Former Shocker standout discovers new passion for videography


Selena Favela

Wichita State designated hitter Willie Schwanke rounds third base before scoring during the first game against Illinois State at Eck Stadium (April 28, 2017)

From the baseball diamond to behind the camera, it has become quite the journey for former Shocker baseball standout Willie Schwanke.

Growing up, baseball played an important role for Schwanke. From 1990 to 2000, Willie’s father, Jim served as a baseball coach at Oklahoma State and Louisiana State University. Jim helped lead LSU to back-to-back College World Series titles in 1996 and 1997. He currently serves as a sports agent in baseball.

Willie’s mother Stephanie, trains dogs for a living and according to Schwanke, she deeply enjoys her career. 

Schwanke was a highly coveted baseball recruit out of Wakeland High School in Frisco, Texas. Over his high school career, he posted a .424 batting average, hitting 54 doubles, 23 home runs with 148 runs scored and 152 runs batted in. Schwanke was just as dominant on the mound, posting a 28-2 career record with a 1.79 earned run average and 226 strikeouts in 175 ⅔ innings.

Schwanke’s dominant high school career garnered attention from many Division-I schools. Ultimately, he decided to take his talents to the University of Arkansas and his decision came down to his relationship with the coaching staff.

Willie played one season at Arkansas and then elected to transfer to Grayson College, a junior college in Denison, Texas and spent one season there in 2014. Schwanke then transferred to Wichita State before the 2015 season.

Willie says he has many memories from his time as a Shocker baseball player, but his start on the mound against UC Santa Barbara is what stands out the most from his playing days.

“When we played Santa Barbara at home, I got to pitch against Dillon Tate, who went fourth overall that year in the draft,” Schwanke said. “When I got to pitch against that guy, that high of a caliber, I have never seen so many scouts in one stadium.”

In 2015, Willie was drafted in the 22nd round in Major League Baseball’s First-Year Player Draft. Schwanke was stunned to hear the news and wasn’t expecting to get drafted. He believes that his performance against Santa Barbara elevated his draft stock.

“I didn’t think it was coming. I think that game against Dillon Tate got me noticed,” Schwanke said. “I got a couple of texts from my buddies saying ‘congratulations’ and I am like ‘what are you guys talking about’ and sure enough about ten minutes later I get a call from the area scout. I really didn’t know what to say. I was speechless.”

Willie’s playing days are behind him, but Schwanke has a newfound passion in videography and photography. Schwanke’s start in videography and photography began while he was a member of the Shocker baseball team. 

“A couple of my teammates at the time, Trey Vickers and Travis Young, they started their own Instagram page for their hunting and they told me since I fish all the time that I should do the same thing,” Schwanke said. “Eventually I did it and it kind of blew up really really fast, I used nothing but a GoPro and it got up to the point where the most followers I had was 36,000 followers for my fishing page.”

Schwanke’s burning passion for videography and photography heightened when he shot the wedding of Wichita State Baseball Graduate Manager Nate Brisco.

“He asked me to film his wedding and instead of a payment for the wedding itself, he went in and paid half of my first camera,” Schwanke said. “So we did that, filmed his wedding and kind of realized that I enjoy that and that is kind of when all the passion came from.”

Schwanke said his favorite part about videography and photography is capturing life-changing moments.

“We capture moments and videos that don’t go away, we capture forever moments,” Schwanke said. “You take a huge sense of pride to capture anything and everything, especially those bigger moments for those athletes, because whenever their day comes, when they’re done playing, they can have those times and those pictures and videos to look back on and that’s pretty cool and surreal to me.”

Eric Wedge is in his second season as head coach for the Wichita State baseball program. Schwanke said he believes that Wedge and the rest of the coaching staff can lead the Shockers to great success in the upcoming years.

“100% think it’s going the right way,” Schwanke said. “I think the energy is different, I think the culture is different and you’re starting to see the fan base buy in as well.”