Schmidt is the Panther behind the mask

Liberty Hill junior Kolby Schmidt has been the catcher for the district champion-Panthers the past two seasons and is confident his team will make a solid playoff run.  (Photo by Kathy Canady)

Liberty Hill junior Kolby Schmidt has been the catcher for the district champion-Panthers the past two seasons and is confident his team will make a solid playoff run.
(Photo by Kathy Canady)

By Joseph Garcia

It takes a certain type of person to be a baseball catcher. Grit, smarts and toughness are all attributes of a good catcher and Liberty Hill’s Kolby Schmidt possesses them all.

The 17-year-old junior has been one of the Panthers’ most consistent players this season and helped lead Liberty Hill to back-to-back district titles in his two years on varsity. His catching abilities have been a blessing for Liberty Hill baseball Coach Mike Kristan, who said Schmidt has already carved out his place in Panther baseball program history.

“(Kolby) is a great student of the game and a great competitor,” Kristan said. “(He) handles the pitching staff very well and is one of the best catchers to have played at Liberty Hill.”

The most fun and most difficult parts about catching are one in the same for Schmidt.

“(I like) the pressure that’s on you every pitch to either throw somebody out on the bases or block a ball in the dirt,” Schmidt said. “Some people don’t like the pressure and doing those things, but that’s the reason I love catching.”

Schmidt’s catching duties are not limited to just stopping passed balls and throwing out runners. He handles the pitching staff and is a game manager who calls every single pitch thrown.

His philosophy when calling pitches is seemingly unconventional.

“I usually like to work backwards,” he explained about his pitch selection. “I like calling fastballs on breaking ball counts and curveballs on fastball counts.”

The Austin native moved to Liberty Hill from Pflugerville when he was in fifth grade. Schmitty, as his teammates and coaches call him, loves to hunt and fish when he is not on the baseball diamond. But it is, of course, on the diamond where one of his most memorable life experiences took place.

When he was a sophomore last season playing in his first varsity game, he finally knew he belonged with the big boys after hitting a towering shot to left field in front of the home crowd.

“The coolest thing that has ever happened to me in baseball was when I hit a home run in my first varsity baseball game,” Schmidt said. “It happened last year against Bourne at home and it went over the left field wall.”

Schmidt said he felt like the regular season went “great” for Liberty Hill considering they started 0-9. He said the turning point in the season came in the District 8-3A opener on March 19 against Brownwood at home.

The Panthers won that tight battle 2-1 to move to 1-0 in district, but it also made Liberty Hill a winning ball club with a 10-9 overall record. Nine games later, Liberty Hill was 9-1 and was crowned as district champs.

“I think when we beat Brownwood it really made us believe that we could hang with the best and even beat the best,” Schmidt said.

He said that winning his second district championship in two years means a lot, but they are looking for more this season.

“Both years mean a lot to me, but this year we’re hoping to win more than just a district championship,” he said. “We’re pretty confident heading into the playoffs since we have only lost two games in our last 20 or so.”

If the Panthers are to continue their winning ways in the playoffs, the man behind the plate, and the mask, will likely be a significant factor.