This issue of the Exchange features Jon Shehan, head coach of the men’s baseball team at Millersville.
Q: Did you always know you wanted to coach baseball?
A: Reality hit me when I was completing my student teaching. At the time, I was playing professionally and finishing my degree in the off-season. My professional career was not going as I had planned and I was humbled by the amount of talent in the minor leagues. Teaching was nice but I was not 100 percent passionate about it. I realized that with coaching, I could teach the game that I love. It really is the best of both worlds.
Q: How old were you when you began playing baseball?
A: I really don’t know how old I was—probably four or five. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love to play ball.
Q: Does it make it more exciting having success with the Marauder baseball team being an alum yourself?
A: Absolutely. I have truly had the opportunity to see the program come full circle in my time at Millersville—as a spectator in high school (my dad works in dining), as a player here myself and now as a coach. In ’98 the team went to the Division II World Series and I had the opportunity to see them play quite a bit. The program hit some hard times between ’98 and ’11. It was pretty special to see Millersville back on top. The former success kept me motivated as a coach because I knew the program had potential to win, even when we were 9-37 in 2007.
Q: You have achieved a great deal in the short time you have been coaching at Millersville. What is your most memorable moment thus far?
A: Seeing Corey Phelan catch the final out by slamming into the wall in the NCAA Atlantic Regional Championship game. Corey is possibly the best defensive outfielder to play at Millersville in 100 years and he was one of three players that endured the 9-37 2007 season. The final out could not have been scripted any better.
Q: What would you say was the most intimidating thing about taking the Marauder’s to the Division II NCAA tournament?
A: To be honest, the thing that made our team successful last season was their ability to focus on the game and themselves and not the things that were out of their control—their opponent, their surroundings, the umpire, the weather, etc. They did a phenomenal job focusing on the present moment all season. Mount Olive was intimidating to me, knowing their history and what type of pitching they had. But, if the players were intimidated, they did a great job faking their confidence.
Q: What was the most gratifying aspect of attending the NCAA tournament?
A: Two things: 1. Seeing our seniors go from one of the worst programs in Division II to one of the best. 2. Witnessing a group of athletes going about their business in the right way, every day. They had a professional mentality in the classroom, in the community and on the field. That truly was the foundation of their success.
Q: Out of all you have accomplished in your life, what are you most proud of?
A: Being a dad.
Q: What are you most thankful for?
A: Having a wife and a family that are sincerely supportive. A coach puts in a lot of time, energy and emotion into his livelihood and one cannot be successful in this field without having a partner who is willing to sacrifice time and be supportive.
Q: Who is your favorite professional baseball team, if you could be drafted by anyone right now?
A: I grew up liking the Pirates. Earlier in the season, I had hope that they would have a winning season. Because I played in the Braves organization, I am still biased toward them. Many of the Braves front office people now work for the Kansas City Royals. It is no wonder that they have the best depth in their minor league system of any club in 30 years. I think I would like KC to draft me if I could still play the game.
Q: What’s your favorite baseball movie of all time?
A: Bull Durham. It accurately depicts the minor league life style; it’s a timeless movie.
Q: You received a Living the Promise Award for your actions at a North Georgia baseball game. What were you thinking when you ran out on that field?
A: Anyone in their right mind would have ignored their own players if they saw a young man laying on the ground unconscious, bleeding form his ears. It was a human reaction to run out on the field.
Q: Where are you originally from?
A: Strasburg, Pa.
Q: Where is your favorite place to vacation?
A: I really enjoy the Rocky Mountain States. My real passion is hunting and fly-fishing.
Q: Do you like Ballpark or Nathan’s?
A: I try not to eat either. Do you know what they put in hot dogs? Ballpark.
Q: How did being part of an athletics team influence your life?
A: My dad always told me to pick an activity and do it to the best of my ability. Then he motivated me to define “best of my ability.” How hard could I really work? I also learned to set goals as high as possible and the small achievements would come along the way. Athletic goal-setting provided discipline for me. I typically wasn’t out on Friday and Saturday nights with my friends all that often. I was most likely hitting balls in my basement off of a tee. I continue to set goals in all areas of my life, let them provide discipline for me and work as hard as I possibly can to meet them.
Q: What advice do you have for children who aspire to play college baseball?
A: There is a lot of competition out there. Be aware that there is always someone working harder than you. Also, do not let poor academic performance prevent you from gaining the great experience of participating in college baseball. There is a program and a level of play for everyone who wishes to play college baseball, as long as they are able to be admitted and are eligible by NCAA standards.
Q: Is it all about winning in your opinion?
A: No. Winning is a product of a program going about their business the right way. You really cannot control winning and losing. Things happen during the course of a season that are out of your control. The only thing you can control is your attitude and your effort and that can be said for ALL things, on and off the baseball field. John Wooden said that success could be defined as “knowing you did your absolute best.”
Q: If you could meet any baseball player that ever lived, who would it be? Why?
A: I would love to pick Ted William’s brain on hitting and Greg Maddux brain on pitching. Ted Williams was “The Best Hitter Who ever Lived.” He made hitting a science. It would be fun to sit down with Ted and evaluate Millersville’s hitters with super-slow motion video. There are legends about Maddux’ phenomenal mind for getting hitters out, like telling players at one end of the dugout to move to the other end because the hitter was going to hit a line drive in the dugout. The next pitch, the batter hit a line drive in the dugout. He won 300 games in the Big Leagues with a 5’10” frame and very average stuff.