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From FAU’s Diamond to Angel Stadium: Nolan Schanuel’s journey to the big leagues

Some people play baseball for fun. For Nolan Schanuel, baseball is a job.  At just a year and a half old, he started swinging in the living room. Yet it wasn’t until he was seven years old when his parents introduced him to the sport by bringing new bats and balls into the house that...

Some people play baseball for fun. For Nolan Schanuel, baseball is a job. 

At just a year and a half old, he started swinging in the living room. Yet it wasn’t until he was seven years old when his parents introduced him to the sport by bringing new bats and balls into the house that he started playing T-ball.

“I wanted to be a professional baseball player ever since I was seven [and] found out that baseball was a job. I knew baseball could be a future job of mine. I knew that if I just worked hard, kept up my progression, then I would be in the shoes I’m in now,” Schanuel said.

He grew up in Boynton Beach, Fla, just 14 miles from his alma mater. Today, the former Owl now wears a halo for the Los Angeles Angels.

Schanuel was a four-sport athlete before he focused on baseball when he got to high school. He grew up playing anything with a ball: football, volleyball, and basketball.

“I mainly knew that I had a future in baseball, whether it was college or the pros, it would be my best bet. I loved it way more than everything else. It was the first sport I was introduced to and my favorite of all,” said Schanuel.

The rookie Angel, who took part in a 6-4-3-2 triple play in his first game, didn’t always play first base. While he mainly played in the outfield, he was a utility player.

FAU head baseball coach John McCormack would watch Schanuel’s games with the Florida Travel Baseball Rockets after his sophomore year of high school.

“I was gravitated towards him because he always was able to get the fat part of the bat on the ball, which is a skill in itself. And then when the recruiting window opened where we could talk to him, we had some really good conversations and I was like, ‘This is a guy that we would want in our program,’” McCormack said.

Nolan Schanuel flashes a smile before taking the field with his teammates during his senior season in 2023. (Erika Fletcher)

Nolan’s first year as an Owl was during COVID-19, allowing seniors to return for their missed year. At the time, FAU didn’t have a first baseman and with a stacked outfield of returning seniors, Schanuel didn’t hesitate when coach McCormack asked for someone to step up.

“I took full advantage of the opportunity. I said, ‘Hey, I’m willing, I learned to love every position and I’m ready for the opportunity,’” Nolan told McCormack. “I don’t care where I play in the field as long as I get to hit.”

“The team needed help and it provided him an avenue to play every day, early [in college]. We started working at it and he became an above-average first baseman. With anything he does, he seems to get in there, understand the angles, how it works, and he did a great job,” McCormack said. “And now he’s a big league first baseman so I guess we did him a favor.”

Major League Baseball is a rare exception in professional sports, where players can be crafted directly into the league from high school. However, he said he and his parents thought it was best to go to college and play under Coach McCormack

“Was it the best decision of my life? I would say so. I learned so much whether it was educationally or baseball wise from FAU,” he said. “I learned so much from every step of the way every year I was there. And it truly was the best decision I made for my career. Absolutely.”

The former Owl became the 11th pick in the 2023 MLB draft. He was surrounded by friends and family who have supported him throughout his life. He always pictured how this moment would be, but it didn’t even come close to the reality of hearing his phone ring on draft night.

“The way I envisioned it was nothing how it went. The minute I got the phone call, I broke into tears seeing the look on my mom and dad’s faces, just brought me to tears of joy, of excitement… seeing the look on my face that I made it truly, truly satisfied them. I couldn’t have done it without them and all my friends,” he said.

Schanuel made his MLB debut on August 18, 2023, less than six weeks after receiving the call. Despite a 9-6 loss in 10 innings to the Tampa Bay Rays, he was a part of a double and triple play and went 1-for-2 at the plate.

Nolan Schanuel on second base at FAU Stadium during his season in 2023. (Erika Fletcher)

“I like to describe it as an out-of-body experience. When I got into the box, I only remember walking right back out of it. It was absolutely insane,” Schanuel said. “Shohei Otani hit a grand slam. [I] got my first hit. It was probably my favorite game of all time.”

Almost a month later, he hit his first career home run in the major leagues. He said that was another out-of-body experience. 

“Once I saw it go up after I made contact, chills shot throughout my body, and rounding the bases, I tried to feel the moment as much as possible,” Schanuel said.

Most of the time, players get to keep the ball after their first home run, and Schanuel was able to do just that. A fan caught it and they made an exchange for it. 

“I gave him a bat, signed some gear for him, and was just truly grateful [for them]. They’re awesome people and if I could have given them more, I would have,” he said.

But who’s Nolan Schanuel off the field when he’s not turning triple plays or breaking franchise records for consecutive games reaching base safely? When he’s not playing baseball, you can find him out on a boat, fishing. If he’s not out on the water, he’s rating movies.

“I love to fish. Every chance I get, I grab a friend, go out, get on a boat, and go fish. If I’m not fishing, I love movies, I feel like a movie connoisseur,” he said. “Me and two of my close buddies, we call each other the movie boys and try to watch a movie at least once a week. We’re pretty good at rating them.”

He couldn’t pick just one favorite movie, but his top three were Shawshank Redemption, Shutter Island, and Inception.

As the interview was ending, Nolan had one last thing he wanted to share with the world.

“Go Owls.” 

Gianna Alberti is a staff writer at the University Press. Email her at or @giannaalbertii on Instagram for information regarding this or other stories.

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