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Colton Shaver: Pure power at the plate

(Photo by BYU Photo/Mark Philbrick)

Reprinted from football Gameday program guide, November 19, 2016

“Colton is the guy in the middle of the lineup that other teams look at and get scared,” BYU senior Tanner Chauncey said.

“Nobody on our team compares to him in terms of power.”

Colton Shaver stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the sixth inning at Miller Park last April. No. 16 BYU boasted an 11-2 lead over Utah but that was no reason for the so-called ‘pitcher’s worst nightmare’ to take it easy.

The sell-out crowd exploded as Colton blasted his eighth home run of the season, a solo shot to right center. It was his sixth home run against the Utes in two years.

Colton was intentionally walked the next time he went up to bat, one of six intentional walks during the 2016 season. As the team leader with 10 home runs, 57 RBI, and a .582 slugging average, it’s no wonder the 6-foot-1 255-pound hitter was intentionally walked.

“He’s one of those guys the opposing coaches are always aware of when he is about to come to the plate,” BYU head coach Mike Littlewood said. “He makes the opposing pitcher work to get him out.”

The early years: Colton and his dad

For many successful baseball players, baseball runs in the family. But unlike these players, Colton wasn’t born into a baseball-literate home.

After moving from Grand Junction, Colorado to Utah, Greg and Shelly Shaver put their son Colton in several sports to see what he was best at. Colton started tee-ball at age five. 

It didn’t take long to realize Colton had raw power.

“He’s always had a strong arm and he’s always been very hand-eye coordinated,” Greg Shaver said. “Catching and hitting were never an issue. He could hit the ball far because he grew faster than everyone else.”

But Colton’s dad, a former football player for Colorado Mesa University, wasn’t fluent in baseball. So he had to learn right along with his son.

“My dad has worked just as hard as I have at learning the game,” Colton said. “He’s the one who pushed me to be the best I could be.”

Colton’s standout talent earned him a chance to practice with Zach Sorensen of the Salt Lake Bees. Greg would video his son so they could review it at home. Colton went to private lessons and continued to play on several Little League and Super League teams.

“I didn’t know the fundamentals of hitting or fielding or anything like that, so I had to learn it with him,” Greg said. “We just took advantage of the people who did know the game and went from there.”

Two sports, two state championships: The come-back kid

Colton’s hard work paid off as he became a four-year letterman in baseball and football at Jordan High School in Sandy, Utah.

Four-time all-state and two-time region MVP in baseball, Colton was the starting catcher all four years.

“Each year I would pride myself on getting better and doing better than I did the year before,” he said.

Colton played football during the off season to maintain his athleticism for baseball. By the end of freshman year, he was playing on the varsity team as a linebacker. But as an active and successful two-sport athlete, he soon faced a setback.

Colton suffered a Jones fracture in the fifth metatarsal of his foot at the end of his sophomore baseball season. It was the same injury NBA player Kevin Durant dealt with in 2014.

After enduring surgery to implant a screw and a slow summer of recovery, Colton got back in shape in time to play football his junior year.

That year the Jordan High football team won its first state championship in 18 years.

Everything was set for a perfect senior season. Until opposition swung in again.

Toward the end of summer league play with the Utah Marshall Gates Foundation, Colton was hit by a pitch on his inner arm. His arm started to swell at football camp a few weeks later, and his coaches suggested he immediately go to the hospital. Doctors soon discovered a blood clot in a vein underneath his right collar bone.

The varsity baseball and football player was closely monitored in the ICU until the clot was dissolved. He was then placed on blood thinners.

 “There was no football and no baseball, so we had to make a decision if he would continue to play sports,” Greg recalled. “We could remove a rib which was causing the vein to be compressed, or he could be on blood thinners for the rest of his life and be done with sports.

“But with Colton, there is no having that. The kid can’t even sit still.”

In August of 2013, Colton went ahead with surgery to remove the rib. He faced recovery and therapy for a few months but he fought to come back and play football again.

And he was back with even more power than before.

“His first game back his senior year he led the team in tackles. Everything was great, the surgery went great. He had no complications,” Greg said.

It was the following baseball season that Colton helped his team to their second state baseball title in school history.

“He was always that leader of the team,” Greg continued. “He was always the one to look towards when the team was in a bind and they needed to get out of it.”

His 27 high school homeruns certainly proved that.

BYU: Becoming a pure hitter

After receiving offers from San Diego, Washington State and Utah Valley University, Colton committed to BYU.

“When Coach Littlewood and his staff got the job at BYU, they contacted me and I knew they were a staff that wanted to win. And I’m a player who wants to win. That was a key thing right there,” Colton said.

Colton has swatted 23 home runs during his first two seasons as a Cougar -- not to mention 126 hits, 99 RBI and 89 runs in just 107 games.

“It comes from all the hard work that my coaches past and present have put in. I have to give all the credit to them for how much time they’ve spent,” Colton said.

The two-time second-team All-West Coast Conference honoree stands as one of the most decorated players BYU baseball has ever seen. As a Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American, Colton was also named to the WCC All-Freshman Team.

He participated in both the 2015 College Baseball Home Run Derby in Omaha, Neb., and the home run derby of the 2016 Cape League All-Star Game in Wareham, Mass.

“Colton treats college baseball like it’s a job,” Littlewood said. “He is always trying to improve his craft and sets a great example for the rest of the guys. He approaches every day like it’s the last day he’s going to play baseball. He gives everything he’s got whether it’s practice or a game.”

Colton now enters his junior year, a big year for MLB scouts.

“I’m hoping to get drafted. I want to chase my dreams and go play professional baseball. This is the year to really show I can do it.”

There is no doubt the pure power hitter is capable.

 “My dad tells me all the time that if I work hard and get good grades, he and my mom will continue to support me and help me chase my dreams,” Colton said. 

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