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Orange County’s Jen Schroeder gets creative with online softball school

The Packaged Deal softball school co-founder Jen Schroeder, left, plays catch with co-founder Morgan Stuart, center, as Kayleen Shafer captures the action for hundreds of Facebook Live viewers outside her business in Anaheim on Tuesday. The class was for drills and skills softball students can do alone at home.
The Packaged Deal softball school co-founder Jen Schroeder, left, plays catch with co-founder Morgan Stuart, center, as Kayleen Shafer captures the action for hundreds of Facebook Live viewers outside her business in Anaheim on Tuesday. The class was for drills and skills softball students can do alone at home.
(Raul Roa / Staff Photographer)

Jen Schroeder has reached the third trimester of pregnancy.

Before having her first child, the former Esperanza High and UCLA softball star gave birth to a creative idea during this time of quarantine due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. The Schroeders’ well-known, family-run Softball Performance Workshop in Anaheim is not currently open to the public.

Schroeder was one of four founders of the softball clinic The Packaged Deal, a group that also includes her sister Katie, former Texas A&M standout Amanda Scarborough and former Washington star Morgan Stuart. They have held more than 350 clinics since the company was founded in 2014.

They were never virtual. Until now.

The Packaged Deal has been running an online softball school for the last six weeks. Three times daily, the group and some distinguished softball friends have been running classes streamed live on the company’s Facebook page. The cost has been $1 per class.

Jen Schroeder, who played catcher in college and has trained many of the country’s top softball catchers, said nearly 4,000 girls from around the country have signed up for the softball school. The six-week school ends Friday, but the videos will be archived online for six weeks and new registrants are welcome.

“Honestly, it was a very random idea that I had,” said Schroeder, 33, an Orange resident. "[Scarborough and Stuart] got a text, and it said, ‘I have an idea.’ Those are the four scariest words that I’ll say. They probably didn’t know what to expect after that ... but I wanted to do this online softball school where we had live classes. We wanted to invite guests to come and speak and share, and provide girls with an outlet to have some sort of routine.

“What’s transpired from there has been honestly magical. We didn’t personally invite one instructor. All of those instructors reached out to us.”

Schroeder said that six Olympians have taught in the school: Tori Vidales, Haylie McCleney, Cat Osterman, Monica Abbott, Aubree Munro and Natasha Watley. It’s not just physical drills, as the lessons also involve the player’s mental outlook on the sport.

“You can go in and search it in [the archive] chronologically, or you can watch it topically,” Schroeder said. “You can say, ‘I want to watch a catching video,’ and all of the catching videos will pop up. It’s really cool.”

The Packaged Deal softball school owner Jen Schroeder, left, and Morgan Stuart greet hundreds of Facebook Live viewers before starting a skills and drills class outside her business in Anaheim on Tuesday. The class showed softball students what skills they can practice alone at home.
The Packaged Deal softball school owner Jen Schroeder, left, and Morgan Stuart greet hundreds of Facebook Live viewers before starting a skills and drills class outside her business in Anaheim on Tuesday. The class showed softball students what skills they can practice alone at home.
(Raul Roa / Staff Photographer)

Harper Lohman, a Newport Beach resident and sixth-grader at Mariners Elementary, said she has enjoyed the classes. Harper plays outfielder on her travel-ball team, California Cruisers.

“It was a great opportunity to learn from all of these role models,” Harper said. “I definitely learned new things, which was great for me. It definitely motivated me to do more softball.”

Ocean View High Principal Courtney Robinson has had her daughters, Haylee and Kyra, in the softball school. Haylee, a sophomore at San Juan Hills High who plays catcher, was already taking lessons with Kellsi Kloss at the Softball Performance Workshop.

“It keeps them active,” Courtney Robinson said. “You go from practicing once a week in high school, taking catching lessons, hitting lessons to nothing. The first week, it was kind of a nice break, but then afterward they’re kind of dying to get back into it. It keeps them going.”

Robinson said that Haylee’s travel-ball team, the California Cruisers Watson Premier 16U, signed up for the softball school as a team and completed certain videos together. When the team meets on Saturdays via Zoom, the players talk about the different videos that they’ve watched.

The Packaged Deal softball school owner Jen Schroeder, left, plays a game of catch with friend Morgan Stuart, right, on Tuesday.
(Raul Roa / Staff Photographer)

“We’ve been able to do some [lessons], but with schoolwork, you kind of have to balance it,” Robinson said. “Sometimes we do them at night, or we’ll do them on the weekends. It’s been nice to have that flexibility. Haylee doesn’t pitch. She’ll watch some of the pitching [videos], just because as a catcher you’ve got to learn what your pitchers do, but not all of them. She’ll focus more on hitting or fielding.”

Stuart said she was stressed out about the softball school at the beginning, but said it ended up being “the best thing that’s happened to our company since it started.”

“We’re able to reach the people that have been following us for a long time,” Stuart said. “We’ve had a really strong social media presence since the inception of Packaged Deal ... I never use this word, but it’s been such a blessing. It’s been such a really positive experience for all of the families involved, and all of the girls, obviously. We wanted to bring something positive in this super-weird time, and I think it helped us out as people trying to get a message out.”

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