Nick Schulz is enjoying every part of his season with the Missions.
The outfielder would have preferred more victories and playing for a Texas League championship would have been much to his liking. However, batting .280 with 10 home runs and 49 RBI has enabled Schulz to prove he can make the grade at the Double-A level.
As the season winds down this week, Schulz looks to end on a high note and use it as a building block for next season.
"It's been going well," said Schulz, whose season includes delivering his career-first walk-off single against Corpus Christi on June 22. "I take it day by day and try to stay in the moment. That is what I have to do."
Taking it step by step is Schulz's trademark. After all, the odds of him even playing professionally appeared bleak after he went undrafted following his senior season at San Jose State. Being snubbed was disappointing, but Schulz refused to let that be the determining factor. Instead, he used that as added incentive.
"I will remember it the rest of my life," Schulz said. "It fired me up. It was definitely heart-breaking, but it is what it is. It's something you can't control. I had a few teams interested in me but not interested in taking me in the draft. You can do either two things. You can either quit or you can grind it out."
Schulz chose to grind it out.
Things started coming together during the 2014 offseason. While playing in a winter league in California, Schulz hooked up with hitting instructor Kenny Barton. Not only did the former major leaguer help Schulz fine-tune his batting skills, he went to bat for him in a bigger way by calling scouts about his progress.
The Padres showed the most interest and invited him to come to Lake Elsinore to take batting practice. Those with the organization liked what they saw and sent him to Arizona where he signed a contract.
Schulz started out with Eugene in short season, but was promoted to Single-A Fort Wayne where he went on a hitting tear, batting .341 with eight home runs and 30 RBI.
"I was really excited to get the opportunity," Schulz sad. "I really appreciated Kenny Barton. He went above and beyond to help me. When I got there I knew I had a lot to prove. It worked out. That first season gave me a lot of confidence."
The next year at Single-A Lake Elsinore wasn't as productive as Schulz batted .238 (108-for-453) with 12 homers and 48 RBI over 122 games. Instead of being overwhelmed he saw it as another learning experience.
"That was a big adjustment," Schulz said "Lake Elsinore was close to home. I was near family and friends. But it was a down year for me. I had to learn a lot on and off the field. I was dealing with adversity and having to grow as a person and baseball player. I am very thankful for that. It led me here (San Antonio)."
What did he learn?
"The main lesson was taking it one step at a time and keep things on a steady pace," Schulz said "I learned not to try to do too much and force the situation. You do what the game is asking you to do. That has allowed me to relax. In Double-A you let the game come to you.
"You have to know the situation, how to handle certain situations. You also have to remember every day is a new day. You can't let something stick in your head or you'll get eaten up out there. That is what it is all about, how to play the game right."
Now, Schulz is learning the ropes with the Missions and making more strides. However, he has also come to realize playing at the current level is a continuous work in progress where adjusting to situations is ongoing. Pitchers are more efficient and adversity comes regularly. Like he learned at Lake Elsinore, Schulz stays in the moment.
During his Double-A journey, Schulz has also focused on becoming a complete player.
"I'm trying to improve my defense and base running," Schulz said. "The main thing is the game is more than just hitting. I know hitting is a big part, but the game is just a bigger picture. You can't always be afraid to be a complete player and learn every aspect of the game.
"Something occurred to me in spring training. You don't ever consider yourself a finished product. You find ways to improve each day and the outcome will be there."
As Schulz takes it step by step, he'll also keep his eye on the big picture.
"I'm just trying to finish the season strong and take it at-bat by at-bat, pitch by pitch," Schulz said. "I'm focusing on staying in the moment and becoming successful. It's been a good year but I never take anything for granted. I worked so hard to get here and I want to keep going.
"I preach to everyone don't give up on your dream. If you want something go do it."
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.