Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Brett Shimanovsky…and the Two-Minute Drill

Sometimes it just takes a look back.

This time I looked back and discovered the son of a college friend, Suzy Lilienthal Shimanovsky, is a pitcher in his second season for the St. Louis University (SLU) Bilikens.

Brett is not just any pitcher.

Brett's Bilikens team photo
He made varsity in his sophomore year at Highland Park High School and finished with these stats: 5-1 with 2 saves, 52 strikeouts, and a 3.38 ERA. Not bad for a sophomore.

As a junior, this lefty helped his team win a sectional title and gave up only one run on two hits in a super sectional loss, retiring 11 straight at one point during the game.

In his senior year, he was ranked No. 21 in the Illinois Class of 2013 by Prep Baseball Report. He finished this season with 53 strikeouts.

In Brett’s first season with the Bilikens, he had 2 saves, struck out 27, and had a 3.38 ERA in 24 innings pitched. He only allowed more than one earned run in one inning.

It doesn’t stop there. Last summer Brett pitched for the Kenosha Kingfish in the Northwoods League compiling a 3-1 record, with 3 saves, and struck out 24 with a 2.84 ERA in 25.1 innings of work.

At 6-1, 190 lbs., he throws a fastball, slider, and curve and is working on a change-up. And he throws in the upper 80s.

The Bilikens are starting off the season in Florida in a few tournaments and currently have a 1-3 record.

I sat down recently with Brett and he shared his story.

PJ: How did your baseball career start?

Brett: I started playing when I was four and it took off the summer of my freshman year. My high school coach asked a number of us to come out every day at 5am for 1 ½-2 hours to workout. It wasn’t mandatory, but that’s when the work ethic set in. If I wanted to play baseball after high school I had to do this.

PJ: In a video after your sectional win in your junior year of high school, you were interviewed and I noticed you had writing under the bill of your cap. What was it and is this something you continue to do?

Brett: I have a different quote for each hat. It started my junior year of high school and it brings me good luck. I just try to find something inspirational. If I’m in a pickle on the mound, I take off my hat and look at it and it keeps me in the zone, keeps me from falling apart.

My friend, Max, who I played baseball with at the time, had a relative that passed away and he put that name on his hat. I thought it was cool to put something meaningful in your hat to look at if you were ever in trouble.

I’ve used quotes from Mohammed Ali. I think the quote from that sectional game was from Aristotle: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

This year a quote I am using is from Marshawn Lynch. It seemed like a joke, but meant something to me: “I know I’m gonna get got, but I’m gonna get mine more than I get got.” It means I’m going to fall but I will get on my feet more than I fall.

PJ: You wear Number 31 on your jersey is there any significance to this?

Brett: Originally I liked 34, however when I moved up to varsity, our stud catcher had that number. So, I settled for 31, which was the closest number. I had a phenomenal season, so I became superstitious and stayed with it.

PJ: What was it like last summer having former professional baseball player and catcher, Duffy Dyer, as your coach?

Brett: It helped with pitching, however we also had a pitching coach who gave us a lot of information, for example on how catchers line up for pitches. It really improved my game. It was really cool for all of us when he [Coach Dyer] would bring his World Series ring and show it off. And he would talk to us about being in the majors. However, it was the pitching coach who really helped with my mechanics.

PJ: What was it like playing in Kenosha?
Brett pitching for the Kingfish

Brett: I loved it. In fact, I am going back to the same team this summer. It was a great experience. We would go out to eat as a team. I met a lot of great guys. I’ll be playing against some of them this year for SLU.

It was a real bummer that we just missed the playoffs [by ½ game]. It would’ve been cool to go in our inaugural season. Hopefully, we’ll be there next year and win it all.

PJ: You put up some good numbers last summer. How do you think playing in the league helped you?

Brett: I believe it’s all about my hard work ethic. When you work hard, you become good. That and the competition in the league helped me a lot.

PJ: You’ve started and come out of the bullpen in the past. Which role do you like better?

Brett: In high school I was a starter. In college, I love relieving and closing in the summer was an experience. My coach here at SLU wants me to close this year. I like that feeling that you’re the last guy. You threw the last pitch that hopefully got your team the win.

PJ: As a lefty how do you think you have an advantage over hitters?

Brett: When I talk to my hitters I ask them for tips. They say when I throw the ball from behind my head it’s deceptive. I throw well against lefties. My job is to come in against the top hitting lefties and throw sliders, three straight. The slider originally looks like a strike and it tails away from the hitter and the strike zone. They swing and miss.

PJ: SLU has won the conference title the last three years and is picked to win it again. What is your goal for this season?

Brett: Personally, I would like to break the appearance record at SLU. I think that would be funny as our pitching coach [Jon Levin] holds that record now. But, my main goal is to help get our team to Omaha [where the College World Series is played].

PJ: Who has been the biggest influence on your baseball career?

Brett: My dad [David Shimanovsky]. Since I started playing, he helped initiate my competitive mentality and did whatever it took to help me get better.

My dad has always been a little intense when it comes to sports, and he always made sure that I was in line and not doing anything stupid. And my mom helped make sure my dad was in line and didn’t do anything stupid.

PJ: One last one...who is your favorite baseball player?

Brett: Mariano Rivera is probably my favorite baseball player. He likes to throw his cutter a lot and I’m the same way with my slider.

PJ: He was also consistent, unhittable and made few errors.

Brett: Haha, yeah. That, too. He’s one of the best.