Clarke Schmidt heard the knocks on the door of his Pennsylvania hotel room, believing that a guest had complained about the noise of his all-night video game tournament. Instead, he was greeted by a trio of Yankees coaches, rushing him to pack a bag and get to Baltimore as soon as possible.
Within 24 frantic hours, Schmidt made his big league debut, activated from the taxi squad between games of a doubleheader. Pitching coach Matt Blake delivered the news with such little notice that Schmidt scarcely had time to do more than tap a text message to his parents and race to the visiting bullpen at Camden Yards.
Now, as Schmidt joins numerous top prospects in the league's Rookie Program, the right-hander is counting the days until his Yankees are due to get back on the field.
"I know that I'm hungrier than ever," Schmidt told MLB Network this week. "I feel healthy, and I feel like I can win a job and contribute to winning the World Series."
Schmidt and right-hander Brooks Kriske were selected to represent the Yankees in the program, which provides young players with a crash course on the Majors. A variety of topics are covered, including nutrition, time management, finances and handling the media, with established big leaguers offering their experience as resources.
"We've had a lot of panelists: Nelson Cruz, Francisco Lindor, Jon Jay," Schmidt said. "We have small discussion groups that we break out into. To have guys like that, who have 10-plus years of service time, taking time out of their day to speak to us … it speaks volumes to these guys, just to hear what they do on a day-to-day basis as Major League veterans."
The 24-year-old Schmidt made three appearances for the Yankees last September, including a Sept. 27 start against the Marlins. Schmidt permitted five earned runs in 6 1/3 combined innings (7.11 ERA). Rated as the club's No. 2 prospect by MLB Pipeline, Schmidt believes that he can use his experience from the club's alternate training site to refine his game for 2021.
"It was interesting to not be in a game format this year," Schmidt said. "It was a lot of one-on-one work and intrasquad scrimmages. We had a lot of our player development guys being one on one with us every single day. That's stuff you don't normally get during the season with Sam Briend, Desi Druschel, all these guys. I was working on pitch profiles with my four- and two-seam -- and just to have these guys and the brains behind us, it was amazing."
During the postseason, Schmidt traveled with the team but was not active for the series against the Indians and Rays. Upon returning home to Georgia, Schmidt said that he wanted to resume tossing from a mound as quickly as possible.
"I just wanted to throw a baseball more than I ever have this offseason," Schmidt said. "The results have been amazing so far. I feel better than I ever have so far. The mound work that I've been able to get in right now, it has really helped me. We work so much on our bodies; we work so much on our nutrition and so many other things.
"We don't really get off the mound as much as we can. As a pitcher, you're trying to stay healthy. But nowadays, I think the shift in baseball is that people are throwing more than they ever have now. I'm more comfortable than ever. I feel like I know my mechanics more than ever, just being able to control the ball better. I feel very in sync mechanically, and I'm looking to go into Spring Training competing for a job."