Many people consider hitting a 90-mph fastball the toughest thing to do in all of sports.
And, yet, when Joliet Catholic Academy senior shortstop Chris Tschida talks about hitting, he makes it sound so simple.
“I just see the ball, hit the ball, basically, and trust my hands, trust me legs,” he said prior to a JCA workout Wednesday at Fuel Field House in Romeoville. “I work in the offseason. I hit all the time.”
Tschida is a recognized expert at his craft. He was an Illinois High School Baseball Coaches Association all-state pick after hitting .495 during his junior year at JCA. He had three home runs and 33 RBIs.
He led the Hilltoppers to a 29-8-1 record and a berth in the Class 3A sectional semifinals. And he returns for an encore performance with Louisville Slugger Pre-Season All-American honors already under his belt, say nothing of a college scholarship.
Tschida signed with Western Illinois University in a this is how David turns into Goliath twist on the ordinary recruiting tale. He pulled a hip flexor muscle and missed the summer baseball season. He dropped out of sight and out of mind. Consequently, he dropped off the radar of many college scouts.
“It was one those things where it’s not like, ‘OK, wait two weeks and then go,’ ” Tschida said of the injury. “It just kept lingering on—even into football season. I practiced, but it wasn’t my best. The games—I had to get stretched out, use this special kind of tape. It’s good now, thank gosh. Perfect timing.”
JCA is scheduled to open its season Monday (March 25) at Brother Rice.
Western Illinois already is going gangbusters under new coach Ryan Brownlee. He was quick to scoop up Tschida, offering him a scholarship on the day of his official visit to campus. Tschida accepted and cheered when the Leathernecks defeated then-No. 1 ranked Arkansas 7-5 in the third game of their season-opening series in Fayetteville.
“They hired a new coach at Western—Brownlee, which is a big baseball name in the college ranks,” Joliet Catholic Academy coach Jared Voss said. “He came over from Iowa. And it sounds like they’re going to be doing some real good things there.
“It’s going to be at a distance where his family will be able to see him play. And I know he’s real excited about it. It’s a great fit.”
Tschida, who plans to study criminal justice and law enforcement at WIU, always has put family No. 1 in his play book. And's it's no stretch to say he comes from a family that plays hard, too.
His father, Mike Tschida, was a left-handed pitcher on the last state championship baseball team at Providence (1981-82). Mike went on to enjoy a successful stint at Iowa and was drafted before his career was cut short by a shoulder injury that required Tommy John surgery.
Tschida’s mother, Tammy, played collegiate basketball for the Hawkeyes. His older brother, Tyler, 22, ran on the cross country and track teams at Joliet West. Tyler attended the University of Illinois and now works as a certified nursing assistant at Alden Estates on Black Road in Shorewood.
Chris Tschida, likewise, is on a fast track. He first cracked the baseball team’s starting lineup as a sophomore at JCA—right along with two of his closest friends and teammates, first baseman Ryan Peter and catcher Alex Voitik. Tschida has been tearing the cover off the ball ever since—83 hits to show for 200 official at-bats over the last two seasons.
“He’s been able to build a lot of confidence because of all the preparation and all the time he puts in,” Voss said. “Obviously, he works very hard at practice. But when he’s not at practice, he’s out with his dad or out on his own, and he continues to get swings in.”
Tschida has been training for three years at Acceleration Pro in Naperville under the watchful eyes of Jared and Mike Nicholas—one a former NFL player, the other a former college football player. The two men helped Tschida prepare for playing last fall as a wide receiver on the JCA football team that reached the Class 5A semifinals.
He showed the range of a shortstop digging deep in the hole to make a couple of acrobatic—and memorable—catches.
“I go there for football and baseball,” Tschida said. “We do speed, plyometric stuff (also known as jump-training) and power. And it all just fuels your legs. It’s just amazing stuff there.”
Tschida will tell you hitting is easy compared to some of his workouts. Remember: See the ball, hit the ball.
Nothing to it.
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