By Rick Assad
Starting from the bottom and working his way to the top is pretty much what Ian Schenk did while spending nearly three seasons on the Burbank High varsity baseball team.
No one knows this better than Bob Hart, the longtime Bulldogs coach, who saw Schenk, a fierce battler and a scraper, develop into one of the most-feared and productive hitters in the Pacific League.
“Ian’s a super competitive kid. When he came to us as a puppy, he eventually built himself up to be a really good and productive player,” he said of the left-handed hitter who batted .304 with a .418 on-base percentage along with a .428 slugging percentage while being selected all-league, second team this past season.
For Hart, Schenk, who will be attending Glendale Community College and will suit up for the baseball team, hard work and dedication helped him become the player he is today.
Because of this and Schenk’s desire to succeed, other players looked up to him and felt confident each and every time they took the field.
“He was one of the vocal leaders on this team,” said Hart about the 5-foot-9, 165-pounder and one of the team captains.
Tony Ciccone is on Hart’s staff as an assistant coach, and witnessed first hand Schenk’s work ethic, toughness and development.
“Ian’s such a great competitor and has an unbelievable attitude,” he offered of the team’s leadoff hitter. “And he’s such a great person overall.”
Burbank capped off a stellar campaign as the Bulldogs cobbled together a 13-6 mark and a 10-4 record in league, which was good enough for a second-place tie with Crescenta Valley and a playoff spot.
Burbank advanced to the CIF Southern Section Division V second round after routing Sierra Vista 11-3 at home before losing to host Hemet, 4-2.
After falling 6-5 on the road to El Camino Real in a tournament to commence the season, Burbank ripped off 10 straight victories before losing consecutive games to Arcadia, 12-2 at home and 10-0 at the Apaches’ field.
The squad then divided a pair of contests with Crescenta Valley, winning 1-0 at home and dropping a 3-2 decision on the road.
Burbank then lost to rival and host Burroughs 4-3 before shutting out the Bears 2-0 in the regular-season finale.
Baseball on its face isn’t overly complicated, but it’s certainly difficult to master.
Because it is so tough, Schenk, who scored 14 runs, for second-best on the team and collected 17 hits, third highest, somehow found a way to slow the game down whether toiling in the outfielder or on the mound.
“I tried to keep the game as simple as possible and do the little things right so the big things can happen on their own,” he explained.
Reflecting on the season that concluded in June, the fact there was a completed schedule despite the presence of COVID-19, the worldwide pandemic, is in itself a truly remarkable achievement.
“It was amazing playing again this year and only makes you more thankful to be out there,” Schenk said of his senior campaign which included him bashing four doubles and a home run with seven runs batted in.
Schenk took every pitch, every at-bat, certainly every game as though it would be his last and always bolted out of the dugout with extreme purpose.
“There wasn’t one game in particular that stood out, but the whole season as we showed how good of a team we really were,” he said.
After coronavirus shut down the 2020 campaign, the Bulldogs were determined to show what they were made of the following year.
Burbank’s 19-game season was something to be proud of considering just how well it progressed.
It was a one-game at a time approach and it proved the correct formula, especially during that long winning skein.
“We just played our game and didn’t do too much differently,” Schenk said of the season.
Schenk was instrumental in many wins, contributing with the bat and glove and on the hill, where he went 4-2 in nine starts, while posting a 3.09 earned-run average.
Success on the diamond is fleeting, but there was always another challenge for Schenk, a left-handed thrower who struck out 37 hitters with 24 walks in 34 innings.
“I tried not to think about it so much as I know baseball is a game of failure and you only look forward to success,” Schenk said.
Scheck’s goal each and every time was to try and simplify the game, which made his job a lot easier.
“My main focus on the mound and at-bat was to compete and not think too much,” he said.
Schenk showed his grittiness every time he took the field and it was never more evident than when he was forced to leave a game after tearing away some flesh on his left middle finger.
“I tried to compete as much as I can in the bullpen. My slider was tight and my two-seam [fastball] was tailing and my change[up] was dipping, but in the first inning my finger got busted open,” he said that day in which he exited after the second inning. “I tried to throw, but it was bleeding everywhere and I didn’t have much command. Going forward, I’m going to gorilla glue my finger and continue to compete.”
Schenk’s prep baseball career has come to an end and it’s bittersweet, but there was a great deal of success during his tenure with the Bulldogs, who forged a 20-10 record in league and 26-23-1 in all games.
“Playing at Burbank High was better than I thought it would be as I made such good friends and memories along the way,” Schenk noted.
Having played on the varsity, Schenk was asked what advice he would give to others interested in playing the sport.
“I learned time goes by fast and to appreciate the little moments,” he said. “Enjoy every moment because it goes by too fast.”
It sure did for Schenk, who started out as a sophomore somewhat anonymous and ended up being a senior leader and an important contributor in more ways than one.