- Jordan's father, David Schafer, recalled the day he got an inkling of his son's baseball ability
"My brother was pitching Wiffle balls to him when he was five years old," David said. "We lived in a two-story house in the Chicago area. My brother came in and said, 'Jordan's hitting the Wiffle ball over the house.' "When Jordan was 6, his father, David, moved the family from Indiana to Florida and bought an assisted-living facility. The relocation allowed Jordan to play year-round. And baseball became an obsession.Back in 2000, Baseball America rated Schafer as the nation's top 13 year-old after he had a stellar summer and started at first base for his high school team as a seventh-grader. He was known mostly as a pitcher back then.In 2005, Schafer spent $90,000 of his signing bonus on a ProBatter pitching machine and elaborate batting cage he keeps in a rented warehouse in his hometown of Haines City, Florida.
The machine, used by several big league teams, combines a pitching device behind an 8-by-10 foot screen where a DVD-quality image of an actual big league pitcher is projected. Using a touch pad, the hitter selcts the pitcher he wants to face, the type of pitch, its speed (up to 100 mph), sequence, and location. The pitch is delivered at what is supposed to be a realistic replication of velocity and movement. Finally, the hitter stands in and sees the pitcher either wind up or throw from the stretch. A ball is released and fired through a hole in the screen. (Patty Rasmussen-Chop Talk-April 2008)
Schafer says the player he admires most in history was none other than Hall of Fame center fielder Joe Dimaggio. He owns DVDs of Dimaggio playing.
"He played the game right," Jordan said. "He had so much dignity and pride in playing the game the right way. And he was so classy off the field."
. He just plain likes to play the game—he even likes to practice playing the game. He is the first guy to the yard and the last guy out of the clubhouse or weight room after the game. He is a gamer.Before 2006 spring training, Baseball America rated Schafer as 30th-best prospect in the Braves' organization. And during the winter before 2007 spring camp opened, they moved him up to #27 in the Atlanta farm system.
- Jordan is a real baseball rat
But in the spring of 2008, the magazine had Jordan as the #1 prospect in the Braves' minor league system. They dropped him down to #3 in the offseason before 2009 spring camps opened.In 2007, Schafer led all of minor league baseball with 176 hits. He also ranked third in the minors with 49 doubles and tied for sixth with 74 extra-base hits.
He was named the winner of the Hank Aaron Award as top hitter in the Braves Minor League system."That kid is on a mission," Myrtle Beach manager Rocket Wheeler said in 2007. "He's one of the hardest working young men I've ever been around. He's very mature, very dedicated, and extremely talented."
SUSPENSION FOR HGHApril 8, 2008: Schafer was suspended 50 games for using human growth hormone. He didn't test positive for HGH. Rather, he was suspended after major league baseball probed anecdotal evidence of HGH use by Schafer, two sources familiar with Schafer's case told ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney.
MLB has the authority within the agreement to pursue specific information about possible violations. Schafer is the first casualty of MLB's new Department of Investigations. Sources said Jordan received the growth hormone from someone close to him but outside the organization, and that a player who had previously violated MLB's anti-doping policy informed baseball officials that Schafer was using the all-but-undetectable drug.
Sources said Schafer did not receive HGH from an online pharmacy, and that his name had not surfaced from a law enforcement investigation, as previous players had.
Note: There is some dispute about how much HGH improves performance. Unlike steroids, HGH promotes muscle definition more than muscle strength. No evidence exists that HGH has a pronounced effect on cardiovascular fitness or an athlete's capacity for working out.Schafer had rolled into spring camp in 2008 driving a Hummer and sporting a big league swagger. He had an entourage of workout buddies up from Winter Haven, only 30 miles away, to cheer him on. Schafer already had a Nike deal and wore a silver medallion engraved with his initials around his neck. It might as well have been a target.
"Yeah, I was a little hard to take," he says now. "I wouldn't have liked me much either. Being confident is a huge part of being successful in this game. If you don't think you can do it, then you aren't going to do it. But you have to know where to draw the line."
At some point during those six weeks of spring training, someone—Schafer doesn't know who—picked up the phone and dialed the rat line.
"I have reason to believe that Jordan Schafer is using HGH."
MLB's investigative team began to quietly dig into the outfielder's background, sizing up his small inner circle of baseball friends but focusing mainly on the gym rats from Winter Haven. The investigators studied Schafer's remarkable leap in performance from his first two minor league seasons, when he hit .228 with 11 homers, to his breakthrough in 2007, when he batted .312 with 15 homers, 23 stolen bases, and a .374 OBP and jumped from being Atlanta's 27th-rated prospect to No. 1.
