Andy Schatzley's Coaching Career Comes To Rocket City
Few grow up dreaming of being a coach. Most hope for the glory of hitting the home run to win the title or getting a big strikeout on the mound to end the game. But for Andy Schatzley, the aspiration to lead began at an early age. “People have asked
Few grow up dreaming of being a coach. Most hope for the glory of hitting the home run to win the title or getting a big strikeout on the mound to end the game. But for Andy Schatzley, the aspiration to lead began at an early age.
“People have asked me if I went to college knowing that I wanted to coach,” Schatzley said. “But I went to kindergarten knowing I wanted to coach. I never really thought doing anything else.”
Following over a decade of working his way through the college ranks and into professional baseball, Schatzley will face his biggest challenge in 2022 as he was named the second Manager in Rocket City Trash Pandas history.
With his father coaching and his mother an educator as well, Schatzley quickly began to learn the intricacies of coaching and being a part of a team.
“My dad is the best coach in our family. What drew me to coaching was that he was a powerful team builder and the team dynamic and the connection to people while helping play a role in somebody else’s story,” he said. “I’ve loved being on a team in whatever capacity I could do it in.”
After graduating from college in 2009, Schatzley began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Lubbock Christian University in Texas, helping the team make two NAIA World Series appearances. He then went to Emporia State University in Kansas as an assistant in 2011, leading the team to the MIAA conference championship and a 43-13 record.
From there, Schatzley went to Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas and that is where he made his biggest impact. As an assistant, he acted as the recruiting coordinator while his on-field duties included hitting coach, infield instructor, and third base coach. In 2019, he helped guide the Bisons to a 34-21 record, the best during his tenure at the university.
That winter, he got an unexpected call from a member of the Los Angeles Angels player development staff, and after a number of interviews, the Division II assistant coach in a small town in Arkansas was hired to be the manager at Rookie-Level Orem in 2020. But he would never manage a game for the Owlz once the pandemic derailed the minor league season. Instead, he went to Phoenix to lead the instructional league team with current Trash Pandas Pitching Coach Michael Wuertz and Hitting Coach Kenny Hook for the first time.
In 2021, Schatzley made his minor league debut as the manager for the High-A Tri-City Dust Devils, one level below the Trash Pandas. Although his first full season didn’t result in a playoff berth, Schatzley left a lasting impact on his players.
“He’s a really great dude. He’s someone that you can tell really cares about his players and about building a winning culture,” said pitcher Davis Daniel, who started the year with Tri-City before moving up to the Trash Pandas. “Even though we struggled at times last year, he did a great job of not letting anyone get too high or too low and keeping us on an even keel.”
That mentality from Daniel is exactly what Schatzley is looking for in developing a winning mindset, both on and off the field.
“How I judge success is the environment and culture in the clubhouse,” he said. “The players need an environment that they can come to work in that is comfortable, but also has the proper components of discipline and fundamentals inside of it. If you can achieve those things, if the players enjoy coming to work and there is the right amount of productivity happening, then the results are going to take care of themselves”
Daniel went from Tri-City to Rocket City in the middle of the season and found success, ultimately ending the year with Triple-A Salt Lake.
The 37-year-old manager will look to find similar success in his Double-A debut in 2022, and he couldn’t be more excited for the task at hand.
“I think the Trash Pandas are the best run affiliate in baseball. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the work they do,” he said. “Then to talk about the tradition and history of the Southern League (Double-A South), and I’m honored and excited to be a part of that.”
While the 2022 Trash Pandas roster won’t be known until April, there are a few goals Schatzley has for his team, no matter the players.
“What I can tell you is that we’re going to be the most prepared, aware, fundamental version of ourselves that we can be, even if the personnel and the conditions are changing,” he said. “We’ll try to be a better team in May than we are in April, try to be a better tam in June than we are in May, and so on.”
As the Trash Pandas look to take Schatzley’s goals to heart on the field, the support from Trash Pandas Nation will be a fueling factor for Rocket City’s home team.
“I can promise the fans that the support that they give and the support that we receive on a nightly basis, that support requires our respect and our appreciation and with that comes a certain level of responsibility,” he said. “I can promise them the energy and attention of our work will be there every night we take the field.”
The Trash Pandas season begin on April 8 in Birmingham before the home opener at Toyota Field on Tuesday, April 12 against the Pensacola Blue Wahoos. CLICK HERE to get your tickets, as great seats are still available.