Former player surprised by Schmitz’s dismissal

Derrin Coad, Staff Reporter

Recently fired Eastern baseball coach Jim Schmitz knew of his dim future with the Panthers since last summer, but his players say it did not affect the way he coached the team this season.

Dane Sauer, a 2015 graduate who played infield for the Panthers, said Schmitz continued on with the season without telling his players of Eastern’s decision to not renew his contract. Sauer was one of six captains on the team this season.

“None of us knew,” Sauer said. “I guess he did a good job at keeping it to himself.”

Schmitz coached the team to a losing record of 13-36 this season, but according to a recent interview with the Journal Gazette and Times-Courier, Schmitz felt as if he was losing his job after this season even if the Panthers finished with a winning record.

Sauer was not surprised to hear this and stuck up for his former coach, saying Schmitz “did the best he could with what he was dealt.”

“There’s an old saying that coaches take too much credit when they win and too much credit when they lose,” Sauer said.  “I don’t think any other coach would have made a difference. We had some injuries, we had some other problems with players and it sucks but that’s the way it goes sometimes.”

One thing that seemed to irk Sauer about Schmitz’s firing was the way the university handled the situation.  Schmitz said in the JG-TC article that he was informed that the university would not be renewing his contract in a letter last July.

“That’s what disappoints me as well as some of the other guys. (Schmitz) has been there for 20 years. That’s not typical of an everyday coach,” Sauer said.  “Did we have a feeling that his time was up?  Sure, but that’s not to say I think that they did it right. I thought that they could have handled it a little bit better.”

Despite the struggles that the team went through this year, Sauer spoke very favorably about Schmitz as a person beyond their player/coach relationship, adding that the coach invited him and a number of other players to a family party two years ago.

“From a baseball standpoint, he’s the best coach I’ve ever had. I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned from him over the years,” Sauer said. “From a personal standpoint we had a great relationship, and that has nothing to do with coaching.”

Derrin Coad can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].