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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Allowing a dad to dream

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Game

MINNEAPOLIS -- Call it an impossible dream if you must, but it's Terry Shumpert's dream and he's going to hold on to it until someone convinces him it will absolutely never happen.

The dream has its origin at the 2011 Major League Baseball All-Star Game or, more specifically, at the 82nd All-Star Game's State Farm Home Run Derby, which was contested at the Arizona Diamondbacks' Chase Field in downtown Phoenix.

New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano stepped up to the plate in the event's final round needing 12 home runs to pass the Boston Red Sox's Adrian Gonzalez and claim the title. Adding to the drama was the older gentleman who was grooving the perfectly hittable tosses to Cano, former big-league hurler Jose Cano, who doubles as Robinson's father. Twelve home runs later, Robinson Cano was the 2011 State Farm Home Run Derby champion.

Terry Shumpert, a veteran of all or parts of 14 major league seasons from 1990 through 2003, and his son Nicholas Shumpert were at the Metrodome Tuesday and Wednesday for the 2013 Perfect Game Junior National Showcase. Nicholas, a shortstop, is the top-ranked prospect in the state of Colorado -- the Shumpert's call Lone Tree, Colo., home -- in the high school class of 2015 and is ranked No. 14 nationally. The kid can play a little bit.

It was at the Metrodome Wednesday morning where Terry Shumpert shared his dream with PG.

"It might sound simple, but I just love throwing BP to Nick; it's just a real cool thing," Terry said after watching his son play in his final game of the two-day PG Junior National. "One of greatest treats for me came that day when I was watching Robinson Cano's dad throwing batting practice and then the Home Run Derby to Robinson. I just dream on that; one day I'll be throwing Nick batting practice (at an MLB All-Star Game). Hey, you never know."

And, hey, what's wrong with allowing a proud dad to dream? And just how cool would that be, anyway?

Nicholas Shumpert is a 6-foot, 177-pound, 16-year-old junior-to-be at Highlands Ranch (Colo.) High School who was listed at 5-11, 165 when he was at this same event last year. This is his 11th PG event and his second  visit to the PG Junior National as he works his way toward an invitation next year to the 2014 Perfect Game National Showcase.

"It's been a good experience seeing all the good players, and it's fun doing all the workouts and stuff," Nicholas said Wednesday. "It's real fun just seeing what other guys can do and how good they are, and seeing what you need to work on; just being around some other guys that want to do the same thing that you want to do. Last year the guys were really good, and I liked that. It was a good event and got me a lot of scouting and stuff; there were a lot of (college) coaches here, too."

Like son, like father. Terry Shumpert -- 46 years old and 11 years removed from his big-league playing days -- seemed almost as excited as his son about being in the Metrodome the past two days.

"This is always a blast," he said. "I know this sounds cliché, but being a baseball guy I love being around baseball and I love being around really good baseball players. I said it last year too, but these events are great. I couldn't wait for them to start and Nick couldn't wait; I said, 'Nick, you have to play your high school season first, so just relax.' It's just really a lot of fun."

Nicholas and Terry have been having a lot of fun together since Nicholas emerged on the Perfect Game scene at the 2012 PG-East Cobb Invitational in Marietta, Ga., just over a year ago. Nick's rise up the top prospect rankings has been steady and sure ever since as he makes his way toward the 2015 top-10. Playing for Chad Raley and Marucci Elite Baseball has helped in terms of exposure.

"It's better than any other thing that I've done and it's got me a lot of exposure out here," Nicholas said of his PG experiences. "These are the best events that I've ever been to, so it's been great. I've progressed a lot since I've been doing Perfect Game. Last year I was younger and this year I'm getting older and getting stronger, so I think I'm improving and hopefully I can improve some more."

Terry was a primary second baseman during his big-league career and Nicholas feels pretty engrained at shortstop. When he was younger he played just about every position -- including catcher and pitcher -- but playing short is his favorite position and he plans to stay there. He was named the top prospect at the PG Rocky Mountain Showcase in the Denver area earlier this month and a PG scout reported that "as an infielder he showed good fielding actions with good footwork and great arm strength."

Armed with a big-league background that included stops with the Rockies, Royals, Devil Rays, Cubs and Red Sox, Terry Shumpert has been able to work closely with Nicholas as his son climbs the baseball ladder. Terry also helps Raley out with the Marucci Elite 16u team, adding to the time father and son can spend together.

"He played in the major leagues and that's where I want to play someday," Nicholas said of his dad. "He coaches me a lot on hitting and fielding and we work out at home a lot all the time."

Terry tries not to push his son too hard and, in fact, he said he probably pushes the other young Marucci players more than he does Nicholas.

"After the spring and the high school season it's not game reps; you can't beat game reps but I can't simulate a pitcher," Terry said. "We do the same things I did when I was training because that's all I know and that's what I give him. The same things I did with hitting and the same things that I picked up from other people, I just feed it to him."

Terry leaves it to the professional scouts to evaluate his son's talents and abilities, and that includes the Perfect Game scouting staff which sees Nicholas perform as much as anybody. Just the reports Nicholas compiled last summer alone were enough to make Terry's day.

"A lot of (the PG) guys see things that I don't see because I'm with him every day," he said. "Some people mention that he's getting bigger -- and, of course, that's going to come with age -- but I love it because last summer was a big tool for him as far the learning curve."

Nicholas has committed to play college baseball at the University of Kentucky. Both Terry and his wife, DeQuita, are native Kentuckians and Terry was drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the second round of the 1987 MBL amateur draft out of UK.

"I've liked (Kentucky) since I was young and both of my parents grew up there," Nicholas said. "A lot of my family is there, so it's just been a school that we all want to go to."

He is now getting himself ready for a busy summer playing with Marucci Elite --"It's been great and I love all my teammates. We're a real good team with a lot of really good players, so it's been pretty fun," he said -- and plans to play in every big tournament on PG's schedule.

"I'm getting real excited about every event that I have coming up," Nicholas said. "It will be a very fun summer, but very busy. I only get to home (Thursday) for about four days and then I have to head off to another event. So, yeah, it's going to be very busy.

"I just want to just keep progressing over the years and hopefully someday make it to the major leagues and be a major league baseball player."

Now that would be a dream come true for one proud father.

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