ST. LOUIS — Hopeful that the trade can benefit both parties, Skip Schumaker, speaking shortly after the Dodgers finalized a deal to acquire the utility infielder/outfielder, expressed gratitude for the opportunities the Cardinals had given him for more than a decade. Schumaker also conveyed his excitement about a new opportunity in an ideal location.
The Cardinals traded Schumaker to Los Angeles last Wednesday for Minor League infielder Jake Lemmerman. Schumaker’s departure ended an 11-year tenure with an organization that drafted and developed him out of the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Schumaker went on to make his Major League debut with the Cardinals in 2005, establishing himself as a versatile bench player and valued teammate.
“It’s tough leaving St. Louis, because I’ve made some lifelong friends and my wife has made lifelong friends and my kids have, too,” Schumaker said. “I grew up in this organization, and it’s tough to say goodbye to a really good thing. But it’s something that I think had to happen from both sides, and other than being in St. Louis, I couldn’t think of a better situation for my family than to be traded here. I grew up watching the Dodgers and rooting for the Dodgers.”
Schumaker and his family also still maintain their permanent residence in Southern California, approximately an hour-long drive from Dodger Stadium. That will allow Schumaker to live at home during the season. He said it’s a no-brainer that he’ll make the daily commute.
“I have to be pretty thankful that [general manager John Mozeliak] and the Cardinals were looking out for my best interest,” Schumaker said. “There could have been another 28 teams he sent me to, and he sent me to a contender and close to home. I’m used to winning in St. Louis and I don’t think I could have gotten used to losing somewhere else. I feel very fortunate to have landed where I did.”
When Schumaker signed a two-year contract with the Cardinals exactly one year ago, he never intended finishing out the deal elsewhere. But it became evident during the second half of the 2012 season that Schuamker’s role was permanently diminishing. He started only 29 games after July (none in the postseason) and watched Daniel Descalso emerge as the team’s everyday second baseman.
Curious about how the Cardinals viewed Schumaker’s standing for 2013, his agent, Nez Balelo, met with Mozeliak during the offseason. Schumaker, through Balelo, did not demand a trade, but it became evident that both clubs saw it as mutually beneficial to separate.
“I feel like I’m a good role player on a good team,” Schumaker said. “I just didn’t see how I was going to fit anymore when there were other guys that were in my normal spot that would take my at-bats. I saw the writing on the wall and then thought maybe they were thinking the same thing as me.”
In joining the Dodgers, Schumaker will be reunited with Los Angeles’ new hitting coach, Mark McGwire, who began working with Schumaker even before he returned to the Majors in a coaching role, and longtime friend and former Cardinals teammate Nick Punto.
Schumaker said he has not yet discussed his potential role on the team with manager Don Mattingly and general manager Ned Colletti, but he expects that he’ll serve as the team’s fourth outfielder and backup second baseman.
“I just feel like there might be a more defined role, which is what you’re looking for,” Schumaker said. “You don’t want to go in and not know where you fit, and I think that’s where I was in St. Louis.”
Schumaker ends his Cardinals career with a .288 batting average, .345 on-base percentage and 211 RBIs in 810 games. He’ll face his former club for the first time during a three-game series in Los Angeles from May 24-26. The Dodgers then travel to St. Louis in early August.
Asked how he hopes to be remembered by those in St. Louis, Schumaker offered the following:
“I knew my role, and I never got away from that,” he said. “I felt like I was a team player and did everything the organization asked. I never complained. I did what was asked and did whatever I could to help the team win. That’s it. And that’s all I should be remembered for. I don’t think people are going to miss me too much, but I hope I was a good teammate.”
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