Allen American > Sports
Tolleson’s relentless drive sends him to Cape Cod
By Richard C. White, Staff Writer
Baylor redshirt freshman Shawn Tolleson approaches baseball with a practical, measured approach that never lets his emotions get too high or two low whenever he is in uniform.
This approach has worked wonders for the 2006 Allen graduate and current Bears standout, who recently became the first freshman to win the team’s Ted Lyons Award, which goes to the Most Valuable Pitcher.
Tolleson’s calculated approach also earned the right-handed pitcher a spot with the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox of the prestigious Cape Cod Baseball League this summer.
Out of 40,000 college baseball players, only 260 are invited to play in the CCBL, which is in its 114th season and has long been recognized as the gold standard for summer baseball.
“I feel really honored to play for the Red Sox,” Tolleson said. “I’m going to take every opportunity I can to learn about the game of baseball. I’m going to go out there and compete against myself and show the scouts that I can pitch.”
The Red Sox won the CCBL championship last summer for the second straight season. It also marked the team’s third title in four years.
Tolleson’s Baylor teammate and fellow pitcher Craig Fritsch, another redshirt freshman, is also heading up north to play for the Red Sox. Fritsch credits Tolleson’s insatiable appetite for self-improvement as his greatest strength.
“He expects a lot out of himself as he tries to get to the highest level that he can get to,” Fritsch said. “If he keeps plugging away like he has been then there’s nothing that will get in his way.”
A little more than two years ago this appeared an unlikely picture for Tolleson, who had to undergo Tommy John surgery after injuring his elbow in February 2006 in the first game of his senior year at Allen.
Tolleson had helped the Eagles get to the regional quarterfinals as a sophomore and regional semifinals as a junior. But the season-ending injury, which occurred in the third inning, came without warning.
“Everything was fine,” Tolleson said. “But then on this one pitch I threw I felt a pop.”
After redshirting his first season at Baylor, Tolleson made up for lost time with a vengeance.
This past season Tolleson became the 10th freshman in Baylor history to log at least six wins, which tied him for the team lead. He also led the Bears with two complete games and two shutouts. Tolleson threw a team-high 78.1 innings in 14 starts. But none of that will come as a surprise to Allen fans as Tolleson was one of just three sophomores, and the only pitcher, on the 2004 Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association all-state team and part of the USA Baseball Junior National Team in 2004 and 2005.
In spite of a successful season back from surgery, Tolleson is far from satisfied with his performance this year.
“It was good to get back out there, but I think I could have done a lot better,” he said. “If you ever get too satisfied as a baseball player then there’s not any room for improvement.”
Busy rehabbing and recovering from surgery, Tolleson was unable to join a summer league baseball team in 2007.
Even with his recent most valuable pitcher award, Tolleson says he is fortunate to not only play in the CCBL, but to be selected by the league’s premier team.
“I feel lucky to go, especially since I didn’t play at all last summer season,” he said.
Whether it was luck or his voracious desire to always fine tune his skills, Tolleson will join elite company this summer as the CCBL has been a stepping stone to the majors.
In 2007, there were 212 former CCBL players active in Major League Baseball. This list of all-stars and MVPs includes: Lance Berkman, Ryan Braun, Nomar Garciaparra, Todd Helton, Mark Teixeira and Chase Utley. Retired ballplayer and future Hall-of-Famer Craig Biggio also played in the CCBL.
With the trip up north also comes a much higher level of talent as the best college baseball players in the country are divided amongst 10 teams and pitted against one another in front of major league scouts.
Tolleson’s always calm approach leads him to believe that this summer will be no different than any other time he’s played baseball as he’s focusing more on the camaraderie with his new teammates than on the fierce competition ahead.
“I think I’ll be fine since all baseball players are the same,” he said. “Once you get thrown into the mix you make friends fast.”
Tolleson knows there’s much more to Cape Cod than the summer league though. One of the things he’s looking forward to is an escape from the infamous Texas summer heat as he embarks on another baseball journey to prove to himself how good he can be.
“It’s a lot cooler up there so I’ll be packing some light jackets and other stuff,” Tolleson said. “It will be nicer than the 100 degrees weather we have down here. I’m looking forward to experiencing Cape Cod for several months.”