NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. -- Standing behind home plate, behind the wall of poised radar guns, four consecutive no-hitters didn't seem so improbable. Trying to wrap the brain around the concept -- four games without even one Texas-leaguer or seeing-eye single -- grows more difficult with each of
So after Schuster, a senior at Mitchell High in Trinity, Fla.,
Schuster is the undisputed no-hit king in a state that routinely cranks out pro prospects. His no-no against Pasco broke a 24-year-old Florida record, and he needs two more to tie the national record. One longtime local observer who watched
Schuster's notoriety remained contained to the seamhead realm until he threw his third consecutive no-hitter against Clearwater's Central Catholic on April 13.
"This kind of exploded for us," Schuster's mother,
The scouts don't affect Schuster. In fact, he saw far more this summer because elite travel team tournaments are far more economical to scout than regular-season high school games. Still, the scouts were out in force Monday. Sharon Schuster said she has seen some of the usual faces during the streak. The Diamondbacks, Mets, Rays and Tigers have been regulars. The better question is this: Has the streak affected the scouts? "I've been talking to scouts," Schuster said. "They're saying none of this is making a difference. They're seeing me in a specific round, and they're not going to change it. So I'm not going to worry about it."
Ranked the nation's No. 79 prospect by
Consecutive no-hit streaks are relatively poor predictors of future success. The Mets drafted Engle in the second round in 1989, but the right hander had two
Schuster's delivery also raises concerns. While
"Schuster stretches the boundaries of conventional scouting because nothing about him is conventional," Sinha wrote. "He has a stiff upright delivery with little drive coming from his lower-half. He doesn't stay back. He throws a little secondary kick with his front foot before landing. He doesn't follow through, and on some pitches finishes his delivery well across his body. It doesn't look pretty, and if you watched him in the bullpen playing catch, you might not think of Schuster as a pro prospect.
"The game is a different story. If I have to win one high school game, right now, I'd pick Patrick Schuster over anyone else I've seen around the country."
Schuster loves to compete. He seemed especially thrilled Monday that Pasco leadoff hitter
That competitiveness is part of all facets of Schuster's life. On his first big deer-hunting trip, he swore he wouldn't raise his gun for anything less than a 12-point buck. When a 10-pointer wandered into range, Schuster kept his word and remained still. Finally, a 14-pointer appeared. "I missed," Schuster said, laughing.
But Schuster also has the perspective to handle the crush of scouts and media attention. To explain, his mother told a story about a pair of sunglasses and a sportcoat.
For months, Patrick has asked his parents for a pair of Oakley shades. Sharon and her husband,
On Monday, Patrick also had to present his senior project, a paper on sports medicine and steroids. All senior boys presenting projects were required to wear coats and ties, and, like most teenage boys, Schuster had sprouted since the last occasion he had to wear a sport coat. So he found a potential solution -- a coat that had once belonged to his older brother,
Shane, 10 years Patrick's senior, had worn the coat once, to his cousin's wedding a decade ago. He never wore it again. By the time he attended that wedding, Shane was two years deep into a fight for his life.
Shane was athletic, but he never developed the taste for competition his brother would. But for some reason, Shane competed like crazy against cancer. The disease began as an osteosarcoma, a lesion on a bone in his leg. Through chemotherapy, radiation and surgeries, the family developed a routine. When Shane was in the hospital, Roger would stay with him during the day while Sharon worked at the store. In the afternoon, Sharon would pick up Patrick from elementary school and bring him to the hospital. He would spend time with Shane, and then Roger would bring Patrick home on his way to work.
Shane fought for four years. The tumor in his leg wouldn't stop growing, so doctors amputated the leg. By then, the cancer had spread to his lungs. One day near the end, 11-year-old Patrick made a plea to his parents. "If he needs a lung," Patrick said, "I'll give him one."
Shane died on Sept. 21, 2002. He was 22. Patrick attended the memorial service, but not the burial. His mother visits Shane's grave at least once a month. Patrick sometimes rides to the cemetery with Sharon, but he refuses to get out of the car. Still, Shane has stayed with Patrick. Patrick wrote the date of his brother's death on his cleats. In his locker, four rows of tape spell STS. Shane Thomas Schuster. Sharon believes Patrick's coolness, his indifference to the hordes of radar gun-toting scouts and his breezy rapport with a media contingent that has swelled exponentially in the past eight days stem from watching Shane in a competition that really mattered.
As Patrick left for school on Monday, he looked at the sky and saw storm clouds rolling in off the Gulf of Mexico. Great, he thought to himself. After all this buildup, his shot at history would get rained out. He shouldn't have worried. He should have known Monday would be special when he reached into the pocket of Shane's jacket and fished out a pair of Oakleys that had been untouched for 10 years. He immediately called his mother. "Looks like you have an angel looking out for you," Sharon said.
Later, as he celebrated the win, Schuster choked up when asked if he wore the glasses. "Too cloudy," he said, fighting tears.
Then talk turned to the national record. No-hitter No. 7 would have to come deep into the state tournament, and despite producing one Major Leaguer (former Yankees pitcher
In spite of that rampant disregard for superstition, Schuster finished No. 4. He'll go for No. 5 Tuesday in a district tournament game in Clearwater. Schuster has stayed realistic about his streak. He knows that no matter how well he pitches, at some point, a hitter will stick his bat out to meet one of those 90-mph heaters. Newton's laws will do the rest. "It's gonna happen," he said Monday. "Hopefully, it'll be at the beginning of the game."
At about 10:30 Monday night, Schuster stood up from his table at Beef 'o' Brady's, a nearby chicken-wing joint. Schuster had celebrated his feat by downing a chicken Caesar salad and a Coke. One of the umpires had saved a ball from the Pasco game. Schuster signed it on the sweet spot on his way to the door. Then he hugged his parents and well-wishers and walked into the night with his girlfriend.