“He’s one of those throw-back players who loved the game.”
From the Saskatoon Star Phoenix, Saskatoon SK
By Kevin Mitchell • Saskatoon Star Phoenix Publishing, Aug 19, 2021
Rick Ruzesky remembers well what it was like to face down Rob Scheller’s windmill.
Scheller, once one of the world’s great fastball pitchers, died this past week in Saskatoon of a brain aneurysm at age 57. A family man and generous spirit, he was also known for his prowess on the ball diamond, while dealing with the progressive eye disease retinitis pigmentosa.
“I don’t even know how he played ball the last few years of masters; he had the pitcher throw it back to him in a certain area so he could see it to catch it,” said Ruzesky, a long-time teammate and — before that, a foe. “It was pretty brave of him, even trying to play that way.
“He’s one of those throwback players who loved the game.”
Scheller played across the globe, professionally and with Canada’s national team, and was also a regular on Saskatoon’s diamonds.
At the 1987 Pan-Am Games, aged 23, not knowing how much longer his vision would last, Scheller went 3-0, allowed one run and just 10 hits in 21.2 innings, struck out 35 and won a gold medal.
“When I was 11 years old,” Scheller told Scripps Howard News Service, “doctors told me I’d be totally blind by the time I was 25. My sight is disappearing piece by piece. I might be able to play until I’m 50 or it may go next week.”
He pitched with the national team into the early 1990s, and threw long after that.
Before they played together, Ruzesky dug in against Scheller — the former with the Saskatoon Merchants, the latter with Rempel Brothers.
“He had one of the hardest drop-balls ever,” Ruzesky said. “It tailed inside on right-handed batters, which can break your thumb pretty easily. He was one of the hardest throwers around. His drop-ball was comparable to (world-renowned Saskatoon pitcher) Gene McWillie’s; it was just heavier than other people’s. It’s hard to say how, but it just seemed to be heavier. And when you did actually make contact with it, it was like hitting a brick.
Editor’s note: Our In Memoriam Tribute to Rob Scheller here.