(Photo via Sam Shaikin’s Twitter, @SamShaikin)
In Northwest Indiana lies a team trying to get their shot. Valparaiso University Baseball will move into the Division I Missouri Valley Conference this season with hopes to show that they are top contenders. Helping them along that path is junior Sam Shaikin. Last season, Shaikin led the team in batting average, was the only player to start every game of the season, and had a 23-game on base streak.
Another skill Shaikin excels at is two-strike hitting. Many players struggle to hit with two strikes, especially at younger ages, but Shaikin doesn’t have this problem according to Coach Brian Schmack.
“Sam seems to flourish because he sticks to his plan; he doesn’t stray from it, and he believes in it,” said Coach Schmack. Shaikin’s excellent approach on two strikes reflects his approach to the game as a whole. He sticks to his skills, tries to improve them, and has the confidence he can do so.
This year, Shaikin looks to continue to lead the team by exhibiting consistency and focusing on refining his skills. Because of this focus on fundamentals, his coaches have given him the nickname “Samdamental.”
“That’s what makes him good,” said Coach Schmack. “He’s not freakish athletic; he’s a baseball player.” Shaikin often gets overlooked because of this fact. He’s not a flashy player, but he can reliably get the job done.
He considers that consistency to be the reason he’s achieved so much as a player thus far.
“Being able to do the same thing over and over again is gonna get you where you want to go,” said Shaikin. Shaikin does a lot of work practicing the skills he already has to make them even stronger. This fits with the strategy of the team. Since Valparaiso is located in the midwest, their offseason is colder than most. This means they do indoor drills as much as possible and hope those skills transfer to the field when the season comes around.
Shaikin believes that their team is prepared better for this season than they were last season due to the higher level of experience on the team.
“Last year we were a pretty young team, so now that everyone has grown up I’m excited to see what we can do this year,” said Shaikin. The experience on the team, combined with the fact that Valparaiso is opening their season against high-level opponents that they haven’t had the chance to play in previous seasons, gives the team hope that they can be well prepared by the time conference play comes around.
Shaikin will be a huge part of that preparation due to his presence on the field. Coach Schmack remarks that Shaikin is like “a coach on the field” due to his ability to help the younger players progress in-game. Shaikin chalks this ability up to experience, and his willingness to keep learning.
“You kinda learn something different every time you watch a game or play a game,” said Shaikin. Being able to take the lesson out of every game, win or lose, is what Shaikin believes will drive the Crusaders to success in the 2018 season.