Small School, Big Talent

Robbie Shields always had dreamed of playing shortstop at Miami. During his prep career Pasco High in Dade City, Fla., he earned county player of the year honors as a senior, when he hit a cartoonish .553 with 18 home runs. Shields had several strong Division II and junior-college options once it came time to move to the next level, but no major Division I school recruited the 6-foot-1, 195-pound shortstop.

Shields had proven to be an elite player at the high school level, but he would not get to recognize his dream of playing for the Hurricanes. Miami had signed its shortstop, Ryan Jackson, who is a second-team preseason All-America choice this year as a junior.

If Shields wasn’t destined to become a Hurricane, he also wasn’t destined to play for any of Florida’s other well-regarded D-I programs. However, Florida Southern is an elite program at the Division II level, having won nine national titles. Winning is Florida Southern’s best recruiting tool, said coach Jim Tyrell, in his first year as the Mocs’ head coach after four years as an assistant.

“For us to be successful we have to find players who want to win,” he said. “It is the only way we can recruit good enough talent to be competitive.”

The Mocs have also sent 150 players into the professional ranks over the years, including second-round picks (and future big leaguers) Brett Tomko (1995) and corner infielder Lance Niekro (1999), who broke out in the Cape Cod League in 1998. Now, Shields has followed a similar path, starring—albeit briefly—in the Cape last summer and showing the potential to become the school’s first-ever first round pick.

Tyrell believes that everybody just missed on Shields out of high school—everybody except Florida Southern. “We saw him being an elite player for us from the very beginning,” he said, “and we were thrilled to get him.”

Mike Roberts, who coached Shields with Cotuit in the Cape, agrees that Shields was just one of those players who got overlooked. “He doesn’t jump out at you,” Roberts said, “but he’s so mature as a person and in his approach to the game.

“The first two weeks of the summer, he was the best position player in the Cape. He was very good offensively, defensively and with his baserunning. He made all the plays at shortstop, he hit two home runs . . . He did everything he needed to do.”

The only thing Shields didn’t do was stay healthy. Shields arrived in the Cape with a nagging hand injury, which he had injured late in his sophomore season with the Moccasins, when he hit .348/.424/.571 with nine homers last spring and was a second-team all-conference choice. It was a solid season, but hardly the springboard for Cape stardom. However, Roberts served one year at Florida Southern as athletic director and knows former Mocs coach Pete Meyer (now the AD) very well. Meyer sold Roberts on Shields, and Shields quickly proved his coach correct.

He was hitting .429 through 10 Cotuit games when he slid into third base head-first after hitting a triple. His hands got caught under his body, leading to a hairline right wrist fracture and some ligament damage.

Shields played five games after injuring his hand, which affected his final Cape numbers. He hit .349 with two homers and 11 RBIs in just 43 at-bats, a performance that vaulted him up numerous draft boards and scouts charts. Roberts compared him to former Louisiana State and current Blue Jays infielder Aaron Hill, whom he had recruited for a previous Cape team, “except he’s a little better runner and probably has a little better power than Aaron did at that stage.”

For Shields, who had been the MVP of the Clark Griffith League the previous summer, his short Cape stay was just the proof he had been looking for since he had went to Florida Southern two years before.

“I always knew I could play with anybody and the Cape allowed me to prove it,” Shields said. “I really enjoyed the opportunity to prove everybody that doubted me wrong.”

Shields appears to have accomplished that goal. Thanks to his performance with a wood bat the last two summers—he hit .307/.377/.613 in the Clark Griffith League in ’07—Shields’ offensive projection is not in a question, and he has always been credited with a great feel for the game.

Shields got the opportunity to play very early at Florida Southern. He started all 60 of the Mocs’ games as a freshman and took over at shortstop for the final 20 games of the campaign. Going to Florida Southern also has enabled Shields to spend two years at shortstop, and he showed in the Cape he’s at least worth trying at the position as a pro.

“He made 18 errors at Florida Southern last spring, and (former FSC coach) Pete Myers told me it was mostly on his throws,” Roberts said. “But while he was with us, his arm was true and strong. I think he can play short, but he’s also capable of moving to third or second.”

Shields now feels as at home at short as he does at Florida Southern, despite his earlier D-I dreams. He said he has never regretted his college decision.

“Now that I am here,” he said, “I cannot envision having gone anywhere else.”

