UMBC's Shugars aiming his big bat for the pros

May 11, 1993|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,Staff Writer

There are still moments when Shawn Shugars wonders what his name was doing with college baseball's elite.

The third baseman was Cal State-Fullerton's Phil Nevin. One of the outfielders was Stanford's Jeffrey Hammonds. NCAA champion Pepperdine, Miami, Louisiana State, Florida State and Oklahoma State also were represented on the All-America team selected by the National Baseball Coaches Association last spring.

The first name on the list, however, was Shugars, UMBC's first baseman.

"I was on there with a bunch of first-round draft picks," Shugars said. "It's pretty unbelievable. My name's first, and it just doesn't fit in."

The surprise wasn't because of UMBC's apparent lack of a national reputation -- insiders knew enough about the Retrievers to give them an at-large bid to the 48-team NCAA tournament last year.

It's that Shugars' background wasn't something that normally would lead to being named the best first baseman from among 274 Division I programs. Three years earlier, Shugars was a 5-foot-7, 135-pound junk-baller and left-handed shortstop for a weak high school team in southern Maryland.

His father had to push him to try out for the Crown All-Star Game, and even after making the cut, he wasn't noticed by UMBC coach John Jancuska. Shugars walked on at UMBC in September 1989 and remains a non-scholarship player.

Hammonds is the Orioles right fielder of the future, and Nevin got a huge contract from the Houston Astros. Shugars waited tables at an Annapolis restaurant last summer.

If a pro organization will give him the chance, Shugars is ready to prove himself again.

"I want to start at the bottom again," said Shugars, who last night was named UMBC's Outstanding Male Athlete. "That way already worked once for me."

Shugars was a fine wrestler and golfer for Chopticon High in St. Mary's County, and his skills put him out of place on a losing baseball team. He hadn't discovered the weight room or first base.

At UMBC, he played in six games and was redshirted with an injury in 1990. He had a decent 1991 season, hitting .348. He hit just one home run, but continued to mature physically. Shugars tells those who are turned off by his 5-11, 175-pound frame that he's still growing.

"I'm not fully developed," said Shugars, who was big enough to hit .426 with 10 home runs and 63 RBI last year.

Shugars hit four straight home runs in a doubleheader against VTC Mount St. Mary's on April 13, but he has jumped on top-drawer pitching, too. In the NCAA tournament against Miami last June, he twice doubled off Hurricanes ace Jeff Alkire. In 39 games this spring, he's hitting .385 with 11 home runs and 45 RBI.

He wants to lead UMBC (24-13) back to the NCAA tournament this week, as the Retrievers are seeded second behind host Coastal (S.C.) Carolina in the Big South Conference tournament. Towson State (19-22) is seeded third in the six-team tournament.

SHUGARS' STATS

Season .. BA .. .. HR .. RBI

1990 .. .167 .. .. 0 .. .. 0

1991 .. .348 .. .. 1 .. .. 25

1992 .. .426 .. .. 10 .. ..63

1993 .. .385 .. .. 11 .. ..45

Totals...387 .. .. 22.. ..133

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