Former Georgia third baseman and closer, Aaron Schunk won the 2019 John Olerud Award, which is awarded to the top two-way player in the nation. Schunk was the first player in school history to win the award.
The Colorado Rockies drafted Schunk in the second round of the 2019 MLB Draft with the 62nd overall pick.
Schunk finished tied for the second-most saves (12) in the Southeastern Conference this past season while leading the Bulldogs in multiple hitting categories.
“He’s one of those guys that every day comes to the park and does things the right way - the way he handles himself, the way he carries himself, whether it's just practice or in games or pregame,” Georgia’s associate head coach Scott Daeley said.
Schunk’s father, Eric Schunk, attributes Schunk’s strong work ethic to all the coaches he has had throughout his entire baseball career, including his tee-ball coaches.
“He just wants to be a competitor on the field every single play of the game,” Schunk’s father said. “If he could, he’d be involved in every play of every game ever played. That’s just his makeup.”
Schunk helped the fourth-ranked Bulldogs (46-17, 21-9 SEC) finish as a national seed and host the regionals for a second-straight season.
“He’s a professional about the way he goes about his business and I think the younger guys see that and they see him having success and they kind of want to emulate somebody like that,” Daeley said.
As a pitcher this past season, Schunk had a career-best 2.49 ERA and threw 18 strikeouts while going 1-2 with a career-high 12 saves and has held opponents to a .190 batting average.
Schunk finished his career at Georgia with the fourth-most saves (20) in school history.
“I think he’s in the perfect role as a pitcher -- to be a guy to come in and close games -- which allows him to stay playing in the field and to stay in the lineup,” Schunk’s former high school baseball coach Lance Oubs said. “He’s always had the ability to go in there and throw strikes. I think that’s what makes him such a good guy to use on the back end.”
Schunk thrives on attacking hitters and keeping them on their toes by the way he fights to control the inner and outer part of the plate.
“I just kind of focused on working better on working in and out on the plate,” Schunk said. “And then I just tried to work on continuing to keep all my pitches pretty sharp.”
Schunk’s ability to command his pitches -- the slider, fastball, curveball and changeup -- has been driving his success on the mound this season.
“My slider’s definitely been my best pitch,” Schunk said. “But I think the thing that’s making my slider really good is my ability to throw my fastball inside on hitters just because it keeps them off-balance.”
Schunk was one of Georgia’s most consistent hitters this past season. He led the team in batting average (.339), slugging percentage (.604), OPS (.977), hits (78), triples (two), home runs (15), runs-batted-in (58) and total bases (139).
Schunk was the first player to win the “Triple Crown” since 2010, after leading the team in batting average, home runs and runs-batted-in this past season.
Last summer, Schunk was recruited to compete in the Cape Cod Baseball League, where he was given an opportunity to showcase his talents in front of Major League Baseball scouts throughout the summer.
“I’ve kind of just worked on my mental approach since the end of last year with coach Daeley,” Schunk said. “Going to the Cape I really wanted to focus on getting better pitches to hit. Kind of just finding pitches I can do damage with and I feel like I’ve been able to do that pretty well this year but definitely still needs work.”
When asked to describe Schunk in one word, his father best-described him as “tenacious,” while his mother Sandra Switzer referred to him as a “gamer.”
These traits, in addition to his improved mental approach, helped Schunk complete his best season at Georgia as both a pitcher and a hitter. His batting average this past season shattered his previous season-best batting average (.299) he set in 2018. Additionally, he set career-highs in runs, hits, home runs, runs-batted-in, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS, total bases and saves this season, breaking his previous season-best totals of three home runs and eight saves, both set in 2018.
As a psychology major, Schunk enjoys spending his free time reading into the mental aspect of the game.
“One of my favorite books -- it’s called Relentless: From Good To Great To Unstoppable -- it’s kind of just talking about how if you want to be elite you have to be elite in everything you do,” Schunk said. “And so for me it’s just being able to be focused in whatever I’m doing at all times.”
Schunk focuses on putting forth 100% effort in everything he does, whether he is studying, working out, practicing, or competing in a game.
“I’m not a deeply involved sports person at all,” Schunk’s mother said. “But I’ve always been able to see the way his whole being lights up when he’s playing. It’s what he loves to do the most.”