Why job security with Detroit Tigers matters to Jonathan Schoop: ‘Family is everything’

Detroit Free Press

After the Detroit Tigers‘ season concluded, infielder Jonathan Schoop returned to Curacao, the country he carried to the 2004 Little League World Series championship. He traveled home with a feeling of security for the first time in a long time.

Schoop sits in the backyard with family members and friends. They like to play dominoes. He enjoys traveling to the baseball fields to watch amateurs. The local kids hope to follow in his footsteps. Each Sunday, he takes his children — daughter Jae’Lyane Isabelle and son Jae’Lan Elijahto — to the beach.

During the 2021 season, Schoop didn’t have them around.

“They stayed back home because I signed a one-year (contract),” Schoop said Oct. 2 in Chicago. “I didn’t know what was going to happen. I only signed for one year, so I couldn’t put them in school here (in the United States). Now it’s better. I can just put them in school here for two years and go from there. Hopefully, I can stay more years here, but we’ll see what happens.”

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For nearly three months, Schoop’s future has been crystal clear.

He hadn’t experienced this level of comfort since the days early in his career with the Baltimore Orioles (2013-18), before becoming a free agent. The 30-year-old spent the past three seasons making the most of one-year agreements.

It wasn’t until Aug. 7 that the Tigers cemented Schoop into their plans for the future. He inked a two-year, $15 million contract extension. Although Schoop has an opt-out in his deal after next season, he wants to stay in Detroit as long as possible.

“It’s a peace of mind, that’s the best thing,” Schoop said, “especially when you play for a team that you want to play for. We have really good things here. We got a bright future. I said I wanted to stay here (in July), and since that time, now I’m here. I’m really happy.”

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To earn the extension, Schoop hit .278 with 22 home runs, 84 RBIs, 37 walks and 133 strikeouts over 156 games in 2021. He spent 114 games (103 starts) at first base for the first time in his career, although his best position is second base.

He also played for the Tigers in 2020, hitting .278 with eight homers, 23 RBIs, eight walks and 39 strikeouts across 44 games. Over the past two seasons, Schoop’s 2.9 WAR is second on the team only to third baseman Jeimer Candelario’s 4.8.

Schoop, a nine-year MLB veteran, made $6.1 million in 2020 and $4.5 million in 2021 — both one-year contracts. He played for the Minnesota Twins in 2019, making $7.5 million after his first of three winters as a free agent.

“Jonathan’s incredible at how he plays every day,” Tigers manager AJ Hinch said Sept. 30. “He doesn’t want a day off. He didn’t react well when I tried to give him a day off earlier this season. He loves to play. He loves to post. He thinks it’s his responsibility to be available every single day, so I love the vibe around him. I love his spirit. He’s good to have on a club. I think he’s got plenty to work on to help us moving forward.”

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“My dad always told me to be the best you can be,” Schoop said. “If you work at McDonald’s, be the best worker there. If you’re the batboy, be the best batboy out there. I want to be the best player I can be. I want to be the best teammate. I want to be the best at everything I do.”

As for the results, Schoop often thinks back to a conversation he had with J.J. Hardy when they played together in Baltimore. Hardy carved out a 13-year MLB career as a shortstop before his retirement after the 2017 campaign. He made two All-Star Games, won three Gold Gloves and mentored Schoop throughout the 2010s.

What Schoop learned from Hardy helped him survive — and thrive — on one-year contracts for the past three seasons.

“If you set goals, you set yourself up to get mad,” Schoop said. “As humans, we’re never satisfied. If I said I wanted 20 home runs and to hit .270, and if I’m not close to that by September, I’m going to pressure myself because I want to get it. But even if I’m at 20 and .270, I want more. If you want something and got it, you still want more.

“That’s why I set the goal that J.J. Hardy taught me: Play everyday and the numbers are going to be there. … Of course, you want your numbers to be good. But if you play everyday, your numbers are going to be there, so you don’t have to worry about it.”

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Looking ahead to 2022, Schoop is expected to shift back to second base once top prospect Spencer Torkelson arrives as the team’s first baseman of the future. His MLB debut could come as soon as Opening Day.

But Schoop doesn’t mind where he plays defensively. He simply wants to see his name in the lineup and contribute to a winning team. And the two-year contract, which guarantees a big-league job through 2023, should make his life a bit easier.

“My boy is 3 (years old),” Schoop said. “My daughter (age 5), she’s my heart. Right now, she’s in school. Talking to her, (she says), ‘I miss you, daddy.’ Family is everything. You know you’re doing something here for the family, but you want them to be with you. It’s nice to sign two years because now I can bring her here and let her go to school here.

“My kids were born in the States, so they can come to school here and be with me all year round. It’s nice to have a security of two years.”

Contact Evan Petzold at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzoldRead more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.

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