In the end, MLB gathered enough information to determine that Schafer was a "nonanalytical positive." He hadn't failed a drug test, but he was connected to human growth hormone by anecdotal evidence, a sort of guilt by association. (He wasn't tested for HGH because MLB is waiting for a reliable non-blood screening process.) It was enough to have him yanked out of the Mississippi Braves lineup. On April 4, 2008, he was brought to Atlanta for questioning, and four days later he was suspended for 50 games. (Ryan McGee-ESPN the Magazine-5/04/09)When A-Rod gets gets taunted at Fenway Park, it's a garbled wave of white noise. But when you're playing in front of 1,500 people in Chattanooga on a Tuesday night, every chant of "H-G-Schaf" comes in loud and clear. Plus, the M-Braves were terrible, already out of the first-half pennant chase by May. When the Southern League All-Star break came in July, Schafer was hitting .238.
"For the first time in my life, going to the field was no fun," he says. "I was trying to do way too much. I was miserable."
Instead of heading home at the break, Schafer called his longtime mentor, Brad Weitzel, a former Twins scout and now an assistant coach at the University of Florida. When Schafer was a kid, Weitzel lived a few doors away in Haines City. He taught Jordan the game on a level that David Schafer couldn't. Weitzel let Jordan ride along as he scouted high school and college players. And he preached respect for the game and for opponents.
"I rode his ass about attitude," Weitzel says. "He was the cockiest damn 12-year-old who's ever lived. Baseball America called him the best 13-year-old player in the country, and that made it worse. He'd strike a guy out in high school and give him the guns-and-holster thing. I'd say, 'You can't be shushing the crowd as you round the bases when there's only 20 people in the stands!'"
During the 2008 Southern League break, he hung out at the coach's house in Gainesville for three days. They worked out and took batting practice, but mostly they talked. In the end, Weitzel told Schafer to relax and have fun. And, oh yeah, to quit acting like an a—hole.
Over the winter before 2009 spring training, Jordan worked out with Braves OF Matt Diaz in Haines City, Florida. Diaz preached team and attitude. When Schafer arrived at camp in February, the medallion was gone, replaced by a fresh biceps tattoo. His left arm carries a tidy summation of the past 14 months: Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall. (Ryan McGee-ESPN the Magazine-5/04/09)Carroll Rogers of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution questioned Schafer after returning from suspension.
Q. What was it like when you came back from the suspension? What did you have to deal with?
A. It was a variety of things. I asked my teammates: “I’m sorry guys, I wasn’t here. I still followed you guys. I’d really like it if you guys would support me, because I know I’m going to get a lot of stuff, especially when we go on the road.” They were really good with that. The fans kill me all the time. That’s to be expected. They’re going to say what they want. Two nights ago I hit two home runs. In my fourth at-bat, I was on deck and the fans were still killing me.
Q. What do they say?
A. I’ve had people ask me if I wanted needles. They chant HGH. They chant HGSchafe. I’ve had everything.
Q. Do you tune it out, laugh it off, or use it to make you mad?
A. No, it doesn’t make me mad. They paid to get in the game. They can say what they want. It’s not going to affect how I play the game.
Q. Who has shown you the most support?
A. My dad has really helped me through this mentally. Our coaches like Phillip [Wellman] and Bo [Derek Botelho] and Stubby [Franklin Stubbs]. The players have stood beside me. People in our organization like [roving instructors] Tommy Shields, Lynn Jones, and Leon Roberts—they were all there in Birmingham when I was struggling bad and said “Hey, it happens to all of us, stay in there, keep going.”
Q. Do you still believe in you?
A. I believe in myself 100 percent.
Q. Do you have any regrets about last year?
A. I’m just moving forward. That’s part of the reason I’ve done so well here in the last three weeks. I can’t change the past. It’s happened. I have to move on. I’m going to keep trying to become a better player. I want the organization and the fans to know I’m sorry for everything that happened. I apologize I put everybody through that. It’s a bad situation. I’m still the same person. Hard work is not illegal.
Q. Did you focus on yourself, rather than proving something to others?
A. I know the truth. I have to believe in myself and know that I’m not that person people perceive me to be. It’s more important to me to go to bed at night and feel comfortable with myself than how everybody else sees me. Of course you want the fans, the media, your teammates, the front office, you want all them to think high things of you, but at the end of the day, you have to believe in yourself. You have to trust yourself that you’re a good person, a quality person, you make good choices in your life.
Schafer's upper arms are covered with tattoos. On his left biceps, a quote from Confucius: “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” Above that, something about scars pushing us to greater things.
On his right arm, beneath a large design, there was this from Romans 8:28: “We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who serve the Lord."
