A.J. Schugel

Thunder Bay pitcher A.J. Schugel is the son of New Ulm native and former Mavericks player Jeff Schugel.

The Free Press, Mankato, MN

New Ulm native Jeff Schugel knows baseball.

Currently, he is a Major League scout for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, covering two divisions of the National League, as well as minor league leagues and teams to help his employer build for the future.

When he worked for the Minnesota Twins, he signed pitcher Brad Radke. More recently, while employed by the Los Angeles Dodgers, he inked New Ulm’s Jamie Hoffmann, who recently made his Major League debut.

On Monday night, Schugel was among the crowd of 732 at Franklin Rogers Park, watching the Mankato MoonDogs’ 3-1 victory over the Thunder Bay Border Cats.

But Schugel wasn’t there to look at just any prospect. He was there to watch his son, Thunder Bay pitcher A.J. Schugel play.

“I got to see (A.J.) him play in college, but I haven’t seen him pitch since Little League,” said Jeff Schugel, who played college ball from 1980 to 1983 at then-Mankato State University.

Schugel was drafted by the Twins in 1983 and played four seasons in their system before becoming a scout for them. Besides the Twins, Dodgers and Angels, he has worked for the Colorado Rockies and continues to reside in Colorado.

He said he usually visits family and friends in New Ulm during the baseball offseason, but Monday had a great excuse to get home. About a dozen people joined him to watch A.J.’s second start of the season.

A.J. Schugel took the loss, allowing five hits, striking out two and walking two. He gave up a two-run double to Lance Ray in the first inning.

Jeff Schugel suspected that his son might have had some butterflies early on.

“He knew there’d be family here, and he’d be pitching against his teammates and coaches,” Schugel said. “It’s exciting.”

Indeed, the game featured seven players and two coaches from Central Arizona College, where A.J. Schugel recently completed his freshman season.

MoonDogs manager Mike Orchard and assistant coach Ryan Ruiz came from Central Arizona, as did four players.

“We’re trying to bring the heat up here, but that hasn’t happened yet,” Orchard said, referencing the cool weather. “We usually don’t like to face the guys we know. Guys tend to overthink the process.”

Fortunately for Mankato, starting pitcher Ryan Demmin came from Wisconsin-Oshkosh, not Central Arizona.

Demmin went seven innings for the win, allowing one run on three hits, striking out nine and walking one before giving way to Central Arizona’s Adam Jung, who closed the game with two perfect innings.

Meanwhile, Jeff Schugel thought his son, a right-hander whose fastball hit 90 mph, settled down nicely after the first inning. A.J. Schugel is still learning to pitch. He went to Texas Tech as a third baseman but transferred after a redshirt season there.

He was selected by the San Diego Padres in the 33rd round of the 2007 summer draft. His dad said he might get taken again during next week’s draft, although A.J.’s plan is to return to Central Arizona.

Jeff Schugel recently gained some notoriety for the success of an undrafted player, having signed Hoffmann in 2003.

Schugel lured Hoffmann away from hockey — Hoffmann was drafted by the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes and was set to play college hockey at Colorado College — and on May 22 it paid off as Hoffmann made his Dodgers debut. The next day, in the first at-bat of his first start, hit a three-run home run.

“It was a neat thing,” Schugel said. “It couldn’t have happened to a better kid or family. ... That was probably the proudest I’ve been of a player I signed because he’s a New Ulm kid and was overlooked in the draft.”

The MoonDogs (7-4) and the Border Cats will play again at 7:05 p.m. today at Franklin Rogers Park.

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