Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

College Sports

April 18, 2014

Seeking a chance: Shepherd chases his dream

BLUEFIELD — Jay Shepherd is chasing his dream. Shepherd, a 2011 graduate of Bluefield State College is currently in Texas, having just completed play in the Texas Winter League, looking to make a team that will help him land a professional baseball contract.

Shepherd in 17 games this winter tied for the TWL lead with two homers and knocked in 11 runs. Those statistics coming after the Montana native did not play baseball for two years as he attended graduate school at North Carolina A&T University in Greensboro.

“Last summer I came down and played in the summer league,” Shepherd said. “I had some OK games but I hadn’t played in a while, especially every day. I was in good shape but my timing was off. It took me a little while to get my timing going. I ended up not making a team from that.”

The spot action last summer came with a team coached by a former major league player.

“Ozzie Canseco, Jose’s brother, managed the Edinburg River Runners and they put me in a game,” Shepherd recalled. “They put me in a game, I started at third base and went 2-for-4. It was one of the best experiences in my life, playing in that game. It was so much fun.”

This winter he went back to the Lone Star State, made the McAllen Thunder and played in 17 of the team’s 18 contests.

“I started off real good,” Shepherd said. “My first game I hit a home run and then I went into a slump. The coaches were working with me and I was trying to apply the things that they were teaching me and it took me a while to get my timing back. I didn’t get a hit in my next 18 at-bats. After that I started doing better.

“Average wise I didn’t do very well but I ended up hitting another home run and I tied for the league lead in home runs.”

Good news and bad news then confronted Shepherd. The good news was he was placed on a summer league team. The bad news was the expansion team folded. At present J.C., as he is known by friends and teammates, is keeping his options, eyes and ears open.

“I am keeping myself in shape. I’m kind of in an interesting situation,” Shepherd said. “I’m trying to contact a few teams to see if I can get a spring training invite.”

Shepherd first came to Bluefield as a 19-year old, but it was not to play baseball.

“The first time I came to West Virginia was when I got called to the Charleston Mission of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I was there for about two years in that area,” Shepherd said.

Serving as a missionary living in Princeton he met BSC baseball coach Geoff Hunter near the end of his two-year mission.

“We stayed in contact and when I went home from my mission I went to a community college in Oregon. I had a buddy who wanted to play baseball after he was done with junior college,” Shepherd related. “I said, ‘Hey, I know Coach Hunter, you could probably play for him.’ So he went to Bluefield State and then it just so happened that my situation ended up being where I also called Coach Hunter and said, ‘Hey, you got room for one more guy? He said ‘Yes’ and I drove straight from Oregon to West Virginia. That’s how I got back to West Virginia to play for Bluefield State.”

An outfielder for the Big Blues, Shepherd got off to a great start going 11-for-18 in an eight-game season, cut short due to injury for which he received a medical redshirt. He went on to play two more seasons for BSC, wrapping up in 2011.

Shepherd began playing baseball at a young age and there was one baseball player who caught his attention and he has admired for many years.

“I started playing when I was about 3 years old. As soon as I could stand up my parents were putting balls on a bottle for me and I would hit them off there like a tee. Ever since then I’ve been playing,” Shepherd said.

“I studied the life of Roberto Clemente quite a bit. He always played hard and hustled and was a good person on and off the field. I guess I always tried to be like him even though I wasn’t alive when he was alive.”

Off the field Shepherd is devout in his religious beliefs. A member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormons, Shepherd credits his beliefs with his being able to play baseball at his age.

“My faith has always come first and that’s why I went on a mission, to serve the Lord. It was a good opportunity and what took me to West Virginia and where I was able to play for Coach Hunter. It has allowed me to follow what I felt was right, helped me to continue and keep my body strong,” Shepherd commented. “We (Mormons) have the Word of Wisdom, which is a code of health to keep us strong. We don’t drink alcohol, smoke tobacco, or use drugs and are taught to keep our bodies well and eat nutritious things. I’ve always tried to do that. I am 28 years old and not a lot of 28 year olds ca have the physical ability, especially where I took two years off, to play in competitive sports. I think that (faith) has helped me for sure.”

Shepherd earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Bluefield State and a master’s in industrial systems engineering from North Carolina A&T. He hopes to some day work in the engineering field, but now he is hoping that he can make his way in baseball. He does, however, have an idea of what he would like to do when he hangs up his spikes as a player.

“I think I’ll get some real world experience and may end up trying to get into coaching at some point at the college level. If I an find the time to do it, I would definitely like to, or at the high school level. I love to throw batting practice,” Shepherd said.

“I’ve applied for an assistant professorship at Bluefield State in the mechanical engineering department. I’m not sure if I’ll get that job, but if I were to get it, I would definitely be helping coach at Bluefield State.”

— Contact Bob Redd at bredd@bdtonline.com and Twitter @bdtredd.

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