. There was a time when Schafer seemed to strut in the clubhouse and on the field, resulting in an appearance of cockiness that rubbed a few veterans the wrong way. That body language was noticeably absent in 2009.
- The events of 2008 led to a more mature Schafer as of spring training in 2009
"He's grown up a lot in the past year," Mississippi manager Philip Wellman said. "Several guys told me they noticed how different he was this spring, a lot more humble. That's great, because the kid has all the talent in the world. It may turn out that what he went through last year (2008) could prove to be the best thing that could have happened."Schafer opened the 2009 season as the Braves' starting center fielder and silenced a sold out Opening Day crowd in Philadelphia by hitting a home run in his first career at-bat.October 3, 2011: Schafer was arrested in Florida and charged with felony possession of marijuana. According to an arrest report from the Hillsborough County Sheriff's office, Schafer was arrested in Tampa after a traffic stop and was released on a $2,000 cash bond.
A police report says that a black Land Rover driven by Schafer with its windows open pulled up next to a police car. Police say officers noticed a strong marijuana smell and saw Schafer smoking a marijuana cigarette.
After he was stopped, police say Schafer admitted smoking marijuana and that he had more in the vehicle. A subsequent search turned up less than an ounce in a plastic container and a small amount inside "three small marijuana peanut butter cups," according to the police report.
Felony possession in Florida carries a potential maximum five-year prison sentence and $5,000 fine. Police also seized the Land Rover for forfeiture if Schafer is convicted.
TRANSACTIONSJune 2005: After being drafted in the third round, out of Winter Haven High School in Florida, Schafer signed with the Braves for a bonus of $320,000. Gregg Kilby is the scout who signed him.July 31, 2011: The Astros sent OF Michael Bourn to the Braves, acquiring OF Jordan Schafer and three Minor League pitchers—lefthander Brett Oberholtzer and righthanders Paul Clemens and Juan Abreu.November 1, 2012: The Braves claimed Schafer off waivers from the Astros, getting him back to their organization.January 17, 2014: Jordan and the Braves agreed to a one-year contract worth $1.09 million for 2014, avoiding salary arbitration.
August 3, 2014: The Twins claimed Schafer off waivers from the Braves.
June 18, 2015: The Twins released Jordan.
CAREER INJURY REPORT:
- October 13, 2007: Schafer sustained a minor concussion when he ran into the outfield wall while attempting to catch a fly ball during an Arizona Fall League game.
- November 18, 2008: Jordan suffered a finger injury when struck by a pitch during a Mexican winter league game. He returned to the United States. There was no broken bone.
- June 8, 2009: Schafer went on the D.L with a deep bone bruise in his left hand. He was back in action a couple of weeks later. Jordan said he believes he first injured it talking a swing on June 5.
- August 31, 2009: Schafer had a surgical procedure to heal his left wrist that had bothered him for months. The procedure involved the removal of a bone spur and also the wiring together of two small bones in Jordan's left hand.
March 26-mid-May, 2010: Jordan was on the D.L. at the start of the season.August 2010: Schafer was on the D.L. for a week.
But he went back on the shelf later in August.June 3, 2011: Jordan had to leave the game against the Mets after a fouled bunt attempt struck him above his lip on the right side of his face. He was taken to a local hospital to undergo X-rays.
Schafer attempted to begin the fifth inning with a bunt single, but Jonathon Niese's fastball struck the handle of the bat and then struck Schafer. The Braves center fielder immediately fell to the ground and remained there while being evaluated by head athletic trainer Jeff Porter.
July 25-August 21, 2011: Jordan suffered a chip fracture in his left middle finger.
March 18, 2012: Shafer missed over a week of action after he suffered a sprained left hand while making a terrific diving catch in the third inning of an exhibition game.
August 7, 2012: Jordan was back on the D.L. with a left shoulder separation. The injury is to the acromioclavicular (AC) joint, which is a separation of the collar bone from the shoulder blade. Schafer began experiencing discomfort in his shoulder during the Astros series over the weekend in Atlanta, manager Brad Mills said.
"He woke up (the next day) and his left shoulder was really bothering him," he said. "He showed up and it felt fine, and then it progressively got worse during the game."
Schafer, who had a similar injury in 2009, was examined by team doctors Monday night before it was determined he would be placed on the D.L.
September 9, 2012: Schafer was sidelined after he aggravated his left shoulder diving for a ball. By September 20, he was still not able to lift his arm over his head, much less swing a bat. He did pinch-run a few times.
July 4-August 10, 2013: Jordan was on the D.L. with a right ankle contusion. The Braves announced on July 12 that an MRI revealed Schafer had an intraosseous stress fracture in his right foot.
May 16-June 16, 2015: Schafer was on the D.L.