Martin changes career plans

Shane Martin remembers the day everything changed in his career. It was a day at Southwestern Oklahoma State Uni-versity when he wondered if he even wanted to play baseball anymore.

It was that bad.

“Like nine earned (runs) in two innings,” Martin said. “It was bad.”

Martin learned something very important that day, though, which put him on the path to being a ninth-round draft pick by the Philadelphia Phillies earlier this month. He transformed himself from a pitcher with back-to-back six-plus ERA seasons, to a pitcher who led Division II in wins during the regular season this spring.

The Williamsport Crosscutters’ right-hander was all set to go to nursing school following his final year of college, but a phone call on draft weekend changed those plans. Being drafted was a surprise for the 22-year-old Weatherford, Okla., native.

He had seen a Padres scout coming around his games during his junior year and he showed up again during his senior season, but there wasn’t a lot more attention from pro scouts while in college. Phillies director of player development Joe Jordan came by a couple games, but that was because his daughter was dating one of the catchers on the SWOSU baseball team.

When a Phillies regional scout did show up for one of Martin’s starts, he stayed for only about three innings, which he figured wasn’t a good sign. The Phillies, though, made Martin the 271st selection in the First-Year Player Draft earlier this month. He was the 10th player selected out of Oklahoma in the draft.

“Some guys have had this planned their whole lives, but me, I had other plans and got a phone call,” Martin said Saturday afternoon. “Just because of where I played – not necessarily because of my skills – it’s a tough place to get picked up. It’s kind of a remote location. I was surprised to get drafted, for sure.”

Martin makes his third start for the Crosscutters today in the series finale against Mahoning Valley at Bowman Field. He’s still looking for his first win after throwing just three and four innings in his first two starts.

But the short outings haven’t been from a lack of effectiveness. Martin allowed just one unearned run on three hits in four innings in his Bowman Field debut against Batavia last week. He’s on a strict pitch count after throwing 104 1/3 innings in 14 starts during his college season. He threw 57 pitches in that start against Batavia.

Martin came to the Phillies after his best of four seasons at SWOSU. He was 11-2 with a 2.85 ERA. He averaged better than seven innings an outing for the Bulldogs, but it was just what he wanted.

Martin wanted to be the horse in the starting rotation. He allowed just one home run in those 104 innings and was a unanimous first-team all-Great American Conference selection.

His senior season was the culmination of the lessons he learned that day as a sophomore when he was roughed up and began contemplating his future. He quit trying to strike out every batter he faced and began to believe he could trust his stuff and that players wouldn’t hit it even if it was in the strike zone.

He became a pitcher instead of a thrower that day. He’s carried that need for efficiency in his pitching to the professional level. And now that his pitch count has been limited, learning how to be efficient is going to be critical to getting more innings.

“One hundred is a lot of innings because my season ended May 2. I was out there for seven or eight innings every time I walked out,” Martin said. “I think that comes back to the turning point in my baseball career, learning that I have to be efficient regardless. My goal in college was efficiency. So I want to stay that way. And you can always improve. A six-pitch inning is better than an 11-pitch inning.”

Martin recognizes now he wasn’t ready for an opportunity at pro baseball coming out of high school. He was the same thrower he was in the first two seasons of his collegiate career when he relied on a big-time fastball and explosive breaking stuff.

He was able to use his four years of college to mature mentally more than physically. He used to be a pitcher who wore his emotions on his sleeve while pitching. In four years he learned the need to be calm in his demeanor.

“I thought I deserved a shot (after high school), but I think four years of college really prepared me,” Martin said. “I had always heard that I had the stuff, but mentally I was nowhere near being ready. My location was not very good. It just took me longer to develop than most.”