OMAHA, Neb. — They all wanted to introduce themselves to the big bearded man with the mullet.

Players beelined up to him next to the dugouts on Charles Schwab Field. Fans stopped him to talk inside the bar at the nearby Hilton hotel. Multiple coaches’ wives lingered near him on the concourse to take pictures.

Here at the College World Series, this is what it looks like to reach peak reverence.

The big bearded man with the mullet is Stephen Schoch (pronounced Shock). Once a submarine-style closer who competed in the event for Virginia, Schoch arrived Thursday in Omaha as a media personality for The Schoch Factor podcast, hosted by D1 Baseball alongside Jake Mintz and Jordan Shusterman of Céspedes Family BBQ fame.

While downing Coca-Cola from miniature plastic bottles one recent afternoon at a circular table inside the press box, Schoch discussed a host of topics, from how his popularity began, to how he’s maintained it, to what it has been like to be back in Omaha.

“I wore a polo shirt to a baseball game yesterday and I felt so out of place,” Schoch said. “It was not my style.”

Why not?

“I belong in like a Def Leppard cut-off shirt if I’m going to be a fan,” he added. “I’m in khakis currently. They’re flex-fit khakis. These are not real khakis. I can’t do that. It’s not in my fibers. But, it’s so different (up here in the press box). It’s quiet.”

Do you not like quiet?

“Well, it freaks me out,” Schoch said. “I like to get loud and excited. I’m an excitable guy. You’ve watched baseball. It’s pretty fucking cool, right? When cool things happen, I want to freak out a little bit. I feel like if I do that here, notes would be passed, like, look at that asshole with a mullet and a beard.”

One media member may or may not have hushed him in his Omaha return, but, in general, his presence was essential in the minds of those who adore college baseball. Kyle Peterson, an ESPN analyst whose affinity for the sport spurred him to launch the media platform D1 Baseball, said recently: “He wants these guys to have more of a voice, and that voice can go through him in a way that’s different. In the end, it magnifies the sport.”

That’s essentially how Schoch views his role as a podcast host and social media personality: Facilitate the fun he knows exists given his own college baseball odyssey. That it has caught on to the point college baseball stars such as Ivan Melendez and Sonny DiChiara are introducing themselves to him is a byproduct of his authenticity.

Mostly for the better. Sometimes for worse. But always for laughs.

So, how did Stephen Schoch’s college baseball cult hero status begin?

Naturally, with Dippin’ Dots.

On June 8, 2021, at Founders Park in Columbia, S.C., Schoch had just closed out a game for Virginia in an NCAA Regional against Old Dominion. He had a headset clamped over his ears, and thankfully the cameras were rolling as the announcers asked about his emotions entering the final inning.

“I heard a fan offer free Dippin’ Dots if I blew it,” Schoch said, “which, the price of Dippin’ Dots with inflation is just unreal. So, for a brief moment, I was like, ‘Damn, Dippin’ Dots sound good.’ But also, I thought in the back of my head, ‘We win today and tonight, we’re going to be here another day. That’s more per diem. That means I can buy my own Dippin’ Dots and win.’”

The video clip surfaced on social media, and in short order folks throughout the baseball sphere were hooked. Who was this bearded man? Why does someone so large throw submarine style? And, most of all, what the hell was he about to say or do next?

Schoch, a native of Laurel, Md., maintains that his first pitching success occurred when he started to throw the knuckleball.

“I was a knuckleball specialist,” he said. “I couldn’t throw strikes. But with the knuckleball, it was like, ‘This shit works, might as well do it.’ That was a big part of my career. Finding out what worked and seeing how long I could do it before I started getting shelled.”

He started getting shelled his freshman year at Our Lady of Good Counsel High School. By then, he had developed a college baseball passion, and specifically a passion for Brian O’Connor’s program at Virginia. He dreamt of playing for O’Connor, but those dreams seemed a long way away. Here he was, a young high school student pitching from an over-the-top slot and touching 83 mph on the radar gun.

During his freshman year, a coach suggested he alter his mechanics, bend at the hips, drop down his arm slot and throw from the side. So he did, in part because of what he believed about the college level.

“I was like, ‘There are 300 college teams. There’s room for 300 submarine pitchers. I can definitely get in the top 300,’” he said. “I liked my odds.”

Four years later, Schoch backed up his conviction. He posted a 0.00 ERA in 53 1/3 innings with 45 strikeouts and three walks as a senior. Still, one particular college coach, whom Schoch chose not to name, told him he wasn’t good enough to pitch at the Division I level.

