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February 12, 2013

Former Blue Devil ready for new start with Giants

VALDOSTA — Scott Shuman remembers the moment well.

The former Tift County Blue Devil, who helped the Devils go to the 2006 state quarterfinals, was excited about the possibility of facing someone he looked up to when he was younger. Then, in the eighth inning, he finally got his shot.

Shuman, a 6-foot-3 right-hander, entered the game in the eighth inning for the Montgomery Biscuits, the Class AA affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays, and the first batter he faced was none other than Hahira native Stephen Drew, his onetime role model.

Here is how the at-bat went in Shuman's eyes.

"I got him to a 2-2 count and I threw him a slider on the inside of the plate," he said. "In my eyes, it was a strike, but it was called a ball. I ended up walking him on the next pitch. But in my eyes, I struck him out."

Shuman has struck out a lot of people in his minor league career, since being selected in the 19th round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft out of Auburn University. He has also walked a high number of batters, too.

While striking out 54 batters in 34.2 innings pitched last year in Montgomery, Shuman also walked 47 batters, a number far too high for a player who hopes to move up through an organization and eventually get to the Major Leagues.

"Honestly, I'd probably say I am two less balls away from the majors," Shuman said. "I haven't really been too crazy wild, but last year I was really inconsistent. Towards the end of (last) year, I was only pitching once a week because my arm was getting worn, and it's hard to find a rhythm when you're not pitching a lot."

Feeling like he isn't far from reaching his lifelong goal of playing in the Major Leagues, Shuman said he has been working on reducing wasteful movement in his delivery, something he believes will help him this year as he moves forward in a new organization.

"Last year I had a long delivery. It took a long time to repeat," Shuman said. "This year, I've shortened up and I have more of an athletic delivery. I am going to rely on my athletic ability."

Shuman will start the 2013 season in a new organization. During the offseason he was picked up by the San Francisco Giants in the Rule 5 Draft. He spent the previous four seasons with the Rays' organization.

"After you're drafted and spend four years in an organization, you're eligible for what is called the Rule 5 Draft (if you're not on a Major League team's 40-man roster). Basically, any team can get you and just pay some money for you," Shuman said.

Moving from an organization in the southeast to a World Serieswinning organization out west is something that has Shuman excited about his future, and the possibility of playing in the majors.

"I'm excited because it is a new start," he said. "With them being on the west coast, and I've been with the Rays for four years, this will be my first opportunity to go experience the west. It is exciting to just meet new guys and have a new scene."

Shuman's new scene will likely come with the Class AA Richmond Flying Squirrels or the Fresno Grizzlies, the Giants' Class AAA affiliate.

His destination will be determined by how he performs during Spring Training in Arizona, which begins, for him, March 1.

In the end, though, Shuman wants to end up in the Major Leagues, pitching for the Giants, who have won two of the last three World Series championships.

"In my mind, I want to end up in San Francisco at the end of the season," Shuman said. "I want to cut my walks down in half from last year. I think if I do that, there is no reason for not being up with the Giants."

If he can make the Giants' roster, he will be throwing to the reigning National League Most Valuable Player, Leesburg native Buster Posey.

"I think throwing to a Major League catcher, in general, would be exciting," Shuman said. "But I've played against Buster my whole life. It would be cool. Two South Georgia boys playing pitch and catch in the Major Leagues. I think it is ironic, though. I played against him in high school, pitched against him at Florida State when I was at Auburn. Then to pitch to him in the majors would be pretty cool."

Shuman spent three seasons at Valdosta High School before transferring to Tift County for his senior season. After high school, he was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 23rd round, but chose to enroll at Auburn. He spent three seasons at Auburn before he was drafted by the Rays.

"To get the call, being with my family, I can't even explain it," Shuman said. "It really is an exciting moment and then you know it is a fresh start. You don't really know what is going to happen."

What happened was Shuman was sent to the Princeton Rays, Tampa Bay's Rookie League affiliate. He appeared in 10 games, pitching 22 innings, recording three saves and allowing just two earned runs.

In 2010, as a member of the Class A Bowling Green Hot Rods, Shuman recorded a team-high 14 saves and averaged 13.87 strikeouts per nine innings of work in the Midwest League, the highest of any pitcher in the league that year. He finished the year with a 3.01 ERA.

"You try to have a short memory, but after finishing the season up, I really just sat back and realized that I was on the right track and thought I might have a shot at making it to the show," Shuman said.

In 2011, Shuman worked his way onto the roster of the Charlotte Stone Crabs, the Advanced Class A affiliate of the Rays. Despite finishing the year with an 0-4 record, Shuman appeared in 42 games, pitched 51.2 innings and struck out 86 batters.

A year later, Shuman was in AA, pitching for Montgomery in the Southern League, where he struggled with his walks to strikeouts ratio.

He finished the year with an 8.83 ERA after allowing 34 earned runs in 34.2 innings pitched. He struck out 54 batters and walked a career-high 47.

Playing just a state over, Shuman said he was able to play in front of his parents and family on most weekends, when his dad, Bart, wasn't busy coaching the Valdosta High varsity baseball team.

"There is not a day during baseball season that I don't call and talk and tell (my dad) what happened and tell him how I'm feeling," Shuman said. "Every weekend he wasn't with Valdosta, he was in Montgomery watching me."

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