Where is Dennis Schutz? That’s a question that has been pondered at least twice in the past year.
As the Republican Eagle’s 2013 All-Area Player of the Year in football, Schutz was late to an interview because he was tracking a deer through the woods somewhere near Ellsworth. A few months later, Schutz was difficult to track down for a talk about his selection as the 2014 All-Area Player of the Year in baseball.
Schutz, of course, had traded in firearms for a fishing rod, exploring waters in northern Wisconsin.
“We caught a couple, but it hasn’t been too fast,” Schutz said from Hayward, Wisconsin. “We took off right after we got back from the All-Star game. We came up right away.”
The serenity of a lake and a boat and a line in the water is at odds with Schutz’s senior year of high school. In a whirlwind of nine months, Schutz led Ellsworth to a resurgent football season, won a state title in wrestling, and completed his final season of prep baseball with a .421 batting average, seven doubles, three triples, three home runs, a .711 slugging percentage, 21 RBI and 10 stolen bases.
Those stats earned Schutz several rewards, including First-Team All-Conference, Player of the Year in the Middle Border Conference, an All-State honorable mention nod and a Wisconsin Baseball Coaches All-Star selection.
While none of it was preordained, Schutz got a reminder last summer that this school year was his last chance to leave a mark on his hometown.
“It’s been fun. My parents, ever since the first day of school, they said to make it count,” Schutz said. “And I’ve been doing my best in everything I’ve done. It’s been working, but now it’s over. It really hasn’t hit me yet, and when it does, it won’t be good.”
Schutz has an affinity for Ellsworth, not just the gridiron, mat and diamond that showcased his extraordinary skills.
“I’m going to miss everything,” Schutz said. “The atmosphere of Ellsworth, the fans, the friends, the teachers, everything. It’s been awesome this last year.”
Schutz will continue his athletic career at Bethel University in St. Paul. There were all kinds of rumors on where he would go and what sport he would play. But Bethel silenced those conversations by giving Schutz what he wanted all along.
“The deciding factor on what college I wanted to go to, and who could offer the best opportunity to showcase what I have in sports and to get an education. But sports was the biggest factor in that I could play both (football and baseball) there,” Schutz said.
If he had to choose, Schutz couldn’t. His state championship glory came in a sport he utilized to stay busy. The other two go hand in hand.
“I honestly don’t know between football and baseball. It’s a toss-up,” Schutz said. “For sure (wrestling is third). That was more to go out for a sport. I didn’t think I would win state or anything.”
After back-to-back state appearances in baseball, Schutz came back to a team with several new faces. Leading his teams to glory was nothing new for Schutz, but being the leader of a team was a new task.
“The leader role wasn’t too hard, but it was different in that everybody looks up to you and how you do and how you act,” Schutz said. “So I filtered some of the things I had done in the past, so to say. It was a different look at everything, and once I got used to it, I was more comfortable to set the pace and lead others and keep them motivated rather than being the one that had to get to that level and stay there.”
Aiding Schutz was Ellsworth head coach Steve Block, who helmed the ship of a team that finished 18-4 with a loss in the WIAA Division 2 sectional semifinal.
“Coach Block is one of the best teachers I’ve had throughout high school. He taught me a lot — in baseball and life,” Schutz said. “(Baseball) was one of the things I didn’t have to get worried about, it was a natural sport to play. I loved playing with my teammates, and making memories and excelling again in a sport that we’ve had success in with a lot of new starters.”
While Block has put together an impressive résumé, ranking in the top 25 in career wins in Wisconsin, Schutz stands tall among the players he has coached.
“(Schutz) is the most complete player I’ve coached in over 30 years of coaching baseball,” Block said.
Success at the next level begins in late August, when the Bethel football team gets ready for its season in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. The Royals went 8-0 in conference play and 12-1 overall while making the Division 3 quarterfinals last year.
But that’s more than a month away. Until then, Schutz will avoid the grid. Rifle or rod, Schutz wants to spend a little more time away from the media, and in the presence of those he’s known the longest.
“I think some buddies and I are going on a couple more trips this summer, Schutz said. “After that, we won’t get to see each other as much.”