When Chad Schneiter heard there might be a story about him, he joked with his wife, Karen Schneiter, that the writer had picked the wrong time to report.
"'Oh great, the year I failed at coaching,'" Karen said, explaining Chad's facetious sentiment. "He coached two teams last year and they did the whole championship thing."
In 2018, both Schneiter's 10u and 14u Missoula Avalanche fast pitch softball teams took home state titles a few months before Chad was scheduled to undergo some intensive surgery. Those title runs will quite literally always hold a special place in his heart.
"When we headed to the state tournament in Great Falls it was two months before open heart surgery," Chad said. "I told (my daughters, Elise and Claire,) that their teams were good enough to leave with a title. Sure enough, Elise and her team won theirs, and the (10u) girls doused me with water. I went two fields over and Claire’s (14u) team won it right after.
"(They knew about the surgery) and I told them If something bad happens I have no regrets."
Just a few weeks later, Chad had his surgery for an aortic aneurysm, where one his heart's aortas was replaced with a mechanical valve. A few months after that, Chad had a blood clot that caused him to lose most of one of his kidneys. There were moments before and after the surgeries where Chad and his family weren't sure that he would survive, Karen said.
Less than a year later, Chad was again coaching his daughters — this time the at the 12u and 16u state tournaments.
"It’s a whole new perspective. You sure look at things a helluva lot differently," Chad said.
Like wins and losses, for instance. A record can be cherry picked to describe a person's success, but it isn't the end-all be-all that defines a good coach — and a good man.
A good record — 20-4 overall, to be exact — did however likely help Chad make the Helena Sports Hall of Fame along with his teammates.
Chad, a Helena native and Florence transplant, was the starting point guard for the 1991 Helena High boys' basketball team that won the state tournament that year. Coach Jim Gross told the Helena IR in 2002 that Chad, "Was the leader on the floor."
It was the last time the Bengals' boys basketball team has won a state title. That team was recognized with a Helena Sports Hall of Fame induction in July.
But the basketball player turned baseball and softball coach wasn't there in Helena to accept the award with his team. Chad's mom joined the Helena High squad at the banquet hall to accept the award in his honor.
Chad had softball to coach.
"I wish I could have been there but I wouldn’t have missed my daughters' state tournaments for anything," he said.
The ceremony coincided with his club softball team's state tournaments this summer. While his 12u and 16u squads missed out on the ultimate state hardware, Chad was quick to point out how proud he was of both teams — particularly one's ability to battle back to the title game through the loser-out bracket.
"It's unbelievably rewarding," he said, describing the run this summer at the state tournament. "You really live through these kids when you get older and you can’t do it anymore."
It's his kids, after all, that got him into both baseball and softball in the first place. Chad stopped playing baseball at a young age and instead focused his athletic pursuits toward basketball.
"I always thought that maybe I’d be a basketball coach but my kids weren’t all that into it. You wind up following them," he said.
Brendan, a soon-to-be senior at Florence High School and Chad's oldest of three, was the first to take up baseball. He struggled in an all-star baseball season during elementary school, but Brendan loved the sport so much that Chad made a big — and bulky — investment.
"He bought this batting machine just out of somebody’s back yard," Karen said. "He bought a cage, too, and they’ve just spent hours and hours and hours hitting."
The batting machine actually came out of a now-defunct amusement park in Polson. But it has been given new life with the Schneiters.
"Anything I do at the plate I give credit to the Schneiters, who are amazing people," Bitterroot Bucs outfielder and Brendan's teammate, Johnny Lineback, said. "They always have me at their house to bat no matter the time."
Brendan was also quick to give credit to the machine and his dad for the hitting prowess he displayed in an all-state season for the Montana American Legion Class A Bucs this last year.
The swing and repetition of practice Brendan described helped him hit over .400 on the season for the Bucs, who rattled of an improbable state tournament run as a team to reach the Class A championship game in Florence last month.
But it was Brendan's description of his dad's demeanor in between shagging baseballs for their home's second-hand Iron Mike pitching machine that stood out.
"He amazes me every day," Brendan said of his dad, who owns Trader Brothers between Lolo and Florence. "The fact that he can get up early and go run his business all day and then come home and put rounds (of practice) in with myself and my sisters every night, trying to get better at hitting.
"After that, he then sits down with the family, he has a meal and talks about the day, and he just enjoy it. It’s incredible, I’ll always look up to him."
How could that not mean more to a coach — to a father — than a 'W' in the stat sheet?
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