BY STEVE KRAH
Cade Fitzpatrick got a chance to play regularly in his first baseball season at Purdue Fort Wayne and he took full advantage.
The 2019 graduate of Franklin Central High School in Indianapolis began his college career at Ball State University. He appeared 18 games over two seasons (2020 and 2021) and hit .192 (5-of-26).
He then transferred to PFW. In his first 50 games (47 starts, including 41 at catcher, five at designated hitter and one at first base) with the Mastodons, the righty swinger hit .321 (52-of-162) with eight home runs, three triples, six doubles, 33 runs batted in, 30 runs scored and a .915 OPS (.372 on-base percentage plus .543 slugging average).
Fitzpatrick, a 6-foot-2, 210-pounder, produced 16 multi-hit games on the way to leading the team in average and slugging and was named second team all-Horizon League catcher for 2022.
Through 32 games this summer with the Prospect League’s Lafayette (Ind.) Aviators, Fitzpatrick was hitting .288 (32-of-111) with four homers, one triple, five doubles, 17 RBIs and 17 runs and an .814 OPS (.355/.459).
Most of his appearances have come behind the plate — a position he first took to as a Little Leaguer.
“I love it,” says Fitzpatrick of catching. “A lot of people called it being the quarterback of the team because you’re the one that sees everything that goes on and you’re in control of the game.”
This summer Fitzpatrick has been allowed to call pitches and he appreciates the freedom.
“If me and the pitcher are working really well together we can get into a groove and then things start rolling,” says Fitzpatrick, who gets pointers from the coaching staff about the tendencies of opponents.
The same is true at Purdue Fort Wayne.
“The coaches get a pretty detailed scouting report,” says Fitzpatrick of the Mastodons staff that includes head coach Doug Schreiber, pitching coach Brent McNeil, catching coach Ken Jones and volunteer Justin Huff. “They spent a lot of time a lot of hours behind the scenes getting the different stats on different runners or what hitters can do.
McNeil tells the catchers and pitchers about the strengths and weaknesses of the other team’s hitters.
Jones passes along who the fast runners are and the ones who will try to pick up signs.
“(Coaches) print out a sheet or send a Google slide to the catchers or anyone who would be interested in receiving that information,” says Fitzpatrick.
Schreiber runs all the meetings and tells everyone what the pitchers and hitters bring to the table.
Huff does many behind-the-scenes jobs.
“I respect him very much for what he does,” says Fitzpatrick of Huff. “He puts in a lot of hours.”
Fitzpatrick spent the past two summers in collegiate wood bat leagues — 2020 with the Matt Kennedy-managed Snapping Turtles of the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., and 2021 with the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League’s Alexandria (Va.) Aces, managed by Chris Berset.
With the Aces, Fitzpatrick got to use some of his free time to see the sites of nearby Washington D.C.
Born in Indianapolis, Fitzpatrick moved with his family from Pike Township to Franklin Township around the second grade.
Cade played at Franklin Township Little League (next to what is now Wanamaker Early Learning Center) then for a number of travel ball teams, including the Indiana Spartans, Indiana Pony Express, Indiana Prospects and Midwest Astros.
Chris Ulrey is the Midwest Astros founder and gave hitting lessons to Fitzpatrick.
Sometimes the lessons would involve minor tweaks to Cade’s swing and other times it would be a big fix.
“The interesting thing about a baseball swing is things can happen from week-to-week, day-to-day and you just have to make a small adjustment here and there,” says Fitzpatrick. “Sometimes you have to make a big adjustment. (Ulrey) would have been pretty good about being able to do that.”
Fitzpatrick’s freshman year at Franklin Central was the last season for longtime Flashes head coach John Rockey. Greg Schoettle, who had been an assistant since 2010, took over the program in Fitzpatrick’s sophomore year — his first on varsity.
“I absolutely love playing for him,” says Fitzpatrick of Schoettle. “He’s a great man. I would do anything for him. He was probably one of my favorite coaches to play with.”
Fitzpatrick describe’s Schoettle’s coaching style.
“He was very intent on winning, but also wanted to make sure that you enjoy yourself while you’re out there,” says Fitzpatrick of Schoettle. “He would be very focused on calling the right pitches, executing the right plays and just doing the little things right in order to win a game — but at the same time — he was relaxed enough to where you could enjoy yourself and joke around a little bit.
“It wasn’t like you were playing like super uptight all the time.”
Fitzpatrick, 21, has two years of remaining eligibility and is a Criminal Justice major.
“Ever since I was a little kid I’ve always been really fascinated with like police officers and military stuff,” says Fitzpatrick. “I’m not the kind of person that would like to just sit at a desk all day. I always have to be doing something and I figured that doing something with law enforcement would be a good fit.”
Tuesday, Aug. 2 was Lafayette Police Department National Night Out at Loeb Stadium. Fitzpatrick took time before the game to chat with some of the officers.
“I was just trying to get some feedback on like what they do from a day-to-day basis and their training and stuff like that,” says Fitzpatrick. “I like the way that everything sounds from the training aspect or having your own schedule. I think that would be pretty fun.”
While he could pursue a job as a patrolman or detective, Fitzpatrick has another preference.
“I would love to be a conservation officer (for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources) or with the (Department of Drug Enforcement), (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives), (Federal Bureau of Investigation) or something like that,” says Fitzpatrick. “I think that would be something that I would enjoy a lot because I get to be outside every day.
“I get to help animals and stop those individuals who are trying to either poach them or harvest them illegally.”
Fitzpatrick notes that taking fish or game in-season is one thing but poaching or taking them out-of-season harms the ecosystem.
Cade is the son of Mike and Shelley Fitzpatrick. His father is a sales manager. His mother is an optician. Sister Chaney Fitzpatrick (19) – sister is heading into her sophomore year at Ball State.