Lefty Shane Dawson impressive in Gulf Coast loop
* LHP Shane Dawson (Drayton Valley, Alta.), Prairie Baseball Academy, thought he might be drafted by an American League team — not the Toronto Blue Jays ….
By Alexis Brudnicki
Shane Dawson was playing summer ball with his Spruce Grove team and planning to head to the West Coast League to play for the Kelowna Falcons.
That all changed with this June’s draft.
On June 6, the southpaw from Drayton Valley, Alta., was taken in the 17th round by the Toronto Blue Jays. He had watched all of Day 2 of the draft online, but when it came time for his name to be called, he wasn’t around to see it.
“I was actually dropping my little sister off at school when I found out that I got drafted,” Dawson said.
Being picked by his home country’s team came as a little bit of a surprise to the left-handed hurler, who thought he might have been headed to another American League East organization.
“I thought it was going to be the Red Sox,” he said. “They called me the day before the draft and asked me a bunch of questions about the draft … I was excited to get drafted. I didn’t really care who started off my career.”
When it happened, Dawson wasn’t sure if he was going to sign with the Blue Jays or if he would continue playing summer ball before heading back to Lethbridge College.
“I didn’t know if I was going to sign or go back to school,” he said. “But the Blue Jays met all my expectations with what they offered.”
The offer that the Toronto club made to the 18-year-old was so good that he had no doubts, packing his things and leaving home immediately. Dawson was drafted on the first Wednesday of June, finishing all of his negotiations with the team that day, flying to Tampa and heading to the Bobby Mattick Complex in Dunedin barely two days later.
He is now playing for the Gulf Coast League Blue Jays, and has been impressive to start his pro career. Dawson has made three appearances out of the bullpen, piggybacking with another starter until he gets his innings up in order to begin starting his own games.
In his pro debut, the lefty threw 1 2/3 innings, allowing three hits, one walk and one run. Though nervous at first, he got all the jitters out in his inaugural appearance in rookie ball.
“I walked my first batter and then picked him off,” Dawson said. “Then I realized that it was like any other game I’ve pitched in.”
In Dawson’s second appearance he threw two perfect innings, striking out four. His most recent outing came on July 12, in which he went three perfect frames, fanning five batters. He has 1.35 ERA in three outings, walking one and striking out nine in 6 2/3 innings.
Though the GCL can be a tough place to play, with day games every day in the Florida heat, and next to no fan support, Dawson seems to have adjusted.
“It’s been really good,” he said. “The pitchers are really good, that’s for sure. The hitters are pretty good…I expected better baseball players than I’ve been used to [at home].”
The biggest changes for the young pitcher have been waking up early, living out of a suitcase and dealing with the harsh temperatures.
“Yeah, [it’s been an adjustment] for sure,” he said. “We live in a hotel and we have to wake up at like six o’clock every day. It’s 100 Fahrenheit every day. It’s been really hard to get used to the weather.”
Another change for Dawson in the GCL has been that he is technically a part of the team’s relief corps. Though it seems that the plan is for him to eventually become a starter, coming out of the bullpen is something foreign to the lefty.
“I’ve always been a starter,” Dawson said. “I’ve never come out of the bullpen before so this is kind of new for me. It’s different. You have to get ready differently.”
With the draft being the highlight of his career so far, Dawson is incredibly grateful to the many people and the program that helped to get him to where he is, Prairie Baseball Academy being among the top of the list.
“They’ve done a lot [at PBA],” he said. “Everybody there helped me with a lot of stuff. The pitching coach helped me become more mature as a pitcher and more fluid with my mechanics. The conditioning coach there helped me with my work ethic a lot and the head coach there just helped me turn into a more mature player and person, and instilled some good morals into me.”
Dawson continues to keep in close contact with Todd Hubka, head coach at PBA, calling him after every appearance that he makes. After his most recent outing, they spoke about his mechanics and maintaining his delivery and arm speed.
“We talk about how I pitched and my demeanour on the mound and all that kind of stuff,” Dawson said. “We talk about the batters; how other pitchers are doing.”
The young southpaw has begun to build a relationship with Dave Williams, his pitching coach in the GCL, whom he believes has helped him make the adjustments that have already helped his game.
“He’s really good,” Dawson said of Williams. “He cleaned up my mechanics a lot already and just made my pitching better with a couple tips. [I am] just staying on my backside longer and it makes me more accurate and makes my mechanics more fluid.”
Dawson will look to continue his success in rookie ball, helping his own cause and also trying to live up to the standard set in his family’s baseball heritage. The teenaged pitcher is a relative of Larry Walker, though the two have never met.
Walker is Dawson’s aunt’s husband’s cousin, and though he doesn’t really think of it often, nor does the fact actually alter his game in any way, it’s a fun fact.
“It is cool to tell some people,” he said.