By David Saltzer, AngelsWin.com Senior Writer
One way to measure a man’s character is to watch his response to adversity. If that’s true, then Matt Shoemaker has a character longer than Moby Dick.
Undrafted as a Junior in college, Shoemaker steeled himself to go back and play one more year as a senior. He continued to take classes and prepared himself for one more chance to get drafted as a senior.
Fate, however, and the Angels intervened. Late in the summer of 2008, the Angels made him an offer and signed him as an undrafted free agent. He took the chance, and signed with the team. He only pitched 4.0 innings that summer, but, he began the long process of proving himself, all as someone who came to the organization as an undrafted player.
In 2009 and 2010, Shoemaker made solid, but not remarkable progress. His development always seemed to fly under the radar, and AngelsWin.com did not rank him as a Top-50 prospect for either year. The stigma of being an undrafted free agent made it that much harder for Shoemaker to stand out from the rest of the crowd.
Due to organizational injuries, Shoemaker began the 2011 season in Triple-A Salt Lake. His first few outings were rough. In 4 games, he posted an 0-2 record and an 8.14 ERA. That was definitely not how Shoemaker, an undrafted free agent, wanted to start the year.
When Joel Pineiro came back to the Angels off of the DL, it sent a ripple throughout the organization. Palmer was sent to Triple-A and Shoemaker was sent to Double-A Arkansas.
And then, something happened.
When Shoemaker started in Double-A, something clicked with him—he began to pitch like he had never pitched before. On June 20th, 2011, Shoemaker was named the Pitcher of the Week for the Texas League. By mid-July, he was cruising, having won 8 games in a row. He was named to the Texas League All-Star Team. By the end of the year, he was named Pitcher of the League 3 times (June 20th, July 11th, and July 25th) and was in the playoffs. He finished the season with a 12-5 record in the Texas League and a 2.48 ERA for the league as well. He led the league in ERA and strikeouts, and fell just one win short of winning the Texas League Triple Crown for pitching.
After his remarkable season came to a close, Shoemaker finally got some well deserved praise—he was invited to play on the U.S. National Team representing our country in the World Cup and Pan American Games. He was the only Angels player to receive the invitation onto the 24-man squad—a very high honor.
For now, though, Shoemaker is still part of the Travelers, and they are still competing to win the Texas League championship. Shoemaker started Game 1 of the Championship series and pitched a gem of a game, only to see the bullpen give up the lead. In Game 2, the Travelers and San Antonio Missions (San Diego Padres) set the record for the longest playoff game in Texas League history, playing 20 innings in a game that lasted over 6 hours. Unfortunately, the Travelers lost that game as well, and now are playing at home in a must-win game.
AngelsWin.com spoke with Shoemaker about his tremendous season, his invitation to the U.S. National Team, and the playoff games so far. Click below to listen to our interview with him.
For fans interested in listening to the Travelers take on the San Antonio Missions, they can catch all the action by clicking here.
AngelsWin.com is proud to have Shoemaker represent America on the National Team. We have high hopes that the success that he had this year will translate into success on the world stage.