Of course Harry Steldt would rather do a home run trot around the bases. But the Sheboygan A’s veteran also doesn’t mind strolling to first because of another walk.
After all, entering play last week, the 2010 West Bend West graduate had a team-high 26 walks – eight more than any other teammate – compared to 19 hits. Only five players in the history of the A’s have walked more than Steldt, who is in his 10th season with the squad and also played at UW-Stevens Point.
“I try to be aggressive up there, but a lot of people kind of avoid throwing anything really good to me, I guess, since I’ve been playing here for so long,” he said. “I always get asked, ‘how do you see it, how do you walk so much?’”
Sheboygan manager Tim Moyer’s answer is simple: Steldt knows what is a strike and what is not.
“He’s been playing for so long that people know what he can do,” Moyer said. “He’s just a baseball player. He understands the game, he knows that if there’s nobody on base, he’s going to work the count and try to get a walk unless he gets a pitch he can hit. He’s just always team-orientated and that’s something you learn over time. “A lot of times, the younger guys will swing out of their heels at a pitch just because they want to hit a double or something and get some stats. Whereas Harry just says, ‘well, if I get on base and the next guy hits a double, then we’ve got a chance for a run.’ He’s just really a team player. He understands it.”
There was even one time in a previous season Steldt led off the ninth inning with his team down by one run and was intentionally walked.
“But sometimes I don’t get that, too,” he said. “It’s like, yeah, I could hit a home run to tie it up. But if you put me on in a late-game situation, we probably have a guy on the bench who can steal some bags (as a pinch-runner) and score on a ball in the gap. So it’s kind of like, why would you do that?”
Also entering this season, only one A’s player has been hit by a pitch more than Steldt. His on-base percentage ranks fourth all-time, he’s fifth in runs batted in and doubles, seventh in hits, ninth in games played, runs and at-bats and 10th in home runs.
In 2016, Steldt walked 40 times in 52 games. The previous season he played 44 games and was walked 39 times.
“I don’t go up there like, ‘ah man, I hope I get a walk,’” he said. “I guess early on I’m kind of pretty decisive. I don’t mind hitting with an 0-2 count. It is kind of odd to have such a high number compared to guys that maybe walk 10 times in a season where I’m walking over once a game after it averages out.”