The unorthodox delivery. The modest physical frame. The boyish looks. Still.
Go ahead and underestimate Mitchell Schulewitz.
Once nearly unwanted by college baseball programs, the former Mundelein pitcher is tossing pitches in -- surprise -- Surprise, Ariz., as a member of the Kansas City Royals minor league team in the Arizona League.
The sidearming right-hander has been basking in the Arizona heat since last month after graduating from the University of Illinois at Chicago in May, going undrafted in June and then signing with the Royals as a free agent.
"I've always had that underdog mentality, a chip on the shoulder, an edge," Schulewitz said. "You try to take advantage of everything that you can. I'm definitely just trying to enjoy it because -- who knows? -- by the end of this season I might be done. It's a great experience either way, whether I'm here for a year and for however long."
Five years ago, the skinny Schulewitz headed into his senior year at MHS not knowing whether any college baseball coach would offer him a roster spot. He chose to accept a preferred walk-on spot at UIC, then went out and dominated on the baseball field that spring of 2013. He went 10-1 for the Mustangs, firing 7 shutouts in North Suburban Conference action, and striking out 70 batters in 58 innings, while also hitting .450 and stealing 10 bases.
He parlayed his sensational season, which included being named captain of the Daily Herald Lake County All-Area team, into a scholarship at UIC, where he bulked up, which led to improved velocity and stamina, and became a mainstay out of the bullpen for the Flames. He did all of that while maintaining the same arm slot that helped him dominate his senior season for Mundelein.
Schulewitz appeared in 83 games over four seasons, going 10-15 with 5 saves and a 4.13 ERA in 152⅔ innings. More importantly, he threw strikes (136 strikeouts, 55 walks).
A hamstring strain, however, sidelined him for 6-8 weeks at the beginning of his senior season, causing him to lose his closer role to Alex Padilla, who ended up earning All-America third-team honors. When Schulewitz finally got on the mound, he was effective. He posted a 2.38 ERA in 22⅔ innings, averaged 9.3 strikeouts per nine innings and limited opponents to a .200 batting average.
"I thought I was going to get drafted in the later rounds," Schulewitz said.
With a degree in communications and minor in psychology from UIC but without a professional baseball team, Schulewitz ended up at an Area Code showcase at North Central College with high school kids. Standing barely taller than the 5 feet 9 he was in high school but now pushing 190 pounds, he tried to blend in on the baseball field.
"I walked out there with a bunch of 15- and 16-year-olds," Schulewitz said with a laugh. "A lot of kids still looked older than me.
"There were a bunch of pro teams there. They let me throw at the end. I threw maybe a 15-, 20-pitch bullpen, and that was enough for the Royals to sign me. They didn't see me during the regular season."
Since putting on a Royals uniform -- mixed emotions no doubt for his dad, Ed, who's a White Sox fan -- Schulewitz has been impressive. He has a 3.38 ERA in 8 innings and has continued to throw the ball over the plate, striking out eight and walking one.
"Everything's been going pretty well," Schulewitz said. "I had one outing that didn't turn out great. I was going for a four-out save, and they ended up hitting me at the end. Outside of that, it's been pretty good. I can't complain."
And you won't hear him complain.
If he doesn't get invited to Instructional League following completion of Arizona League play in early September, Schulewitz plans to head home and begin graduate school at DePaul. He's seeking a masters in education so he can pursue a career in school counseling.
In the meantime, he works hard to ace professional baseball.
"If I'm going to go play professional baseball, I'm not here just to kill a few years and waste my time," Schulewitz said. "If I'm going to do it, I'm going to put the same effort into it as I did in college to develop and try my best to move up the ladder. If it doesn't work at the end of the day, it doesn't work."
The Royals scout who scouted Schulewitz was also once an undrafted player out of college. He ended up playing pro ball for 6-7 years, Schulewitz said, and made it to Double-A. And the Royals have told Schulewitz and every other player in their organization that whether they signed for "$3 million or just a plane ticket," as Schulewitz put it, if they produce, they'll be rewarded.
"That was good to hear," Schulewitz said. "It definitely let some players know that there is incentive to put in the work."
Mitchell Schulewitz has never approached baseball any other way.
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