They all play ball

  • The Schmidt family, from left, Kurt, Kurt Sr., Kelly and Matt, are dedicated to baseball. Kurt and Matt start on the Grayslake Central team, and their parents help with a variety of tasks. And all four of the Schmidts play together for fun on Sundays.

      The Schmidt family, from left, Kurt, Kurt Sr., Kelly and Matt, are dedicated to baseball. Kurt and Matt start on the Grayslake Central team, and their parents help with a variety of tasks. And all four of the Schmidts play together for fun on Sundays. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

 
 
Published5/2/2008 12:25 AM

Some families do pancake breakfasts on Sundays.

Others do get-togethers with relatives or hours in front of the TV watching NFL games.

 

The Schmidts of Grayslake do baseball. And hard.

There's no "going-for-a-Sunday-drive" mentality here.

For the Schmidts, Sunday baseball at Grayslake Central's varsity field is not only a ritual, but an all-out workout. For everyone.

Dad Kurt stands at home plate and smacks ground ball after ground ball at sons Matt and Kurt. Their goal is to make a seamless pickup and then rifle the ball to their first baseman, who is also known as their Mom.

That's right, Kelly Schmidt has game, too -- so much so that her sons would probably never hear the end of it if they eased up on their throws to her.

"She can catch anything and field anything," Matt Schmidt said of his mom. "She has the most range I've seen … "

"For a girl?" Kelly chuckled, while playfully rolling her eyes.

"No, for a lot of players," Matt said with a laugh.

Indeed, just as her sons are now stars at Grayslake Central -- Matt starts at shortstop and Kurt starts at second base for the red-hot Rams -- Kelly once was a star in her own right.

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In fact, so was her husband.

Kelly (nee Hanson) and Kurt met in the mid-1980s while she was an all-conference shortstop for the softball team at the College of Lake County and he was the catcher -- a former all-stater out of Round Lake High School -- for the CLC baseball team.

Within two years, they were married and Matt was born. A year after that, Kurt joined the family.

Not that that sidelined Mom and Dad much, though.

Kurt and Kelly continued to play the sports they loved. With strollers, diaper bags and their newest fans in tow, the two competed on all kinds of local softball and baseball teams.

"The boys were around (baseball and softball) all the time when they were younger," Kurt said. "We always had ESPN on, and we were playing constantly."

In fact, Kelly played even while she was pregnant with Matt and Kurt, and kept playing year after year until about two years ago.

What a shocker that Matt and Kurt became baseball junkies too, huh?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"I guess they didn't have a choice," laughed Kelly, who was her sons' first baseball coach. She passed the torch to Kurt and together, Kelly and Kurt coached their sons in youth and travel baseball for a total of 13 years.

"It was good having our parents there to push us and motivate us," the younger Kurt said. "I thought it was cool that they were the ones teaching us."

Meanwhile, a flock of relatives were the ones cheering them on.

Kelly's parents, Cathie and Don Hanson of Grayslake, have gone to almost every athletic event that Matt and Kurt have ever participated in. In fact, when Grayslake Central made Spring Break trips to Florida and Louisville over the last two years, Grandma and Grandpa Hanson were there, too.

Uncle Jake, Kelly's younger brother, played baseball at Dayton and is also an avid supporter of Matt and Kurt. Other aunts and uncles and cousins are regularly in the stands as well.

"Our entire family is just all baseball," Kelly said.

The Schmidts, however, take it to another level altogether. They even accessorize with baseball.

The family's finished basement is a baseball lover's paradise, complete with several old-time baseball mitts that Kelly acquired while antiquing … and the black-and-white portraits of baseball legends that line the walls of the staircase … and the baseball-print blanket draped over one end of the couch … and the posters and life-size cut-outs of some of today's major-league stars.

The Schmidts even decorate the basement Christmas tree with baseball-themed ornaments.

"They are the MVP of baseball families," Grayslake Central coach Troy Whalen said of the Schmidts. "I've known the family since Matt was like 8 years old, maybe younger, and they've always been like this. They just really love baseball.

"I think it's so cool that they all play together on Sundays. They're out there working on everything. They're serious about it. They even bring their own rakes to rake up after they're done."

Soon, clean-up may take a little longer because Matt won't be around to pitch in.

In December, after earning first-team Fox Valley Conference honors last season, he accepted an offer to play Division I baseball next year at Yale.

Boasting a 4.1 grade point average, Matt is eager to step up to a new set of challenges -- both in the classroom and on the field. But breaking up the family to do it is something he dreads.

"My family is very important to me," Matt said. "It's going to be tough for me to go away next year because we're so close."

The Schmidts may love baseball, and sports in general, but mostly, they love spending time together. They say they can be just as happy playing a board game or cards or watching TV together.

They also relish dinnertime, when they get to sit around the table and play "High/Low," a game that involves telling each other about the high points and low points of their days.

"I'm going to cry (when that changes)," Kelly said.

Of course, the tears will be flowing two-fold next year when Kurt leaves the nest, too. Like his brother, he's also a straight-A student and is likely to be recruited for baseball as well.

No wonder that out of all the family's moments together in baseball, Kelly considers the memories of today to be among the most precious.

"It's unbelievable to sit and watch and see how far they've come, working together, communicating with each other, turning double plays together," Kelly said. "We are loving this season. It's such a mom's dream."

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