. He is 1-for-4 this season in four games as a reserve.
"This experience will be a good one for him," Sferra said. "He'll get some ABs (at-bats) and an opportunity to play. He'll be with a new group of guys. He's pretty pumped. Garrett is such a quality individual. He's such a program guy, by that I mean he'll do whatever you ask of him. The experience there and the type of kid he is, I think it will help him and the team."
Mike Baxter, the baseball operations manager for the Oilers, said Schoenberger should be an asset for the team.
"He'll be competing for the everyday job," Baxter said. "He redshirted last year and didn't play much this year, so he will have to work hard. But we understand he can swing the stick a little bit."
Schoenberger said he doesn't mind working for his playing time. As a JDHS wrestler and baseball player, Schoenberger was known as one of the hardest workers on his teams. Schoenberger said he just got a 4.0 grade point average this semester in his marketing major and was accepted into ASU's college of business.
"I've worked for everything I've had, but I'm making it," said Schoenberger, who added that ASU's starting catcher was a walk-on player. "I think I can play at this level. I almost feel more confident being back in Alaska and getting more playing time."
Baxter said Schoenberger is one of three catchers the Oilers are bringing to Kenai this summer, but the only confirmed catcher is Oregon State's Paul Richie. Schoenberger will give the Oilers some extra roster flexibility since Alaska residents don't count against the Alaska League's roster limit.
By joining the Oilers, Schoenberger makes it five straight years a former Juneau-Douglas High School player has been on an Alaska League roster.
Charles Bingham is a reporter for the Juneau Empire. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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