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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Shane Loux: A Pitcher's Determined Journey Back to the Majors

For every major league star who annually makes tens of millions of dollars and are known by fans on a first name basis, there are countless others fighting to just get promoted from the minors. Some will eventually make it, with varying degrees of success, but most never realize their goal of being on a big league roster. Shane Loux is one player who can say that he made it. In fact, the right-handed pitcher has been on a major league roster in four of his thirteen professional seasons. However, each stay in the big leagues has been short, and August 23, 2009 was his last appearance in a major league game. He has been trying to get back ever since.

Loux was drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the second round of the 1997 MLB Draft out of Highland High School in Gilbert, Arizona. He progressed steadily through the minors, performing better as he advanced each level. He won 12 games in 2000, 10 in 2001, and 11 in 2002; those last two seasons coming at Triple-A. His consistency earned him an end-of-year promotion to Detroit in 2002, where he lost all three of his starts, not giving him enough momentum for a permanent roster spot

Since his major league debut, Loux has teetered on the fine line between the high minors and being a big leaguer. In addition to 2002, he played in the majors in 2003 for Detroit and 2008-2009 with the Los Angeles Angels. He is 3-7 record in 39 games (including 13 starts) during those stints, accumulating a 6.14 ERA and 156 hits allowed in 118.2 innings.

Loux also has 97 minor league wins during his career, and wrapped up the 2011 season pitching for the San Francisco Giants’ Triple-A team in Fresno. Showing that he is still a useful pitcher, Loux went 8-12 with a 4.67 ERA in 28 starts, but did not earn a promotion at the end of the year.

About to enter his 14th professional season in 2012, Loux is not yet ready to call it quits. While he is past the age where he can re-establish himself as a prospect, he still has the time and ability to make his mark in the major leagues in some capacity. He now strives to prove that he belongs instead of trying to establish himself as a star.

Loux has seen enough baseball by now to know that his experience in the game can’t be taken for granted, and he is determined to get as much out of it as possible before he stops playing. He will be pitching in the San Francisco organization again in 2012 and looking to get the call. Stories like these truly put the human element of baseball on display and make it so compelling to fans.

During this past off-season I had the opportunity to interview Loux and find out more about why he keeps fighting to get back to the major leagues. You can also follow him daily on Twitter and interact with this determined player.

Shane Loux Interview:

How did you first become interested in baseball?: I played baseball ever since I can remember. I don’t remember NOT playing.  My mother has a picture of me at 18 months old with a ball and bat.

What was the process like getting drafted by the Tigers in 1997?: I remember teams coming out to the house every week up until the draft to "interview" me and ask me questions about what I was looking for in becoming a pro. On draft day, I got a call about an hour into it to let me know I had been selected by the Tigers, a team who had shown zero interest up to that point. I had a draft party with some family and friends over that night to talk about what becoming a pro would entail. I decided against holding out, to get my career started as soon as I could.  The entire process took a little over two weeks, and I was off to Florida.

What do you remember most about your major league debut?: I remember not being able to find my 16 friends and family in the seats the most. I wasn’t nervous until my pitcher’s meeting right before the game, and we discussed what NOT to do when I was out there. I remember looking at the radar gun above home plate after my first pitch and thinking, ‘that’s not hard enough to miss down the middle.’

What is your favorite moment from your playing career?: My favorite minor league moment was the standing ovation I got after pitching a 10 inning shutout in Toledo versus Scranton in 2003. I finally felt like I did something other guys don’t do.

My favorite major league moment was probably when we celebrated the Division Championship in Anaheim in 2008.  After always seeing those celebrations on TV, I was able to be a part of one.

Who has been your favorite coach or manager?: I would have to say Jeff Jones and Pat Rice have been my favorite coaches over my 15 years.  They both took an interest in me away from the field and made coming to work every day easier.  I feel like I am a better pitcher and person for having played on their teams.

Who was the toughest hitter that you ever faced?: Josh Hamilton has my number. I might be more famous for giving up one of the longest home runs in Texas Ranger history than I am for my own career.  He is one of the few guys I have faced that I can’t see a hole in his swing. I know it’s there, but I can’t seem to find it. I also think John Olerud went 4 for 4 with 2 HR and 2 2B in one game in Seattle. That sticks in my head for some reason.

How many adjustments have you been asked to make over your career (throw different pitches, arm slots, etc.)?: I can’t even begin to count. Every time you give up more than one run in a game, it seems like someone wants you to make a change in some way. It might be mechanical; it might be mental. I’m not kidding, almost every start I have made in my career, I have been asked to consider a change.  In spring training the suggestions are a little bigger, like new pitch or arm slot, but it’s always something.  Those are some of the main reasons I like the two coaches so well. They just let me pitch and only made comments when absolutely necessary.

How badly do you want to play in the major leagues again before you retire?: To prove to myself that I am one of the top 350 or so pitchers in the world is a feeling I crave. I’ve felt it before and now I am training harder, eating better, and am more committed than ever to get back.

If you could do anything differently about your career, what would that be?: I wish I would have worked harder when I got my first shot in 2002. I almost felt that I deserved it. I was a second round pick and had success in the minor leagues. I felt owed, so I didn’t put in the work that I now know it takes. When I had to sit out 2007, I realized that I wasn’t that special and I needed to take a look in the mirror if I wanted to keep playing.

What do you think you will do once you decide to stop playing?: I want to stay in baseball, and I think I have a talent of relaying information. I would like that to be at the college level, but without a degree, I know that’s not possible. I would love to try to work my way up the ranks in pro coaching after I spend a few summers with my family.


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