Robbie Shields always had dreamed of playing shortstop at Miami. During his prep career Pasco High in Dade City, Fla., he earned county player of the year honors as a senior, when he hit a cartoonish .553 with 18 home runs. Shields had several strong Division II and junior-college options once it came time to move to the next level, but no major Division I school recruited the 6-foot-1, 195-pound shortstop.

Shields had proven to be an elite player at the high school level, but he would not get to recognize his dream of playing for the Hurricanes. Miami had signed its shortstop, Ryan Jackson, who is a second-team preseason All-America choice this year as a junior.

If Shields wasn’t destined to become a Hurricane, he also wasn’t destined to play for any of Florida’s other well-regarded D-I programs. However, Florida Southern is an elite program at the Division II level, having won nine national titles. Winning is Florida Southern’s best recruiting tool, said coach Jim Tyrell, in his first year as the Mocs’ head coach after four years as an assistant.

“For us to be successful we have to find players who want to win,” he said. “It is the only way we can recruit good enough talent to be competitive.”

The Mocs have also sent 150 players into the professional ranks over the years, including second-round picks (and future big leaguers) Brett Tomko (1995) and corner infielder Lance Niekro (1999), who broke out in the Cape Cod League in 1998. Now, Shields has followed a similar path, starring—albeit briefly—in the Cape last summer and showing the potential to become the school’s first-ever first round pick.

Tyrell believes that everybody just missed on Shields out of high school—everybody except Florida Southern. “We saw him being an elite player for us from the very beginning,” he said, “and we were thrilled to get him.”

Mike Roberts, who coached Shields with Cotuit in the Cape, agrees that Shields was just one of those players who got overlooked. “He doesn’t jump out at you,” Roberts said, “but he’s so mature as a person and in his approach to the game.

“The first two weeks of the summer, he was the best position player in the Cape. He was very good offensively, defensively and with his baserunning. He made all the plays at shortstop, he hit two home runs . . . He did everything he needed to do.”

The only thing Shields didn’t do was stay healthy. Shields arrived in the Cape with a nagging hand injury, which he had injured late in his sophomore season with the Moccasins, when he hit .348/.424/.571 with nine homers last spring and was a second-team all-conference choice. It was a solid season, but hardly the springboard for Cape stardom. However, Roberts served one year at Florida Southern as athletic director and knows former Mocs coach Pete Meyer (now the AD) very well. Meyer sold Roberts on Shields, and Shields quickly proved his coach correct.

He was hitting .429 through 10 Cotuit games when he slid into third base head-first after hitting a triple. His hands got caught under his body, leading to a hairline right wrist fracture and some ligament damage.

Shields played five games after injuring his hand, which affected his final Cape numbers. He hit .349 with two homers and 11 RBIs in just 43 at-bats, a performance that vaulted him up numerous draft boards and scouts charts. Roberts compared him to former Louisiana State and current Blue Jays infielder Aaron Hill, whom he had recruited for a previous Cape team, “except he’s a little better runner and probably has a little better power than Aaron did at that stage.”

For Shields, who had been the MVP of the Clark Griffith League the previous summer, his short Cape stay was just the proof he had been looking for since he had went to Florida Southern two years before.

“I always knew I could play with anybody and the Cape allowed me to prove it,” Shields said. “I really enjoyed the opportunity to prove everybody that doubted me wrong.”

Shields appears to have accomplished that goal. Thanks to his performance with a wood bat the last two summers—he hit .307/.377/.613 in the Clark Griffith League in ’07—Shields’ offensive projection is not in a question, and he has always been credited with a great feel for the game.

Shields got the opportunity to play very early at Florida Southern. He started all 60 of the Mocs’ games as a freshman and took over at shortstop for the final 20 games of the campaign. Going to Florida Southern also has enabled Shields to spend two years at shortstop, and he showed in the Cape he’s at least worth trying at the position as a pro.

“He made 18 errors at Florida Southern last spring, and (former FSC coach) Pete Myers told me it was mostly on his throws,” Roberts said. “But while he was with us, his arm was true and strong. I think he can play short, but he’s also capable of moving to third or second.”

Shields now feels as at home at short as he does at Florida Southern, despite his earlier D-I dreams. He said he has never regretted his college decision.

“Now that I am here,” he said, “I cannot envision having gone anywhere else.”

College | #2009 #Season Preview

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