LAWRENCEVILLE — Jordan Schafer has seen both ends of the baseball spectrum.
In 2008, he was handed a 50-game suspension for being connected to human growth hormone. The following season he was on the Atlanta Braves opening day roster and earned the starting center field position.
In his first major league game, which aired on ESPN in front of a national TV audience, he became just the 99th person in major league history to homer in his first major league at-bat. Schafer followed that home run up with another in the seventh inning as the Braves knocked off the defending World Series champion Phillies.
However the major-league stint lasted just 50 games as he posted a .204 average, with only the two home runs from opening night and just eight RBIs. The slow start led to more of a roller coaster ride, a demotion to the minor leagues after experiencing difficulties with his wrist, which limited his play with the G-Braves.
Eventually he decided to have surgery to repair the injury.
“The injury was unfortunate and everything last year but at the same time when I was healthy I played well,” Schafer said. “Throughout my career when I have been healthy I have proven that I play well.”
Now the 23-year-old is back with the Gwinnett Braves after rehab stints with the Rome and Mississippi Braves to start the season. His goal is a return to the major league glory that highlighted last year.
“Every day I am starting to feel better and better,” Schafer said. “It is all about me just getting back and getting some at-bats.”
Despite batting just .239 this season during his rehab stays and just .216 in Gwinnett, Schafer is confident that his game hasn’t lost much despite the injury and the long 10-month recovery process.
“It has definitely taken a little bit. It is not there yet but it is definitely headed in the right direction,” Schafer said. “I didn’t have an at-bat for almost 10 months so a little bit of it is just getting back into the swing of things and getting back to seeing quality pitching and just getting back the feeling of being at the plate again. I am not really worried about proving myself.”
The G-Braves are in second place in the International League’s South Division, trailing the Durham Bulls, and Schafer hopes to get the team on the right track for a second straight playoff berth. That’s in addition to maintaining his personal course toward a healthy return to the majors.
“A lot of these guys have been around the game for a while so they can take care of themselves, but as for myself I just have to get on base and try to steal some bases and play some good defense,” Schafer said.