“I still won’t tweet about the team the guy coaches at now just because I’m a little petty,” Schoch said, “but I made sure when I played someone who was on that coaching staff — that got dismantled and sent about all of college baseball — that I shoved a little bit harder. It was my Khloé Kardashian revenge body stuff.”

Appalachian State thought Schoch was D-I material. According to Schoch, the school invited him down to throw at their 20-inning showcase. He topped out at 85 mph that day, but faced nine hitters and struck out all nine. The school offered him a spot on the team. He accepted. In 2016, he posted a 4.46 ERA in 34 1/3 innings for the Mountaineers. After the season, in the aftermath of a coaching change, he chose to transfer.

Certain schools told him they did not accept transfers. James Madison University, for example.

“I was like, ‘OK, James Madison. I hate getting outs, too,’” Schoch quipped.

The University of Maryland, Baltimore County expressed interest, though, and ultimately Schoch returned close to home. He sat out the 2017 season, and then in 2018 led the team’s pitching staff with a 1.72 ERA in 57 2/3 innings. He believes it was the best baseball season of his career.

That summer, he pitched 19 innings in the Cape Cod League and posted a 0.94 ERA, piquing the interest of multiple major programs. And after a 3.59 ERA in 52 2/3 innings in 2019 at UMBC, he chose to put his name in the transfer portal.

He filled out the paperwork inside UMBC’s academic building, then returned to his 2002 Ford Taurus SES.

“I was literally just sitting in it, thinking, ‘Damn, wouldn’t it be really cool if I went to a huge school?’” Schoch said.

One of the coaches who contacted him, according to Schoch, was the one who told him he could not play Division I ball. Schoch had zero interest in that unnamed school. Virginia, however, was different. The Cavaliers called. Schoch visited, met with O’Connor and was sold.

“You know people say don’t meet your heroes? I met my hero, and it was exactly what I expected,” Schoch said. “Coach O’Connor’s gumption won me over.”

Before COVID-19 shut down the 2020 season, Schoch had a 1.62 ERA in 16 2/3 innings for the Cavaliers.

How was the arsenal?

“Uh, lethal,” Schoch said.

He paused.

“I’m kidding,” he said. “Not actually lethal.”

OK, so what was the arsenal?

“I like to refer to my fastball as a thunderball, but it was just a sinker,” he said. “I liked this guy named Rube Waddell, and he would call his pitch a thunderball. Have you heard about (Hall of Famer) Rube Waddell?”

I haven’t.

“Wait, really?”

So, how did you learn about Rube?

“I listened to a podcast about Rube Waddell while landscaping.”

Because of course.

Schoch landscaped in the summer of 2020 so that he could supplement his 30-percent scholarship to pay for school. One morning, O’Connor peered out of his window and noticed Schoch.

“I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, Schoch is out there trimming the rose bushes,’” O’Connor said.

Schoch also worked for Instacart and worked for a call center, selling insurance.

“You want to get a lower rate?” Schoch said. “Save some money? Give me five minutes, and we’ll see how much we can save you. Let me tell you, I could cold call like a motherfucker. You’ve just got to have gumption.”

These types of comments flowed through the phone in a conversation Kyle Peterson had with Schoch prior to the 2021 college baseball season.

“I don’t think I’ve ever talked to a more engaging college athlete in my life,” Peterson said. “He was disarming. Honest. Here’s what I am. And it was really refreshing.”

Peterson did not call any of Virginia’s games throughout that season as Schoch tallied a 3.00 ERA in 36 innings. Then after the regional win, Schoch’s Dippin’ Dots comment went viral. Schoch said the comment lay strictly in the euphoria of the fact his baseball career was not finished.

“We won and that meant I got to play baseball at least one more game,” Schoch said. “At least five more hours; one streaming of the whole Shrek trifecta.”

Virginia won that next game, and kept winning. Almost two weeks later, Schoch’s team showed up in Omaha for the College World Series.

“And that’s when the Schoch story blew up,” Peterson said.

Few pitching deliveries fit the personality of that specific pitcher better than Schoch’s submarine style.

He would bend at his hips, turn toward center field, whip his arm behind his head, and then fling the baseball toward the catcher as if it was a frisbee. Most of the time, Schoch’s sinkers and sliders baffled hitters. But one particular slider in the eighth inning of a College World Series game against Mississippi State did not fool Tanner Allen.

Schoch, who said he was pitching with a torn ulnar collateral ligament, tried a slider against Allen in the late innings. Allen hammered the pitch into the right-field bullpen for a three-run homer.

“Giving up a home run in Omaha was huge for me,” Schoch said.

What makes you say that?

“My arm was tired and not really working,” Schoch said. “I still had the gumption and belief in myself.”

