SIOUX CITY -- The jobs are much the same -- keeping your opponent off the scoreboard.
And, there was definitely a time when Nick Schumacher thought he'd be doing that on a hockey rink, not from a pitcher's mound.
"I was thinking about playing hockey instead of college baseball,'' reflects Schumacher, a 25-year-old righthander who is vying for a spot in the Sioux City Explorers' starting rotation. "I played (in high school) for the Lincoln Junior Stars and I liked it a lot. I was a four-year starter.''
Along came the scholarship offer from a quality baseball program at Wayne State College, however.
The rest, as the saying goes, is history.
Schumacher won 14 games in his first two seasons with the Wildcats and wound up tying the school record with 30 victories in a career that turned into five years due to an injury hardship ruling after an abbreviated third season on the team.
"I tore a ligament in my right elbow,'' said Schumacher, referring to the 2006 injury that led to Tommy John surgery.
Sidelined until midway through the spring season of 2007, he finished that junior year do-over as the Wildcats' closer.
Then, fully healthy in 2008, he capped off the college career with a sensational 13-2 campaign, posting a 2.36 earned run average while limiting opponents to a .221 batting average.
A first-team NCAA Division II All-American and the pitcher of the year for the Central Region and the Northern Sun Conference, he was drafted in the 28th round that year by San Diego.
Three seasons in the Padres' farm system added up to 125 appearances, all out of the bullpen. And, after making 62 of those outings with two different teams last season, he stood 14-9 with a 3.46 career ERA when he reported to another training camp this spring.
"Two days before the end of spring training, they made a trade and got a big league guy they were going to send to Double-A,'' said Schumacher. "They said they weren't going to send me back to A-ball and there was no room in Double-A, so I got released.''
A few days after that disappointing turn of events, the 6-3, 215-pounder was on the phone with his old Wayne State teammate, Dustin Jones, who is entering his fifth season with the Explorers.
"Jonesie said he'd talk to Shane (Tritz, X's general manager), and Shane said, ‘Come on out, let's play,' ‘' said Schumacher. "Then, I realized (Joe) Wendte was coming, too.''
Indeed, with Jones a fixture in center field, fellow Bishop Heelan and Wayne State standout Joe Wendte, another outfielder, had also signed with the hometown team before Manager Stan Cliburn inked Schumacher to a contract in mid-April.
"It looks like I'm going to be a starter,'' said Schumacher. "I'm really excited to get back to starting, back to where I'm comfortable. I like to throw once every fifth day.''
Schumacher was born in Huntington Beach, Calif., and his mother, Lyn Brown, now lives in Sacramento. However, he spent summers with his father, Robert Schumacher of Nebraska City, which is where he played on a Class B American Legion state championship team as a high school junior.
"Spending summers with my dad, all my baseball friends were in Nebraska, so that's why I decided to go to high school (in Nebraska City),'' he said.
Schumacher was excited when University of Nebraska scouts showed up at a couple of his games. However, he was informed he didn't throw hard enough.
He only wished the Huskers had been around to see him collect 21 saves as the closer last season for Fort Wayne (Ind.), earning all-star laurels in the Midwest League with a fastball clocked as high as 96 mph.
"In spring training, I was throwing around 92 or 93,'' said Schumacher, who was also in Fort Wayne two seasons ago when he charted a nifty 1.11 ERA in 37 appearances as a set-up man.
Cliburn has Schumacher penciled in as the No. 3 man in the probable rotation for a team that begins its 100-game schedule with a seven-game southern road trip, launching a four-game series in Fort Worth next Thursday night.
The X's faced Sioux Falls in a Friday night exhibition game at Huron, S.D., and the I-29 rivals are slated to play again at 2 p.m. today in Yankton.
After a public workout Sunday at noon, the team will head south Monday morning and play exhibition games Monday night in Topeka, Kan., facing the Kansas City T-Bones, and Tuesday night in Wichita (against the Wichita Wingnuts).