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Sport Scene Robinson excelsShouse shows preseverance

Fall 2004 • Volume 10, Issue 4

Shouse shows major league perseverance

By Gary Libman

Brian ShouseLate in the 2001 baseball season, a pitching coach told Brian Shouse ’90 to abandon the traditional overhand pitching motion.

“He said, ‘If you ever want to get to the big leagues, you have to do something different,’” Shouse says, “’because when you throw over the top, you’re just the same as any other left-handed pitcher.”
Shouse accepted the advice, having spent almost all of 12 professional seasons in the minor leagues. He began to throw sidearm, swinging his arm across his hip before releasing the ball. “Hitters don’t see a lot of sidearm pitchers,” Shouse says, “and it gives you a gimmick, so to speak.”

Gradually the relief pitcher learned to control his new delivery and succeeded as never before, pitching almost all the 2003 and 2004 seasons for the Texas Rangers. Shouse, 35, who typically appears in the seventh or eighth inning to get out left-handed hitters, credits much of his success to Texas pitching coach Orel Hershiser.

“He finally stuck in the major leagues because he improved his ability to locate the ball,” says Hershiser before a game in Anaheim this season. “He used to tell me ‘When I throw strikes, they
can’t hit me, but I need to throw more strikes.’ The main thing we worked on was getting him to understand his pitching mechanics and to repeat his pitching delivery.”

Shouse says that Hershiser, Texas manager Buck Showalter and bullpen coach Mark Connor also “had confidence in me like I always had. They let me have my successes and my failures. When things are going good, it’s easy to stay in the big leagues. The true test is: will they stick with you if you struggle for three or four games? Other teams, if they couldn’t help me get back on track, I was gone….”

“When I went to the sidearm delivery,” says Shouse, the only Bradley player currently in the major leagues, “I didn’t know enough about it to get myself back on track when I struggled. But Orel did, because he understands the mental and mechanical art of pitching so well. He would say you have to do this, this, and this.” Now that he understands his pitching mechanics and has survived two seasons with the Rangers, Shouse says he feels “a little more confidence with my situation. If the Rangers decided they didn’t want me, I’ve shown people what I have and I can get another job at the big league level.”

The unassuming Shouse, who was released by three teams and granted free agency five times, also spent most of the 1999 season on the disabled list and had two surgeries for bone chips in his elbow. But he reached the Rangers in his 14th pro season and says the long wait was worth it.

“I didn’t want to leave with any regrets or ‘what ifs.’ Plus I love the game so much,” he says grinning in the visitors’ dugout before the game in Anaheim. “I’m like a little kid out there, and that’s what my teammates think I am. It means so much to me that my wife and kids have been very supportive. They saw how much I enjoyed it, and they said, ‘You keep going for as long as you can, because we’ve got your back.’ They’re letting me fulfill my dreams and putting all their stuff on hold.” Shouse’s wife, Trisha Whittaker Shouse ’90, and daughters, Haleigh, 11, and Emmy, 8, live in Texas during the summer, but when the season ends the family returns to life in Peoria.

Shouse originally came to Peoria to attend Bradley and pitched for the Braves from 1987-90. Today he attends Bradley basketball games with his daughters and works out on campus to keep in shape. He hopes to pitch in the major leagues for “at least five more years. If I keep in shape and take care of my body and be smart about things,” he says, “that’s my goal.”

And why not?

“I’m getting paid to play a kid’s game,” he says. “…Not everybody gets to do something like this. I hope to influence those little kids who don’t think they can make it because someone says they are too small, or do not throw hard enough. Your dreams can come true if you work at it,” says the 5‘ 11”, 190-pound pitcher. “I’m not the tallest, not the biggest, and I don’t throw the hardest, but I’m here. I found a way to get people out.”

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