Equation for success: Schieve's work ethic paid off
JANESVILLE Some people are born to succeed.
Others have to work for it.
Gary Schieve's path to a successful athletic and professional career was academic. Hard work took any chance of failure out of the equation.
A rising baseball star coming out of Janesville Craig High School in 1971, Schieve was one of only three players signed in the Midwest out of 10,000 that tried out for the prestigious Kansas City Royals Baseball Academy in Sarasota, Fla.
As a distinguished and honored member of the Rock County Sheriff's Department for nearly 30 years, Schieve got his start by going through 400 hours at the Police Academy.
Schieve, a two-sport standout at Craig in the early 1970s, will be inducted into the Janesville Sports Hall of Fame. Joining him in the Saturday, May 14, ceremony at the Janesville Performing Arts Center will be John Brikowski, Alicia Pelton, Tom Scalissi and Joel Schmitz.
"I'm very honored to be selected to the Hall," Schieve said. "The list of athletes and coaches that have already been inducted are people that I have a lot of respect and admiration for."
Schieve's admission is based on a sparkling baseball career, along with a stellar high school football career that culminated with his selection to the All-Big Eight Conference team.
A fleet-footed center fielder, Schieve tracked down fly balls like Willie Mays and hit with the power of Mickey Mantle.
Bob Suter, Schieve's baseball and football coach at Craig, said there wasn't anything Schieve couldn't do on a baseball field.
"The best thing Gary had going for him was that he was a very good all-around athlete, who had a good work ethic and a fantastic attitude," Suter said. "He covered center field like a blanket for us, and at the plate, he got his hacks in.
"I think the best baseball player Janesville produced up to that point was (1991 inductee) Kent Burdick, and Gary was not too far behind. He was that good and that talented."
Schieve's talents led the Kansas City Royals organization to his front door. He tried out for the KC Baseball Academy in Beloit, and of four camps held in Wisconsin in the summer of 1971, Schieve had the fastest 60-yard dash time in the state.
That speed, and his ability to hit for power to all fields, got him a one-way ticket to Sarasota. Schieve was one of 53 players nationwide invited to the Academy's second class, signing a National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues contract that paid him $500 a month.
"Not only was that my first time away from home, but that was my first time on a plane," Schieve said. "But I grew up in a baseball family, and playing professional baseball was all I ever wanted to do.
"The Royals were the first organization in baseball to think about doing something like the academy, so they spared no expenses on us. Everything was done first class."
The summer of 1971 was a busy one for Schieve. He went from being part of the Janesville American Legion state championship team, to the Great Lakes Regional tournament in Detroit, to getting on a plane and heading to the baseball academy. While at the academy, Schieve played doubleheaders on a daily basis, mainly against college teams like Florida State and Florida.
Schieve also had his college education paid for while attending Manatee Junior College near the academy complex, and got the opportunity to play against and receive instruction from a number of major league players—past and present—including Johnny Bench, Cookie Rojas and Joe Garagiola.
Yet Schieve's most vivid memory is the week that the "Splendid Splinter" spent at the academy.
"My idol my whole life, and you could probably tell by my style of swing, was Ted Williams," Schieve said. "He spent a week with us just working with hitters. For me, that made the whole experience worthwhile.
"He was my idol, and to watch him jump into the batting cage at age 53 and swat line drives around like you wouldn't believe is something I'll never forget."
Schieve spent less than a year at the academy before being released, but he left with a lifetime of memories. He eventually went to UW-Platteville, where he earned a degree in criminal justice.
Although he was disappointed in not getting the opportunity to continue his baseball career after his release by the Royals organization in 1972, Schieve has no regrets.
"I always felt that if what you did yesterday still looks good today, then you haven't done anything today," Schieve said.
"I started out playing pretty well down there. There were a couple of blurbs in the paper down there about me, and how I had hit a couple of home runs in one game, game-winning hits, stuff like that. But in the end, you're either good enough to play at the next level or you're not, and they didn't feel I was good enough."
Schieve, who is married to Kristine and has two children, Matthew and Caroline, always dreamed of joining the Secret Service or FBI after baseball, but he didn't want to move away from his roots. He raised his family in Janesville, worked his way up through the ranks at the Rock County Sheriff's Department to Senior Detective and never strayed far from the game he loved. He coached in the Janesville Little League program, as well as serving as an assistant softball coach at his alma mater where his daughter, Caroline, earned all-state first-team honors.
"I equated law enforcement a lot with athletics," Schieve said. "You had to be in shape. You had to have the drive and desire. And you had to have the dedication to be a good cop."
Those same traits made Gary Schieve's induction to the Janesville Hall of Fame academic.