By Clara Richards | Washington University in St. Louis
Cam Schuelke, Cotuit Kettleers at Wareham Gatemen, July 13, 2022 in Wareham, Ma. (Photo by Alysa Rubin)
In early June, Cam Schuelke walked into Putter’s Paradise, past the white whale fountain that marked the entrance, and redeemed his golf round for one. The circumstances of him being there in the first place were pure luck (and some minigolf skills, too); Schuelke had won a free round from a team-sponsored event when he was training with the Hyannis Harbor Hawks. He had sunk a lucky hole-in-one on the eighteenth hole, granting him a free card. But shortly after his first visit, Hyannis told him that they didn’t have a spot for him on their roster. So before making the arduous fifteen hour drive home — made even worse because he never got on the bump for the Harbor Hawks — Schuelke decided to redeem his voucher, alone.
“I was so bored that I went to play by myself,” he said. “It was a walk-of-shame type beat.”
But after starting the first hole, a father-son duo saw him golfing alone and invited them to join their group. They played a competitive eighteen holes, complete with a tiebreaker at the end. Schuelke emerged with the win though, and he drove away from Putter’s Paradise fully believing that he’d never see his minigolf partners again.
A few weeks later, Schuelke arrived in Cotuit, having been offered a temporary contract. Standing in front of baseball ops was his minigolf partner, Peter Flaherty Jr. Unbeknownst to him, he had been playing with the father of the Ketts’ scouting director. Peter Flaherty III had learned about the pitcher’s departure from his dad, and he kept Schuelke in the back of his mind as the season progressed and the roster shifted around. “The second we had an open slot, I knew who I was going to call,” the younger Flaherty said. “And he’s going to close out a championship game for us.”
Since being here, Schuelke had been a workhorse for the bullpen. He walked into his first outing and secured the save for the Ketts at Wareham. He proceeded to pitch the next four days, throwing 113 pitches, 74 of them for strikes, without a day off.
The subbie’s arm slot allows him to hurl day after day. At 10 years old, he learned from his dad to throw
Cam Schuelke pitches in his unique sidearm motion. (Photo by Alysa Rubin)
from both an overhand and underhand arm slot. While he walked into Lowell Park alternating equally between both arm slots, head coach Mike Roberts made it clear at the start that he thought the pitcher was more effective from the lower arm slot. Still, Schuelke occasionally goes to his high arm slot for pitches that the Yarmouth-Dennis announcers coined the Schuelke Special. In his outing at Bourne, he only threw four overhand, three of which were recorded outs. His former school tried to convert him to a strictly submarine arm, an experience he described as “god awful,” but it’s working out for him on the Cape.
He throws a four seam and two seam fastball, slider and curveball, working on a changeup. But his strength hadn’t necessarily been in the pure velocity of his pitches; instead, it’s been in the spin of the ball. It has a frisbee-like motion that’s deceptive to hitters. He’s never been a location guy, instead relying on movement.
“Some guys like to paint the black, they feel like they have to go up and in,” Schuelke said. “I’ve always trusted my movement — that if I throw it, it’s going to move too much for you to square up.”
There’s no magical Schuelke secret for recovery, no silver bullet that allows him to get outs day after day. Schuelke credits ibuprofen and ping pong, which loosens up his arm. Pitching coach Andrew Schriener doesn’t have answers for pitcher’s quick recovery. “To be honest, I have no idea,” he said. “I think he just likes to pitch. He goes out there, and his arm could be hanging off for all I know.”
But Schuelke is nonchalant about it. It’s really nothing new to him — in high school, he once threw over 270 pitches in three days.
“Everyone’s always like, ‘Oh, your arm doesn’t hurt at all,’ and I have to correct them. I’m like, ‘Well, I mean, it does. I just throw. It’s not a big deal.’”
Over everything else, his reliability has been a huge asset to the Ketts’ bullpen. In five straight days, his pitches still look the same — the only thing that might change is the number of pitches he’s available to throw. And he has the stats to show for his efforts; he didn’t allow an earned run in his first seven games, and he was credited with the win in three out of his last four appearances. Again and again, he’s helped the Ketts stay competitive late in the game.
“He might not be feeling the greatest, but he goes out there and competes,” Schriener said. “He takes some of the worry off of the guys’ minds, but at the same time, it gives them confidence to say, ‘Hey, he’s pitching six days in a row, why can’t I pitch on two days’ rest?’”
His attitude hasn’t gone unnoticed with his teammates. “Oh he’s the GOAT,” Will Jacobsen said after he closed out the game at Harwich. “I still don’t know how he does it,” catcher Caleb Lomavita said. “I just hope his arm’s okay.”
Some days, Schuelke’s name isn’t written on the board that sets the pitching rotation. But in the sixth inning, he’ll come walking over to the bullpen coaches.
“I’m good to go,” he’ll say. He’s done enough waiting and watching— now, he’s just having fun.