By STEVE KRAH
Brady Shoemaker has a competitive fire. The Brazil, Ind., resident wants to come out on top on the baseball diamond.
After being released by the Chicago White Sox organization in 2016, Shoemaker signed with St. Paul in February 2017.
The right-handed stick finished second in the AA in slugging percentage (.603) and on-base percentage (.435), tied for second in extra-base hits (44), tied for third in home runs (21), tied for fifth in walks (55) and eighth in average (.318).
Shoemaker opted to re-sign with the Saints for 2018.
“To me, independent baseball is more about baseball,” says Shoemaker. “It’s not so much about getting guys ready for the game. They want to win in this league. (St. Paul manager) George (Tsamis) is big about putting nine guys not the field who want to win.
“In (affiliated) minor league baseball, you have prospects and guys have to play. It’s not like that here. You’ve got to show up everyday wanting to win. And if you’re not one of those guys, you find yourself sitting on the bench.”
He smacked 23 home runs and had 80 in pro ball leading into 2018.
Not that he goes to the plate thinking about hitting the ball over the fence.
“I’ve never, ever went up there trying to hit a home run,” says Shoemaker. “I just try to stay inside the baseball and drive it. If you hit it hard somewhere, good things will happen.”
Shoemaker’s earliest baseball days came in Clay Youth League. From ages 12 to 14, he played for the Wabash Valley Titans travel team
“That’s where I really started to learn a lot about baseball,” says Shoemaker. “We played really good competition. That helped boost me going into high school.”
At Northview High, Gary Witham was his head coach. Witham went 581-274-1 at Brazil and then the consolidated Northview.
“Coach Witham did a lot with us in the off-season,” says Shoemaker. “He was good in organizing off-season practices. He put together a place where some us could go hit.”
After graduation, Shoemaker played two summers for Terre Haute American Legion Post 346 and longtime manager John Hayes.
In 2006, Post 346 was American Legion World Series runners-up. Future major league catcher Josh Phegley was also on that squad.
Dennis Conley was Shoemaker’s head coach at Olney Central, where the player was a two-time National Junior College Athletic Association All-American.
“He was tough on us and made us work hard,” says Shoemaker of Conley. “You learned a lot about the game of baseball if you just listened to him.
“He was very instrumental with helping me further my baseball career.”
What Shoemaker remembers most from his time at Indiana State was how head coach Lindsay Meggs and his staff helped him make the transition to big-time baseball and the brotherhood of the players.
“Going from junior college to Division I baseball is a jump,” says Shoemaker, who was used mostly as a left fielder with the Sycamores. “During my time at Indiana State, we had a really close group of guys. We wanted to win together as a team.”
Shoemaker selected in the 19th round of the 2009 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the White Sox.
He hit safely in the first 28 games of his pro career in 2009.
“I was a 19th-round guy and a senior sign,” says Shoemaker. “I’ve always had to prove myself and wanted to prove myself. So I wanted to get off to a good start.”
At Bristol, Shoemaker led the Appalachian League in doubles (21), on-base percentage (.426), extra-base hits (30) and ranked second in slugging percentage (.585), third in average (.351) and total bases (120) and fourth in home runs per at-bat with 1 out of every 22.78. He was chosen as a Postseason All-Star in the Appy League in 2009.
In 2010, he spent the entire season at Single-A Kannapolis.
Shoemaker was an MiLB.com Organizational All-Star in 2011 while finishing second in the South Atlantic League in average (.319) and fifth in on-base percentage (.399) and was promoted to High-A Winston-Salem in July.
In 2012, he went 2-for-4 in the Carolina League-Cailfornia League All-Star Game and was Carolina League Postseason All-Star and Orgainzational All-Star.
The right-handed thrower missed all of 2013 after surgery for a torn labrum in his right shoulder and biceps and was claimed by the Miami Marlins in the Rule 5 Draft in December
“It was more of over-usage tear,” says Shoemaker. “It wasn’t something that drastically happened.”
Shoemaker got into major league spring training games with the Marlins in 2014, 2015 and 2016.
After playing a combined 55 games at Double-A and Triple-A in 2016, the Marlins traded Shoemaker back to the White Sox July. He spent few games at Double-A Birmingham and was released by that organization in August 2016.
Some after that, his independent baseball experience began.
Supporting him along the way are the people at home in Clay County.
“I’m real close to my family,” says Brady, the son of Brian and Lorie Shoemaker, brother of Natalie (Shoemaker) Lizanich, husband to Chelsea Shoemaker and father to 9-month-old son Drew Shoemaker. “I always have been.
“My grandparents have been a big part of my baseball career.”
Ed Pearce, his grandfather on his mother’s side, passed away April 20 as Brady was getting ready for the season. Grandmother Janet Pearce survives.
Both grandparents on his father’s side — Don and Nina Shoemaker — are gone. Grandmother Nina did in 2014.
Saint Paul (5-1) opened the season at the Gary SouthShore RailCats. The Saints, which are in the AA’s North Division, are scheduled to come back to Gary July 20-22 and visit the Chicago Dogs in Rosemont, Ill., June 15-17 and Aug. 23-25.
Brady Shoemaker, a 2005 Northview High School graduate who played at Olney Central College, Indiana State University and in the Chicago White Sox and Miami Marlins organizations, is in his second season with the independent St. Paul Saints in 2018. (Saint Paul Saints Photo)