GSA Spotlight: Florida Atlantic's Nolan Schanuel

Blame Rikuu Nishida.

Florida Atlantic University first baseman Nolan Schanuel leads the nation with a .460 batting average, 67 walks and a .523 on-base percentage. He is also second in the country with a 1.411 OPS, third with a .888 slugging percentage, and Schanuel’s 51-game on-base streak is tied for the longest active run in the nation.

Pitchers who have failed to get Schanuel out – which includes just about everybody – can blame the aforementioned Nishida, a starting outfielder for the Oregon Ducks.

Last summer, Schanuel and Nishida were teammates for the Hyannis Harbor Hawks. It was there that Nishida introduced Schanuel to some eyesight drills.

“The goal was to engage my eyes before games – wake them up,” said Schanuel, who has 20/10 vision. “I try to read the seams so I can see which way or how the ball is spinning.

“When I’m in the box, that’s the biggest thing I look for, and those eyesight drills have helped me tremendously.”

Schanuel, a lefty swinger who shows up on several 2023 mock drafts as a late-first-round selection, was named Conference USA’s Player of the Year on Tuesday.

He is also one of 25 semifinalists for the Golden Spikes Award, which is given to the nation’s top player. He is one of just three mid-major players on the list, joined by Grand Canyon infielder Jacob Wilson and Southern Miss right-hander Tanner Hall.

“Nolan is the best player in program history,” FAU coach John McCormack said. “There’s no doubt in my mind that he’s a first-rounder.”

McCormack said outfielder Jeff Fiorentino, who played 58 MLB games from 2006 to 2009, had previously been at the top of his list as the top Owls player. But McCormack said he got a recent text from Fiorentino.

“He said, ‘Coach, Nolan is way better than I was.’”

Schanuel, a native Floridian who grew up in Boynton Beach – just 14 miles from FAU’s Boca Raton campus – was seemingly born to hit.

At 18 months, he was already hitting plastic balls in the family’s living room.

“He was whacking the ball all over the house,” said his mother, Erin Schanuel. “After mom and dad, the next word he learned to say was ‘ball.’”

Schanuel had an outstanding prep career at Park Vista High, striking out just 16 times in three years (175 at-bats).

He was named a first-team All-American as a junior, batting .446.

As a senior, Park Vista got off to a 10-1 start, and Schanuel was hitting .520 with 14 runs, 13 walks and no strikeouts when the season was cancelled due to COVID.

Schanuel never made it past the regional semifinals, and losing one last chance at a state title was crushing to the Park Vista star and his teammates.

“When we found out (that their senior season was over), we all cried together,” Schanuel said. “What hurt the most was my teammates were all guys I grew up with and had played with since T-ball at age six or seven.

“We were all brothers. We would go on team dinners. We did everything together. To know that our season got cancelled was very emotional and disappointing.”

There would be brighter days.

As a freshman, Schanuel finished eighth in Conference USA with a .444 on-base percentage and 10th with a .343 batting average. He also led FAU with a .409 batting average with runners in scoring position.

Last year, he had a huge sophomore season, making first-team All-C-USA while batting .369 with 16 homers, 56 RBIs and a 1.135 OPS.

This year, as mentioned, Schanuel is hitting .460 with 18 homers, 62 RBIs and a 1.411 OPS with more games left to play, including Wednesday’s C-USA tournament game in Houston against Western Kentucky.

Schanuel credits some of his success to former FAU hitting coach Greg Mamula, who is now running the Delaware program.

One policy that Mamula started at FAU – and that Schanuel still follows – is to make batting practice have consequences.

In essence, if a player swings at a ball or takes a strike, he gets booted out of that round of batting practice.

“It’s just a way to put a punishment on things,” Mamula said. “But Nolan is as good as anybody I’ve ever coached in terms of swing decisions.

“His rate of walks and hit-by-pitches (a total of 84) to strikeouts (14) is absurdly good. What he sees with his eyes is better than 99.9 percent of his peers.”

Schanuel, 21, also credited Mamula with having him switch from the toe-tap loading mechanism he used in high school to the leg kick he started in college.

“The leg kick,” Schanuel said, “has unlocked more power in my swing.”

Weight training is another factor.

As a high school senior, Schanuel stood 6-2 an weighed 185 pounds. He wasn’t powerful, failing to bench press even as little as 135 pounds.

Just three years later, Schanuel towers at 6-4 and 215 pounds. On his best day, he said, he can bench press 225 pounds five times.

“In high school, I didn’t have access to a gym like I do now,” Schanuel said. “I weighed 225 this past fall, but I feel faster at 215.”

Speaking of speed, Schanuel is average – or perhaps a tick below – in that department.

Yet, he is 14-for-14 on steals this season and has a streak of 20 successful swipes going back to last season.

“I wouldn’t say I’m fast at all,” Schanuel admitted. “But I’m a good baserunner. I find little timing things — whether it’s the pitcher, the catcher or even the pitching coach if he is calling the pitches.

“In a tight game, baserunning could make the difference between a win or a loss.”

Defensively, Schanuel is versatile, playing first base, third base, right field and left field. First base is his best position, his coach said.

“I think Nolan can be a Gold Glove first baseman,” McCormack said. “But he can also play as a corner outfielder, and he has a tick above average arm that is very accurate.

“If a pro team wanted to experiment, he could play second or third base to see if it pops. He would have to work at it to do a better job with his feet and hips.”

The only thing missing from Schanuel’s college resume is postseason success.

Just like he wasn’t able to win a state title in high school, Schanuel – as great as he has been – hasn’t been able to pull FAU into an NCAA regional.

That could change this week as the Owls compete in the C-USA postseason tournament. Schanuel acknowledges that his Owls likely need to win the tournament to make the regional field.

Can he and the Owls get there?

“Going into this year, I thought this was a regional team,” McCormack said. “But we haven’t performed like (a regional team on a consistent basis).

“Nolan has done his part, but we haven’t put enough talent around him, especially on the mound. We haven’t been able to get over the hump the past (two) years.”

Schanuel said there is still hope, adding this: “We all have to be ‘on’ this week – each player on the team.”

As usual, Schanuel — with his keen vision — sees things clearly. is your online home for college baseball scores, schedules, standings, statistics, analysis, features, podcasts and prospect coverage.