Runs in the Shea family
Southern Connecticut father-son duo has Owls near top of DII
Baseball is a game that has connected generations over the years as knowledge and skills of America’s pastime are passed down from grandfathers to fathers to sons. The Shea family knows the bonds baseball can create especially well.
Tim Shea has been the head coach at Southern Connecticut State University since 2002, as well as a former player for the Owls, and an assistant coach for 11 seasons before taking the reins of the program. His eldest son, T.J., is now a freshman on the SCSU team, and has been a key contributor in the Owls’ 26-1 start as they’ve reached their highest ranking in school history at No. 5 in the Collegiate Baseball Division II poll.
T.J. has many baseball memories with his father, who has had a lengthy career coaching the sport.
“When I was a young kid, he would set up a wiffle ball tee in my room and I would hit in the house,” said T.J. “Everything from wiffle ball in the backyard to teaching me how to catch, we’ve done it all together. I remember a lot of little things he did when I was growing up.”
“With Southern, he came on a few trips with us, and hung around the dugout at home games when he was younger,” Tim said. “I remember when he was 12 or 13 years old he came on one of our trips and took batting practice with the guys. He grew up around Southern Connecticut baseball.”
T.J. attended the same high school as his father – Notre Dame of West Haven High School – leading the squad to the Connecticut state championship game while earning All-State honors in his senior season. When it came time for T.J. to start thinking about college, Tim began recruiting his own son and filling him in on the academic side of being a student-athlete at Southern Connecticut.
“He grew up around the baseball program, but didn’t know much about the university until we actually recruited and brought him on campus,” Tim said.
While Tim let his son decide whether or not to become an Owl, T.J. knew right away where he wanted to go and who he wanted to play for.
“I knew I could handle it even though he was going to be tough on me,” T.J. said. “Whether he was my actual coach, he’s been my coach all my life. In high school, he would come to my games and tell me what I was doing wrong or right. He’s the greatest coach I’ve ever had. He’s a great guy and I wouldn’t play for anyone else.”
Tim self-admittedly has high expectations for T.J., who has started every game for the Owls either in the designated hitter slot, or as the back-up catcher.
“I find myself being tougher on him than anyone else, and that’s something I have to work on because I don’t want to put extra pressure on him,” Tim said. “Being his father and having those expectations at home and in school, that’s just the way it is. We talked about it prior to him committing to Southern Connecticut. It may not be fair. I look at it like, ‘You may not like to eat your vegetables, but you know they are good for you.’ He may not always appreciate the way we interact sometimes, but I think he realizes that it helps him and motivates him. I think it has helped him jump out to a great start in his freshman year.”
T.J. is batting .257 with 18 RBI and four doubles through 28 games, and started five games behind the plate while senior catcher Nick DeProspo was on the bench with a hamstring injury during the Owls’ spring trip.
“It’s tough at times. It’s great when he’s hitting well, it’s tough when he goes 0-for-10 in a three-game set,” Tim said. “But I knew this was the best place for him all along. I told him he could go other places and be successful, but from an academic standpoint and baseball standpoint with our needs it was a great fit for him – it was a matter if he could handle playing for his dad with some of the pressure that brings.”
While he may feel he is tougher on T.J. than other players, Tim also has high expectations for the whole Southern Connecticut program, and he is used to reaching those lofty goals. The elder Shea has led the Owls to four NCAA Tournament appearances (2005, 2006, 2008, 2010), along with a Division II World Series berth in 2005.
“T.J. knows from living in the Shea household how important the success of the program is and he’s obviously trying to do his best to be a piece of what we’ve got going this year,” Tim said.
While T.J. certainly has motivation from his father, his personal drive to succeed is sometimes too much and Tim advises his son to relax.
“At times, I get hard on myself and put a lot of pressure on myself,” T.J. said. “My dad always reminds to stay positive and let things go.”
The advice has worked for T.J. and the team as Southern Connecticut leads the Northeast-10 Conference with a 12-1 league mark.
“Our team is doing really well so far, and I’ve never been a part of something that the guys have been as close and as good as these guys are,” T.J. said. “It’s a whole new level of baseball, and it’s unbelievable that I can be a part of it and contribute to this great run we’re having.”