If you try to get in touch with Mike Young Productions president and partner Bill Schultz after 4 p.m. from February to June, there’s a good chance he’ll only be listening with half an ear – especially during play-off season. That’s because when he’s not overseeing production on animated series like Pet Alien, Dive Olly Dive! and ToddWorld, Schultz spends about 25 hours a week in the dugout coaching Little League baseball in southern California. And to give you an inkling of just how devoted a coach he is, when his former company Film Roman was closing its US$40-million IPO in 1996, Schultz negotiated the final deal points on his cell phone from the ballpark so he wouldn’t miss an all-star game.
Schultz started coaching 13 years ago, primarily as a way to spend more time with his three sons and daughter, who were involved in at least one sport at any given time of year. But he was really compelled to move from the bleachers to the sidelines when he saw what a poor job some of his boys’ baseball, soccer and basketball coaches were doing. ‘They were treating the kids badly and seemed to be reliving their youth through them,’ he says, adding that this is common behavior in L.A., where many parents are ambitious people used to getting what they want.
Though in the early days he broke his toe kicking a ball bucket in frustration, Schultz has since adopted a much more laid-back approach on the field. ‘I’m just there to make sure the kids want to come back and play next year,’ he says. ‘My job is to keep them in the sport and, if they have any natural ability, help them get to a higher level.’
Schultz’s 19-year-old son Brad has certainly benefited from his dad’s guidance. He’s attending University of the Pacific on a baseball athletic scholarship and recently struck out a side in a major game against UCLA. Schultz says although his coaching achievements may seem small compared to professional milestones like winning Emmy awards for The Simpsons, he loves the fact that they’re so definitive. ‘When you win a TV award, it can be attributed to politics or favoritism rather than achievement. But there are no qualifiers in sports. It’s like, ‘Did you strike him out?’ ‘Yup, I struck him out.”
Schultz says coaching a baseball team is a lot like running a studio in many respects. ‘I absolutely have to be able to organize and lead people in my job. And working with artists is like working with kids, who are sensitive and raw and need to be supported and structured.’
If you’d like to see Schultz in action on the field, think about checking out a weekend game the next time you’re in L.A. His team is called the Westhill Mets (http://westhillsbaseball.org/schedules/broncosch.html).