Michael Schlact is the manager of the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks of the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball. He began his pro playing career after being selected by the Texas Rangers in the third round of the 2004 MLB draft out of Wheeler High School in Marietta, GA. Schlact spent seven seasons in the Rangers organization, reaching the Double-A level with the Frisco RoughRiders of the Texas League in 2007-2010. He was named the manager of the RedHawks in September of 2017.
Today is the first of a season-long diary that Michael is going to share with us as he begins his first professional baseball season as a manager.
I wanted to start off this new adventure with all of you by introducing myself, my job, and to let you all in on some background information necessary to understand my journey. First, thank you so much for reading this. I hope it gives you an inside look into what professional baseball is all about and what it takes to have this career path. I hope you’re intrigued, encouraged, and entertained, but above all else, I hope your eyes are opened.
There are professional baseball players and coaches all over the world who wake up every single day with an intense amount of pressure to perform at their highest levels over the course of many months a year. For those of us who are Christians, the balance of living in a stats-driven world and living for a grace-driven God can be a bit of a challenge. The world says that what’s on the back of your baseball card matters and God says that what’s in your heart matters. These can often drastically oppose each other.
I’m Michael Schlact. I am married to a wonderful and beautiful woman named Jillian and we have an almost 3-year-old son and another son due any day now. We have been married since 2006, and this crazy baseball stuff has been our life since we met. Jillian and I are high school sweethearts. Once we were married, she dropped her dreams, aspirations, and job possibilities to come travel with me as I chased mine. I’m forever grateful to her for that and without her, I absolutely would not be where I am today. Having a son and one on the way hasn’t complicated the lifestyle, it’s amplified it. We now have many “family adventures” across the United States and so many memories that we will cherish for a lifetime.
I was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2004 MLB draft by the Texas Rangers. I won’t bore you with all the details but know this: I came into the organization as a “prospect” and arm injuries derailed what was supposed to be my “dream job.” I had been working my entire life to be a MLB player and two shoulder surgeries ended that for me. What I found in the process of a 10-year playing career throughout many levels of the minor leagues and independent baseball was that God was preparing me to coach and lead at the same time I was questioning what He was doing.
When things don’t go right for us or we don’t know exactly what’s happening in our lives, it’s easy to blame God or question if He knows what He’s doing or if He has forgotten us. I was right there. Through the “loss of a career,” I gained a new one in coaching. Had I stayed in my own misery of what I thought was a failed opportunity, I would have never been able to see what God had for me down the road was so much better. I’m forever thankful for that. In 2014, I made the transition from player to coach and I’m so grateful that I did.
I started as a bullpen coach in Amarillo, Texas for the Amarillo Sox in the American Association of Professional Baseball. For those of you who may not know what independent baseball is, it’s professional baseball that’s unaffiliated with a Major League team. Players can still be signed back to MLB teams, but it’s not a direct pipeline. The pay isn’t that great in most cases, but what you’ll find are guys still chasing the dream, hoping for the best, and determined to make it.
Scouts for MLB teams have begun recognizing independent baseball as a viable option for them, as most teams now employ independent league scouts to look for talent in our leagues. In 2015, I was hired to be the pitching coach for the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks in the same league, and I stayed in that role until August of 2017 when I was promoted to interim field manager and then ultimately named the full-time field manager for the organization.
My job as field manager and player personnel is to make the decisions on the field, find the players away from the field, and coordinate the salaries, salary cap, housing, vehicles, and many other components within the organization. We don’t have a scouting department to find our players, so I, along with our player personnel consultant and former MLB pitcher Jeff Bittiger do it. I work alongside our GM Matt Rau and owner Brad Thom to make sure the salary cap is in line, and that we’re coordinating housing (a few apartments and mostly host families) for the players.
It’s a busy job in the off-season because everyone lives in a different time zone. Most players work, have families, and other responsibilities that may or may not line up with my schedule. Therefore, a lot of boundaries on my part and a lot more grace on my family’s part is necessary with this job. There are no set hours during the off-season, and in-season I get to the stadium around 1 pm and don’t get home until after midnight most nights.
I love baseball, love teaching the game, and love leading people. Making the jump from playing to coaching has been incredibly rewarding and life-giving from the moment I made the decision to do it. Being a small part of a player having another chance to live his dream, helping a player through something they’re going through, and leading a group of guys through 100 games in 110 days is something that I’m forever thankful to God for.
I didn’t know that I ever wanted to be in this position. I thought, in my own plans and dreams, that I would be pitching in the World Series one day. However, letting God lead and allowing Him to take control of my life allowed me to find what I was meant to be doing, and I’m so excited to take you along on this journey with my family and me.
- Michael Schlact