News Photo
Baseball - Tue, Aug. 15, 2017

August 16, 2017


Kenmore West graduate leaves U.S. Treasury to coach college baseball

Geoff Schaab was on a career track many would envy. After graduating from college in 2003, the Tonawanda native went to Washington, D.C., to begin a career working for the U.S. government. After five years working as a military advisor for the Defense Intelligence Agency, he was in his seventh year with the U.S. Treasury. Schaab was making good money and doing important work in his chosen field, but he felt himself being called in a different direction.

Schaab coached baseball in his downtime for the Northern Virginia Fellowship of Christian Athletes. The former Kenmore West star credits that to "re-sparking his passion in baseball." He knew he needed to change careers. After a long search, he took an assistant position at NAIA Dakota State University in Madison, South Dakota. He just completed his first season with the program and finished pulling together his first full recruiting class.

"I'm guided by my faith a lot, and I like to talk about that," Schaab said. "When you're doing something you're passionate about, it doesn't feel like work. I took a significant pay cut to go to Madison, and I don't regret it one bit. I know this is the path laid out for me. I legitimately quit my job at peace with my new career path."

Baseball has been a part of Schaab's life for a long time. He played for Kenmore West before graduating in 1999. He batted .530 and stole more than 30 bases during his senior season, earning a spot on the All-Niagara Frontier League second team.

He played his college ball at Edinboro in Pennsylvania. He batted .315 while playing second base and outfield and struck out just 26 times in more than 400 plate appearances. He had to redshirt his senior year as he was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. He was never able to play out his fourth year of eligibility, as Edinboro dropped baseball after what should have been his senior season.

So Schaab turned his attention to life after college. His plan was to make a living working for the federal government. He was hired by the Defense Intelligence Agency and focused on North Korean military and counterterrorism issues. In 2009, he took a job at the U.S. Treasury, where he was tasked with freezing the financial assets of dictators, arms dealers, narcotics dealers and proliferators of weapons of mass destruction. But as time went on, he felt the urge to get back into baseball.

"The school ended up dropping baseball, but I graduated anyway," Schaab said. "I was pursuing a goal to work for Uncle Sam at the time. I moved to Virginia and began working 12 to 15 hours per day at the Pentagon. I always followed baseball, but I was so immersed in my career at that time. It was always a part of me that never went away."

Schaab began coaching with the Northern Virginia Fellowship of Christian Athletes, where he met Todd Burger, who was the FCA area director for baseball. Burger had also worked for the government for a long time before quitting to go into athletics. He recognized Schaab as someone who would excel as a full-time coach.

"He always had it all planned out," Burger said. "He was very particular with fundamentals. Him and I used to talk a lot about John Wooden, the former basketball coach for UCLA. One of the things we talked about was how on the first day of practice, Wooden would teach the kids to put on their sneakers the right way. It all starts with the fundamentals and the little details. That's what you've got to take care of. Geoff is very much like that.

"The second part is his relationship with the kids. He's one of those guys that he'd reach out to the players off the field. He'd go to their high school games. He'd watch and support them. They trust him and they know that he cares more. I'm sure he's doing the same thing where he's at now."

The longer Schaab coached, the more he began to feel he had to make it a career. He began applying to jobs all over the country, filling out 120 applications in total.

"I started dabbling in it three years ago," Schaab said. "I put my toes in the water, but it wasn't warm yet. Once I really started working for FCA and at a camp at Messiah College in Pennsylvania, I started to get the itch. I devoted 30 to 60 minutes per day looking anywhere in the United States for a baseball job that was economically viable. It was a significant lifestyle change."

One of Schaab's mentors – Kenmore West graduate Bruce Peddie – was among those who advised him the career move was a good idea. Peddie played for Kenmore West in the late 1970s and early 80s before coaching at Shippensburg University, New Orleans and then Louisiana-Monroe. He recruited Schaab back when he was coming out of high school and the two stayed in touch. Once Schaab began coaching, he turned to Peddie for advice.

"I would turn to him for advice on game management, personnel and life in general," Schaab said. "He's always been there for me. I'm grateful for his mentorship. He's the one who told me that maybe I should think about doing this for a career. I'd bounce ideas off him when I was coaching in Virginia. I knew I could turn to him for anything."

"He was telling me he was working at the Pentagon and also coaching. Then he flew to Monroe for a weekend and saw a three-game set with us," Peddie said. "He's a guy who wants to know as much as he can and is just so passionate about the game. He's real easy to talk to and you can't match his excitement."

Heeding advice from Peddie and others, Schaab searched for about a year looking for the right fit. At one point, he had an offer from a small college in the mid-Atlantic, but the situation wasn't right.

Eventually, he found a spot that fit. He was hired as an assistant at Dakota State in 2016. Soon after, the head coach resigned and Schaab was offered the head job.

His first season was a bit of a struggle. The Trojans started the season with just 16 players and injuries knocked that down to 13 by the end of the year. The team limped to a 2-30 finish.

"I feel he's in a real good position with that program," Peddie said. "It's not the way you want to step into it, but he's putting his own mark on it now."

But 2017 looks to be different. The size of the team has more than doubled due to a robust recruiting class. There will be as many as 38 guys on next year's squad. The goal is to be more competitive and stay in games. Schaab believes the team was out of too many games too early last season. Being more competitive is step one in building the program to the power it was in the recent past.

"The program was ranked in the top 10 in the country in 2007 and 2008, but it's going to take time to get back there," Schaab said. "It's going to be a methodical rebuild. We have 38 guys, but only nine can play at a time.

"Our goal is to be competitive in every game. I do care if we go 3-45. Obviously, I'd rather go 45-3. But we'll be able to hold our heads up if we stay in every game. That would be a win. Sometimes last year we were out of the game by the second inning. That's unacceptable. We have to give ourselves a chance to win."

Much has changed for Schaab over the past year or so. He's gone from tracking the finances of dictators and arms dealers in one of the world's most prominent cities to coaching baseball in a town of fewer than 10,000 people. But he couldn't be happier about the decision he made.

"When I submitted my letter of resignation, my boss was supportive of my new path. He didn't think it was crazy or making a rash decision," Schaab said. "He realized it was a methodical decision and he was supportive of me up and leaving and moving 26 hours away to Madison, South Dakota. When one door closes, another opens up."

  • Apr. 29 - Baseball vs Presentation College - L 24-8 - recap - stats
  • Apr. 29 - Baseball vs Presentation College - L 25-10 (7 Innings) - recap - stats
  • Apr. 28 - Baseball vs Presentation College - L 6-3 - recap - stats
  • Apr. 28 - Baseball vs Presentation College - L 17-1 (7 Innings) - recap - stats
  • Apr. 23 - Baseball vs Valley City State University - L 13-7 - recap - stats
  • Apr. 23 - Baseball vs Valley City State University - L 14-3 (7 Innings) - recap - stats
  • Apr. 22 - Baseball vs Valley City State University - L 3-0 - recap - stats
  • Apr. 22 - Baseball vs Valley City State University - L 13-3 (7 Innings) - recap - stats
  • Apr. 15 - Baseball vs University of Winnipeg - L 13-5 - recap - stats
  • Apr. 15 - Baseball vs University of Winnipeg - W 15-14 - recap - stats