Former Terp Schaefer fights to survive with Mariners

When you're a guy like Seattle utility man Jeff Schaefer -- who doesn't have the speed of Harold Reynolds, the power of Kevin Mitchell or the all-round talent of Ken Griffey -- the game of baseball becomes sheer survival.

"There are few guys in this game who have security," Schaefer said in the Seattle clubhouse before last night's game.


"Cal Ripken's got it, Ken Griffey over there's got it, but when you're the 24th or 25th man, somebody could come up to you at any time and say, 'Skipper wants to see you.' "

So far, that call hasn't come for Schaefer, 31, a native of Patchogue, N.Y., but that's only because he's made himself valuable enough to the Mariners to stay around, even without being blessed with obvious physical gifts.


Considering his modest beginnings, almost anything that Schaefer has achieved is a bonus.

Schaefer, who got his seventh start of the season at shortstop last night, going 0-for-2, bringing his average to .250, was originally a walk-on at Maryland, who joined former coach Eldon Jackson's team as a lark. By his own account, he was scrawny as a freshman, standing 5 feet 6 and weighing 125 pounds.

But with diligence and work with the weights, Schaefer, whose father also attended Maryland and was Jackson's first team captain, developed muscle and guile, eventually growing to 5-10 and 170 pounds.

In his senior year at Maryland, Schaefer set single-season school records for at-bats, runs and hits.

Schaefer is fond of the school, and still keeps in touch with Jackson and current Maryland coach Tom Bradley.

But he is a little miffed that he is the only Maryland player on a

major-league roster.

"That tells me that the University of Maryland has not supported or funded some of their quality athletic programs," said Schaefer.


He continued, "I know I'm going to get some flak for this, but when the girls tennis team can get a flight to the West Coast for a game against UCLA and the baseball team has to hope that somebody left the door to the small gym [in Cole Field House] open so they can do some hitting, then something's wrong."

After Maryland, Schaefer was drafted in the 12th round of the college draft by the Orioles, and he makes his off-season home in Charlotte, N.C., where the Orioles used to operate a Double-A team.

However, he bounced from organization to organization, moving from the Orioles to California to Los Angeles to the Chicago White Sox, where he got his first big-league call-up, making the Opening Day roster in 1989.

But Schaefer sat on the bench for four weeks before he saw any playing time. Then-Chicago manager Jeff Torborg said he was holding Schaefer out to give him his first start at Yankee Stadium before his family.

He was sent back to the minors not long after that, and was signed by Seattle as a free agent in November 1989.

So far, his career highlight reel pretty much consists of his two lifetime home runs, both hit at the new Comiskey Park, including an April blast off Kirk McCaskill.


But for a guy like Schaefer, every day on a major-league roster is like another day in paradise.

"My ego says I can play, and if I didn't believe that, I wouldn't be here," said Schaefer.

"You have to make the adjustments to say, 'What can I do to be one of the guys who can make a career of this?' Basically, the gravy days are over. Now, I want to survive."