You really love the word gumption.

“Usually people don’t let me talk this long in a row so it’s coming back into the rotation,” Schoch said. “Third time through the lineup.”

After the home run, and once Virginia was eliminated from the tournament, Schoch faded from baseball fans’ psyche. That summer, he became an influencer.

“People would pay me to talk about jeans on my Twitter,” he said. “Low point in my life. I don’t like jeans.”

You don’t like jeans?

“No, man. I like shorts,” he said. “Back of my knees get so sweaty.”

Once he and his fiancée, Fran, moved to Wilmington, N.C., he also decided to drive for DoorDash.

“I was a five-star DoorDasher,” Schoch said. “Still am.”

What makes a five-star DoorDasher?

“I think communication is huge. But also, I was driving my fiancée’s Kia Soul, and that thing was pretty zippy,” he said. “Let me tell ya. I would get there in a hurry. I knew the city like the back of my hand. And I think that’s because I watched a lot of ‘One Tree Hill’ and ‘Eastbound and Down.’ Both were filmed there. And that played. And DoorDashing wasn’t a job. It was a passion project. Because I really like smelling other people’s food.”

When the MLB World Series rolled around in October, Schoch chose to tweet his thoughts about the happenings on the diamond.

“I started tweeting less about my own poops and more about baseball,” Schoch said. “Career-wise, good transition.”

Mintz and Shusterman, who for nearly a decade have provided an entertaining voice within the baseball media sphere via Céspedes Family BBQ, noticed.

“His brain, his phrasing, it’s just in ways that you can’t even describe,” Shusterman said.

In the fall, Peterson reached out to see if Schoch had interest in working with D1 Baseball for the 2022 season. “I didn’t know what it would be,” Peterson said, “but I knew everybody is drawn to the kid.” No idea stuck, but then in the spring, as MLB’s lockout remained ongoing, and Mintz and Shusterman began following college baseball, they reached out to Peterson to gauge his interest in having them co-host a podcast with Schoch.

“We said, ‘Hell yes,’” Peterson said. “Because I knew it would be hilarious.”

The three began recording from separate locations throughout the season, and although Mintz and Shusterman were tasked with helping Schoch along in how to operate best in front of a microphone, both could not overstate how much joy Schoch has provided.

Ahead of the College World Series, Peterson thought it would benefit D1 Baseball to bring them all to Omaha for video interviews and conversations with players. That’s when Mintz and Shusterman officially met Schoch in person.

“You are always having a good time with him,” Mintz said. “You’re always laughing. You always, whenever you’re talking with him, you know it’s coming. You know there’s a punch line somewhere around the corner. You don’t know exactly where. But it still gets you every time. Every time.”

When he’s not talking on podcasts or interviewing college baseball personalities, Schoch is selling houses. Fans’ appetite for his content, though, is obvious, and was increasingly evident this past weekend in Omaha.

“At the end of the day, the consumer or fan is going to tell you whether they like the brand or not,” Peterson said. “It’s pretty obvious they like his. I’m interested to see what he continues to do with it. I know I’ll be following him, and I know he’s going to make a lot of people smile.”

Still sitting at the circular table inside the press box, Stephen Schoch says he entered baseball with three goals.

“The first was to get an education my brain couldn’t get me,” Schoch said. “I got that. The second was to have a shit load of fun playing baseball. I did that. The third was to build a platform where I can talk about baseball for a living. I don’t know how, but somehow that happened and here we are.”

So, you planned for all of this?

“I like to go into nothing with a plan,” he said.


“If you and I plan to go get dinner tonight at 8 p.m., and the restaurant is closed, then what do we do? We go, ‘Let’s go somewhere else,’” Schoch said. “If that place is closed, we’re disappointed. We were like ‘Shit, we were going to go to this taco place.’ I love Mexican. I’d be fired up thinking about getting tacos with my new buddy Alec. That plan’s squashed, and now I’m really disappointed. If I don’t have a plan going in, I can’t be disappointed. So no plans. Ever. My fiancée hates it. But you know, I’m a happy guy.”

What makes you so happy?

“I have the opportunity to make a person smile and change their day, so why wouldn’t I try to do it?” he asked. “And I feel like the game of baseball is so much fun, and you can put such a fun spin on it.”

So, that’s how you approach this new gig?

“My goal is always to leave somebody happier than before they talk to me,” he noted. “Every person I talk to, I want them to smile more, whether it’s Ivan Melendez or a little boy who has a dream to …

(Schoch burps.)

“Sorry, I’ve had a lot of Coke.”

(Photo of Schoch pitching for Virginia: Steven Branscombe / USA Today)

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