By John Edwards
On July 19, the Sheffield-Sheffield Lake Youth Baseball Association’s (SSLYBA) Major League (ages 9-12) champions, the Sheffield Lake Cardinals won the season-ending tournament at Avon Lake’s Bleser Park – for the first time in the eight years SSLYBA teams have competed in Avon Lake Youth Baseball Federation’s post season tourneys.
The Cardinals had dominated in SSLYBA competition with an 11-6-1 record but were unseeded going into the championship competition in Avon Lake. The Cardinals’ players were optimistic about their chances, despite being the visiting team and underdog in every tournament game.
The Cardinals defeated four teams in the single-elimination tournament to get to the championship game, including consecutive victories over the tourney’s number three, two and one seeds. Even more exciting, the championship game would be played at night, under the lights. The Cardinals’ home diamonds at Volunteer Fields have no field lights, so the fact they were playing the Avon Lake Mariners in a night game was exciting in itself.
Shannon Bishop, a 12-year old Cardinals right-handed pitcher, shortstop and catcher, was psyched to start the championship game on the mound. Shannon started and pitched well in a six-inning, complete game victory even though the growth plate in his right arm was broken (with no outs in the fifth inning) when he was drilled by a line drive on the elbow of his pitching arm.
“It hurt,” Shannon said, “but not until after the game. At the time, it didn’t hurt much at all.”
“I told the boys, ‘Leave it all on the field’ before the game started,” Cardinals coach Paul Bishop (Shannon’s dad) said. “I had no idea Shannon would go above and beyond that. After he got hit, we checked him out on the mound. He’d fielded his position well before he got hit, but that liner caught him before he could get a glove on it. You could see the imprint of the baseball’s seams where it had hit him. The Mariners’ scorekeeper, a paramedic, checked Shannon’s arm and said he couldn’t feel anything broken. I asked Shannon if he thought he could pitch. I left it up to him.
“‘I want to pitch, dad,’ was all he said,” Bishop said.
Shannon finished the fifth inning with two strikeouts, including the last Mariners batter. The Cardinals were leading by a 3-1 score
“Between innings, assistant coach Lenny Decato asked, ‘who’s going to pitch the sixth?’ and Shannon said, ‘I am,’” Bishop said.
Shannon started the final inning with two consecutive strikeouts, and then gave up a triple and a single before the last Mariner to bat hit another line drive through the mound. Shannon, who had scored what proved to be the winning run after hitting a double and scoring on a teammate’s RBI hit, deflected the liner to shortstop Bryce O’Neal. O’Neal fielded the deflected liner for the last out in a 3-2 game.
“Our team defense was amazing in that game and, really, all season,” Bishop said. “Lenny and I were fortunate to coach a great group of kids this year.”
“We’re extremely proud of what Shannon did,” his mom, Amy, said. “But I wish he’d come out of the game. I’m actually glad he didn’t get a hit in his last at-bat. I’m afraid the vibration from hitting the ball could’ve done more damage to his arm.”
“The umpires handed out game balls afterward, and all three of them said they were amazed Shannon was able to stay in the game,” Bishop said. “After the game, the home plate ump, Mike Mannino (who’s the head of the ALYBF Minor and Major leagues) sent me a text message later that said, ‘Just checking in to make sure that Shannon is ‘OK.’ Quite a shot he took, and let’s face it, he doesn’t have a whole lot of meat on those bones. One of the gutsiest pitching performances I’ve seen in my 32 years in youth baseball. Later in the week, Mr. Mannino came to visit. He brought Shannon a cookie cake and autographed his cast.”
After the game ended (at about 10:30 p.m.), Shannon showered and then discovered he couldn’t turn his hand. His mom and dad took him to EMH’s Avon emergency room facility, where they took X-rays, put a splint and a sling on his arm around midnight.
“When we got to the ER, they asked Shannon how bad the pain was, on a scale of one to 10, and he said, ‘One,’” Paul Bishop said. “I don’t even think he’s fully aware of what he did yet. The next day we made an appointment with Dr. Daniel Zanotti at the Center for Orthopedics in Sheffield Village. On Thursday, Dr. Zanotti told us the growth plate should heal well, put the cast on and ordered Shannon not to play any sports at all for six weeks.”
Shannon, who says his other favorite sport is basketball, is a modest boy of few words. Shannon reluctantly admitted that he harbors dreams of playing pro baseball some day but, for now, his plans don’t go beyond playing either Hot Stove or Thurman Munson baseball next summer, then playing for the Brookside Cardinals after that.
“I just like to play,” Shannon said. “And I’m very proud of all my teammates.”