The reality of life in big-brain academia is “publish or perish.”
For Dan Scheibe, a Whitworth psychology graduate who one day plans to pursue a doctorate in positive psychology or cognitive neuroscience, it was more like “publish or pitch.”
Now one of the top middle relievers on the Spokane Indians of the Northwest League, Scheibe is happy to chase down his dream of being a big-league pitcher. The fact that the Indians are visiting Gesa Stadium for a three-game series makes it a special homecoming for the 2010 Hanford High graduate.
“It’s crazy, weird, surreal. It’s aweome, though. I remember watching the Tri-City Posse here. I used to run out to the (bullpen) bench to try to talk to the players and get foul balls,” Scheibe said. “Now I’m on the other side of the fence. That’s one of my favorite parts of the job, when kids come by. That’s pretty cool for me.”
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Scheibe, a 6-foot-3 right-hander, recently capped a sterling career at Whitworth with a 9-3 record and a 2.10 ERA, averaging 11.51 strikeouts as a senior. At the Northwest Conference tournament in April, he threw the first nine-inning no-hitter by a Pirates pitcher during the metal bat era.
When the Major League Baseball draft rolled around in June, he was told he would be drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 19th round. When that didn’t happen, he prepared himself for a return to graduate school.
“Draft day went uneventfully, but I got a call from the (Texas) Rangers, saying they wanted to sign me to a free agent contract. I told them that sounds great,” Scheibe said. “If I got drafted by the Phillies, it would have been more money, but I would have been on the east coast. Here, I get to live with my brother (Greg Scheibe) and my grandpa gets to come watch me play (in Tri-Cities).
“It couldn’t have worked out any better.”
And so far, Scheibe has made the most of his opportunity, making the adjustment from Division III baseball and learning on the fly.
“The bar was set kind of low coming in, which is kind of a fun place to be, because you can surprise people,” It’s fun to start at the bottom and work your way up.”
Scheibe has made significant progress since allowing two runs in 1 1/3 innings in a 4-3 loss to Everett on June 23. He allowed a run in his next outing, too — 12-3 loss at Salem-Keizer — but has thrown 5 1/3 scoreless frames since then.
“One great thing about Scheib is he’s always engaged in the game. He knows what’s going on. He shows maturity by staying ready and being ready for his spot,” Spokane manager Tim Hulett said. “He’s worked his way from being a bottom guy to being a guy on the front end of games we’re trying to win.”
The Indians are 3-1 in the last four games in which Scheibe has pitched. The last one — a 9-7 Spokane win at Boise on July 22 — Scheibe was called on to save the day, quite literally.
“I love pitching under pressure. I feel like if you don’t (love it), why would you play the game?” he said. “I came in with two outs in the ninth with the tying run at first and the winning run at the plate. Those conditions, plus it was muddy and everything. I was like, ‘This is what I’m talking about!’ That was a lot of fun.”
He did the job, getting Wesley Jones to ground out to third base to earn his first professional save. But it’s Scheibe’s mental approach that has drawn the respect of Hulett and pitching coach Jose Jaimes.
“He had issues with his command, but has worked hard to improve. Lately, he’s become one of our best relievers,” Jaimes said. “He’s not afraid to throw his secondary pitches when he’s behind in the count. He goes out and competes when he doesn’t have his stuff. He’s a warrior.”
Scheibe, who is currently looking for his first pro victory, has also stepped up to take over the task of charting pitches from the bullpen, a mundane but neccessary task that helps pitchers keep up to date with immediate scouting tendencies and in-game patterns.
“He’s been a huge leader for us in the pen by taking charge of the chart,” Jaimes said. “As a pitching coach, it always feels good to have someone who takes care of the guys. He charts every pitch so when our guys go in he can give them information about who they’ll face. Now they can go in with a plan.”
Scheibe definitely has a plan for whichever way his career takes him. Over the summer, he worked with one of the top psychology professers at Eastern Washington University, coding data and editing papers to stay current in the field.
“In college, I was engaged in a lot of activities, so it’s interesting to do just baseball. But this is my dream. I’ve got to pursue it until they say they don’t want me anymore or even past that,” Scheibe said. “I’m going to ride this crazy train as long as I can.”