JUPITER, Fla. --Dennis Schutzenhofer's rubber arm continues to serve him well.
Schutzenhofer, of Belleville, is in his 14th year as a batting-practice pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals.
"Shooter" also will be along for the ride in the regular season. The Cardinals will break camp Saturday and begin playing for keeps Monday in Arizona.
"The first six years, I was teaching chemistry and coaching baseball at Belleville East," said Schutzenhofer, 64. "I just threw at home games. My first groups were Fernando Vina, (Edgar) Renteria, (Placido) Polanco and J.D. Drew. That was great.
"Then when I retired in May of '06, Tony (La Russa, the Cardinals' former manager) asked me if I'd like to go on the road. They needed a jack-of-all-trades kind of guy who could throw batting practice. I said, 'Yes,' and I've been on every road trip since '06."
And loving every minute of it.
"I'm a very lucky person," Schutzenhofer said. "Every guy wants to have my job when he grows up. I'm still 10 years old. Still a kid and a big Cardinals fan all my life."
Schutzenhofer doesn't just throw BP. He also fills in wherever needed during pregame drills, handling relays from infielders at second base and standing in as a first baseman.
"I take double plays from all the infielders, just rotate around," Schutzenhofer said. "And I have to make that long throw back in to the catcher, so by the time batting practice rolls around, I've already thrown 150 or 200 long throws with my arm.
"But I'm lucky. I throw mechanically correct and I've got good genetics. My arm never bothers me. There's a little stiffness every day, but I work that out. The legs are the thing I need to get in better shape if I want to do this longer."
This spring, Schutzenhofer also has been posting daily videos on Facebook, giving envious friends and fans an inside look at spring training as they endure the rigors of winter.
"Mostly, they're about away stadiums and some behind-the-scenes stuff," Schutzenhofer said. "The sliding practice we did one day got a big response. People didn't know we had to practice sliding; they thought that came natural.
"I enjoy putting it up there for people and I get more and more responses. I've got 2,000 Facebook friends, so I get more responses all the time. But I'm running out of ideas."
Schutzenhofer has been throwing this spring to Jon Jay, Daniel Descalso, Pete Kozma, Shane Robinson and Matt Adams. He previously threw to David Freese, one of his closest friends on the Cardinals. But Freese has "graduated" and his BP pitcher this season will be new hitting coach John Mabry.
"I felt good the other day because Jay and Adams both had home runs, and I had just gotten done throwing to them," Schutzenhofer said. "Whenever that happens, I feel like the proud papa."
Schutzenhofer said being around big-leaguers has greatly enhanced his knowledge of baseball.
"I've learned so much about hitting from Mabry and (Mark) McGwire," he said. "And I've learned about pitching. If I ever went back and coached again, boy, I would do things a lot different.
"I feel so ignorant about back when I was coaching high-school baseball because I was just so naive about things."
Schutzenhofer has no immediate plans to retire, but he knows he's reaching an age where it will be a year-to-year consideration.
"The only thing that will stop me is my body," he said. "I know I'm good for this year, but I'll have to make some decisions on Oct. 1 as to whether I can do this for a full-time job because it's getting a little tough."
Contact reporter David Wilhelm at email@example.com or 239-2665.