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SAL notes: Shewmake shining in pro debut

Braves first-rounder makes big impact in heart of Rome lineup
Braden Shewmake is batting .325/.396/.481 with three homers, 39 RBIs and 11 stolen bases in his first 50 games. (Mills Fitzner/Rome Braves)
August 16, 2019

If drivers shifted gears like newly drafted baseball players have to shift gears in June, most cars would be in the shop getting their transmissions rebuilt.Braden Shewmake is a perfect example. On Sunday, June 2, the shortstop was battling with his Texas A&M teammates in the Morgantown Regional. The Aggies

If drivers shifted gears like newly drafted baseball players have to shift gears in June, most cars would be in the shop getting their transmissions rebuilt.
Braden Shewmake is a perfect example. On Sunday, June 2, the shortstop was battling with his Texas A&M teammates in the Morgantown Regional. The Aggies came from behind to defeat host West Virginia, 11-10, before losing to Duke that evening to end their season. The following day, after flying back to College Station, Shewmake was the 21st overall selection in the MLB Draft, nabbed by the Atlanta Braves.

"It was a whirlwind," Shewmake said. "My family flew back to Dallas and drove up. Then it was an unbelievable feeling when I got the call from my agent and the [Atlanta] front office; it's hard to explain. To pursue a dream and to finally have it come true is something that I really take pride in, and I feel very fortunate to have this opportunity."
By June 20, Shewmake was signed and sealed to a $3.13 million bonus and sent to Class A Rome, where he made his professional debut in the first game of the South Atlantic League's second half. The 21-year-old was joined by catcher Shea Langeliers, who was the ninth overall selection, taken out of Baylor. With a pair of first-round picks added to the roster, the Braves believed their chances for a playoff run had increased significantly.
"I feel great and it's been a lot of fun," Shewmake said. "My coaching staff has been awesome. Everybody has really welcomed me to the organization. It was nice to have Shea come in with me. We've known each other for quite a while, so neither one of us had to tackle the whole 'new guy' thing by ourselves. It's been everything I could dream of. It's a lot of fun to come to the yard every day."
Rome resided in fourth place but only three games out of first, through Aug. 14. Shewmake has made an immediate contribution, hitting .325/.396/.481 from the three spot in the order through his first 50 outings. In addition to playing solid defense at shortstop, he has contributed 18 doubles, two triples, three home runs, 39 RBIs and 11 stolen bases during his initial taste of pro ball.

"At this level, it's like facing everybody's Friday or Saturday guy [in college]," said Shewmake, who hit .442/.455/.628 in his first 10 professional games and was batting .348/.444/.587 with 18 RBIs in his first 13 contests of August. "Everyone is very talented and has the stuff to keep progressing. It's a lot of fun to play with and against guys who have such high talent levels every time you take the field."
Shewmake was a three-year starter at Texas A&M and emerged as a top prospect while playing in the Southeastern Conference. The infielder was tabbed the SEC Freshman of the Year while helping the Aggies advance to the College World Series in 2017, providing 11 home runs and 69 RBIs while hitting .328. Although his power declined to a combined 11 homers over the next two years, he continued to be consistent in the field and at the plate, resulting in batting averages of .327 and .313 as a sophomore and junior, respectively.

"Being able to balance school while playing in the best conference in the country is definitely tough," Shewmake said. "You get drained every weekend because you have to empty it out every single game. To be able to compete in the SEC, that teaches you a lot of mental toughness, especially pushing through the entire season. It's really been beneficial coming into pro ball, because I learned what it's like to empty it out every game and turn around and play again the next day."
The 6-foot-4, 190-pound Shewmake attributes his all-around athletic ability to playing multiple sports while growing up in Texas. In addition to baseball, he played soccer, basketball and football. He also ran track and competed in the high jump. In fact, it was not until midway through his time at Wylie East High School that he began to focus his pursuits on the diamond.
"I always loved baseball, and every kid's dream is to be a professional baseball player," said Shewmake, who had eight hits and seven RBIs in his previous 16 at-bats entering Rome's game on Aug. 15. "That's always been the game that I loved. But every other sport was fun as well. It wasn't until I got to high school that I started to narrow my focuses. I still played basketball and football, but I knew baseball is what I wanted to do."

In brief

Road warrior: Hagerstown hurler Reid Schaller has allowed one run and six hits while recording 16 strikeouts over his last 15 innings on the road. The Vanderbilt product fanned eight at Lexington on Aug. 8 en route to his second victory of the season. Schaller fanned six and allowed one earned run at Municipal Stadium on Aug. 14 but took the loss against Lakewood to fall to 2-3 with a 3.92 ERA in nine starts.
West Virginia savior: Power closer Dayeison Arias has accumulated seven consecutive hitless innings with 11 strikeouts, beginning with his two frames at Hickory on July 25. The right-hander, who ranks third in the SAL as well as in the Seattle farm system with 13 saves, has allowed an earned run in only six of his 38 outings. He has notched the team's last six saves, and the Power have won the last nine contests in which he has pitched.
Firefly heating up: Hayden Senger has experienced the biggest turnaround on the Columbia club during the second half of the season. After hitting .185/.294/.269 in 40 games during the campaign's first two-and-half months, the Miami of Ohio product has batted .296/.378/.452 in 39 appearances since the All-Star break. Senger has increased his season batting average to .242 and his OPS to .699.

Bill Ballew is a contributor to