UCLA Baseball Mourns Death of Matt Schwenke
Nov. 13, 2009
Former UCLA baseball player Matt Schwenke passed away on Tuesday at his home in Trabuco Hills, Calif.
Schwenke, 37, played at UCLA from 1991-93, serving as the team's starting catcher for three consecutive seasons. Selected in the ninth round of the 1993 MLB Draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers, Schwenke enjoyed a six-year career in professional baseball and earned his degree in history at UCLA.
'Everybody liked Matt Schwenke,' recalled Gary Adams, who served as UCLA's head baseball coach from 1975-2004. 'I don't know of anybody who didn't like him. I never ever heard him say a bad word about a teammate, a coach or anybody else. He really liked people, and he was very loyal to his teammates, his coaches and his school.'
In three seasons at UCLA, Schwenke compiled a .226 batting average, totaling eight home runs, 19 doubles, 68 RBI and 58 runs in 172 games. Schwenke was best known for his prowess behind the plate, having played in 172 of UCLA's 180 games during his three-year career. The native of Poway, Calif., helped the Bruins' defense shut down their opponents' running game, as UCLA threw out nearly 40 percent of attempted base stealers in his time in Westwood.
Among his most impressive feats while at UCLA was hitting a home run in his first collegiate at-bat.
'I remember greeting him in the dugout, and he immediately told us `Well, I guess it's all downhill from here,'' recalled UCLA teammate Kurt Schwengel. 'He was a hilarious teammate who loved to poke fun at himself. During a hitting slump, he converted himself into a switch hitter, saying `At least if I bat lefty, it will be a shorter run to first base.' But what Matt's biography doesn't cover is the fact that he was quite possibly the greatest teammate, friend, husband and father a man could ever hope to be. Matt will be missed by all who knew him.'
In his six minor league seasons, he split time playing in the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres organizations. The local talent had the opportunity to play for two California League teams - Bakersfield and Rancho Cucamonga - before ascending as high as triple-A Las Vegas in the San Diego Padres farm system.
Schwenke arrived at UCLA in the fall of 1990 after graduating from Poway High School, where he was a three-year varsity baseball and football letterwinner. He served as team captain on both varsity squads, earning first-team All-League and defensive MVP honors as a catcher.
Upon settling in Westwood, Schwenke had to fill the void of Paul Ellis, named the 1990 Player of the Year by the American Baseball Coaches' Association. Ellis was the 30th overall selection of the 1990 MLB Draft, and Schwenke was ready for the challenge.
'Matt was stepping into some big shoes as a freshman,' Adams said. 'We've had some great catchers at UCLA, and he had a tough assignment. But he handled that one with vigor. That might have been a plus for him to come to UCLA. We just had a catcher who was named the MVP of college baseball by the Coaches' Association, and he was confident that he could step in and do the job for us.'
Following his professional career, Schwenke remained loyal to and active with UCLA's alumni baseball program. He played for the Bruins' alumni team in destinations such as France, Italy and Spain. He also coached multiple youth baseball and football teams in the Orange County area, including two football teams and one baseball team at the time of his death.
Matt is survived by his wife, Barbara Schwenke Stocker, and his two sons Drake (13) and Logan (7).
Services for Schwenke are pending, and details will be posted here as soon as they are finalized.