Pete Schourek gained national notoriety in 1995 when he finished second to Major League Baseball pitching sensation Greg Maddux in the race for the National League Cy Young Award — awarded to baseball's top pitchers each year. Schourek nailed down 18 wins that season and picked up the Game 1 victory for the Cincinnati Reds in their eventual five-game series victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Division Series.
Things were different on the mound in the big leagues, but as much as things changed for Schourek, the concepts and rules of pitching — though at a higher level — remained the same.
"Back in high school, obviously, throwing as well as I did I was able to get away with a lot more pitches in the middle of strike zone," said Schourek. "As you get older and the opposition gets better and better, it's almost like you have to throw slower to make sure you are out of the middle of the plate. That was harder for me because I always wanted to throw as hard as I could, as long as I could."
And that's exactly what Schourek did in his high school days, leading Marshall to back-to-back Northern Region championships and to two state finals appearances before graduating in 1987.
"When he stepped on the mound, he was absolutely dominant," said Madison baseball coach Mark "Pudge" Gjormand, who was a junior varsity coach with the Statesmen during the late 1980's. "Back then he was an upper 80's fast ball kind of guy. He had a tight breaking ball. His curve ball was as dominant as his fast ball in high school. He could locate. He was the real deal."
The 6-foot 5-inch left-handed pitcher is still remembered for his ability to take over a game.
"I GUESS YOU could say he was the 'Franklin' of his era," said former Robinson baseball coach Bob Menefee comparing Schourek to 1971 Madison graduate and No. 2 overall MLB draft pick Jay Franklin [No. 25, Greatest of All Time]. "[Schourek] was a complete high school player. He could hurt you with the bat and get you on the mound."
Menefee watched Schourek, as only a junior, strike out seven of the last nine batters he faced against Menefee's talented 18-7 Robinson squad for a 4-0 one-hit victory in the 1986 Northern Region championship game. Schourek finished that game with 14 strike outs hitting for strikes on 68 of the 112 pitches he threw that day.
Schourek's near five innings of shutout pitching in the 1998 American League Division Series for the Boston Red Sox was the dominating kind of performance coaches from the region had witnessed just a few years prior.
"He was not a guy that was going to shove it down your throat," said former West Springfield coach Ron Tugwell. "He was a fast ball, curve ball guy. He changed speeds very well, and made his fast ball look 90 [miles per hour]. You don't see changeups from the left side in high school."
Tugwell, like Menefee, fell victim to Schourek in a heated rivalry contest in the Northern Region title game. Days before the game, Brett Griffin was quoted in a local newspaper saying that he couldn't wait to face Schourek. Griffin was confident in what Tugwell called one of the greatest offensive lineups that this region has ever seen — a West Springfield lineup that finished the season with approximately 89 home runs that year. Schourek took Griffin's comments personally and let him know it with a high and inside fast ball in one of the first at bats in the 1987 regional title game.
Griffin answered back with a single down the left field line.
"That was about the last good swing we had," said Tugwell, who watched Schourek pick apart his high-powered offense en route to the 5-0 Statesmen victory.
Schourek led Marshall to the school's only two state title appearances:
1987: Mills Godwin 4, George Marshall 2
1986: John R. Tucker 5, George Marshall 1
SCHOUREK DOMINATED his way through his high school days and was an all-state selection by the time he was drafted by the New York Mets in the second round of the 1987 Major League Baseball amateur draft. He signed a contract on June 11, 1987 and made his major league debut in April of 1991.
"My first time pitching I just remember trying to be so focused on throwing strikes and what I needed to do in order to not be intimidated and nervous," said Schourek.
Schourek's 11-year major league career included time with the New York Mets, Cincinnati Reds, Houston Astros, Boston Red Sox and Pittsburgh Pirates. In time spent with those teams, Schourek compiled a career 4.59 earned run average, 66-77 record in 176 starts and 288 games in 1,149 innings. After four surgeries on his elbow (1986, 1996, 1997, 2000), Shourek walked away from the majors, telling the Connection in a 2004 article that his arm could not withstand the constant pounding required to pitch in the big leagues after all of his surgeries. But that was not before he had his time to shine in 1995 when he finished second in the National League Cy Young voting after posting an 18-7 record in 29 starts (190.3 innings pitched) while giving up 68 earned runs and striking out 160 batters.
"I didn't start the season that great," said Schourek. "You are not thinking about being the runner up in the Cy Young. Our team got hot and I got hot and they gave me run support. I never had ambitions of winning the Cy Young because Greg Maddux was [having a good year], just to be second was very gratifying."
What many don't know about Schourek's high school career is that he was one of the region's greatest hitters.
"The Toronto Blue Jays and Dodgers wanted to draft him as a first baseman because he could hit so well," said former Marshall baseball coach Dean Sissler, who is currently a police officer in Bethany Beach, Del. "We were playing Fairfax and the bases were loaded and they intentionally walked him. They thought it better to take one run than four."
He finished his high school career with 21 home runs, hitting 11 as a junior and 10 as a senior. His 21 home runs still stand as the school record for career home runs.
"I probably enjoyed batting more than anything else," said Schourek. "Pitching was fun but there was something about hitting that was fun. It was more fun to have the opportunity to hit the ball, it seemed more gratifying."
Gjormand remembers when Schourek hit a home run on to the softball field at Madison and another into the townhouses behind Marshall's field.
"He had great juice in his bat," said Gjormand. "He wasn't just a pitcher, he was an athlete." Schourek, who retired from Major League Baseball in 2002, currently lives with his five-year-old daughter Candace in Clifton. He plays in several basketball and baseball leagues throughout the year. He plays for the Industrial League Senators, a wooden bat league, and often finds himself on the mound in closing and relief situations.
"I don't have the greatest stuff anymore, but I still have pretty decent stuff," said Schourek. "I usually get everyone's best game."
Cy Young Voting: 1995
Name Team Votes
Greg Maddux Braves 140
Pete Schourek Reds 55
Tom Glavine Braves 30
Randy Johnson Mariners 136
Jose Mesa Indians 54
Tim Wakefield Red Sox 29
Pete Schourek is 22 in a survey of the area's Top 100 Athletes by Connection Newspapers in 2000.