by RANDY GREGORY
Shane Street completed an excellent four-year career as a catcher for Spring Arbor University (MI) just a few short months ago. Despite battling a hip issue over the winter, he continued to amass better and better statistics year after year and concluded with his best season in 2013.
But no professional offers came forward immediately following the season and he couldn’t be blamed for possibly thinking it was time to prepare to enter the business world and capitalize on his degree from this fine institution of higher learning. But fate had a different plan for Street and he attended a two-day baseball showcase in Florida at the recommendation of Mark Stephens (former minor league pitcher and Rockford resident). While he was there, Street caught the attention of Nick Belmonte (professional scout), who was impressed with his catching acumen and let him know he would pass the word on if anything were to become available. Lo and behold the phone rang a few days later. It was a call from the Southern Illinois Miners of the Frontier League and they were looking for another catcher. And on June 30th it became official and Street signed his first professional contract.
“To be able to be paid while playing baseball is a dream come true for me,” said Street. “I am so grateful to Mark Stephens and Nick Belmonte for giving me the opportunity to reach this level. It is definitely a different level of baseball but I have never felt over-matched or out of place at any time.”
The Miners compete in a league that includes teams ranging from Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky. Teams with such colorful names as the Traverse City (MI) Beach Bums, the Florence (KY) Freedom and the Washington (PA) Wild Things are only a few of the colorfully named franchises. The road trips can be monotonous but the players all have one goal in common, to get noticed and signed by one of the major league franchises.
“I am really hoping to open some eyes here,” said Street. “I am the backup catcher right now and have started six or seven games. But the regular catcher has been here for a few years and I am just waiting for my chance to show what I am capable of with more regular playing time. But for now I go to bed every night saying that I have done my best and left nothing to chance with everything I do in practice and in games.”
The Miners are 44-36 on the season and two games out of playoff position as the season winds down to it’s final 20 or so games. They won the league last year and their fervent wish is to repeat that accomplishment this time around. But for now, Street is just enjoying what he thought he may never have a chance of attaining.
“I am so blessed to get this opportunity,” said Street. “My parents (Jon and Deb Street) got to come up and watch me play in Traverse City along with Coach Hearn (Ian, currently Rockford High’s baseball coach and Street’s coach as well). The pitchers throw a little harder with more movement so I have to concentrate even more both offensively and defensively. But in the end it is still baseball and you just have to get your foot down a little quicker and make sure the pitcher and I are on the same page when I am catching. I am just enjoying the moment and will just wait to see what the future brings.”