How Delta State's Zack Shannon became DII baseball's most feared hitter
Since Zack Shannon arrived at Delta State, he has been very good at hitting baseballs.
Shannon is in his second season with the Statesmen. He transferred in from Wabash Valley College before the 2017 season and responded with arguably the best offensive output in DII baseball last year. His trophy case shows it.
He took home the Gulf South Player of the Year award, was the consensus DII Player of the Year and was awarded the Tino Martinez trophy. He was the key in the engine behind the Statesmen’s 45-13 season that ended in the DII Baseball Championship in Grand Prairie, Tx.
Shannon hit .434 with 18 home runs and 88 RBI last season, but that was just an appetizer for this unreal 2018 season. Shannon is currently eighth in DII baseball with a .445 batting average, while leading all three levels of NCAA baseball in home runs (23) and RBI (70). He can now add being on the Golden Spikes midseason watch list to his seemingly endless list of accolades.
The last time NCAA.com caught up with Shannon was at the DII championship in Texas. That time it was to discuss the origins behind the Statesmen's alter ego, the Fighting Okra (“Yea, I mean I’ve had it," Shannon said of trying fried okra. "It’s still not really my favorite though.”). This time, Shannon talks fastballs, big-league friends, and the toughest baseball question he's had to answer yet.
On choosing Delta State...
My junior college coach knew the recruiting coordinator here at the time. I really didn’t have too many other looks. There were a couple other NAIA schools and DII schools. Delta State was the best of it.
It was kind of a letdown, but I didn’t have the greatest sophomore season. I was fighting some injuries. I took the best of what I got and had a great opportunity down here. I’m thankful for it because it turned me into the player I am today.
On becoming DII baseball's best hitter...
We got scouting reports on pretty much everybody that has thrown. We can see what guys have tendencies and what we want to look for. Early in a game if a guy's got a good fastball, we’re looking for it. We have a lot of scouting reports. Our coach does a great job watching all that and helping us with that. He makes it a lot easier for us.
On his favorite and least favorite pitch to hit...
It’s the same pitch. The high fastball. I get three results out of it. It goes right into the catcher’s mitt, it goes 400-feet straight up to the second baseman or it goes over the fence.
On the Golden Spikes honor...
You know it was kind of a shell shock. It hasn’t sunk in yet, to be honest. It’s something I never thought, especially being at DII, I would ever get a chance to get. I’ve had friends that have made the list, it’s just really cool.
On his pitching days of yore...
It had its role and had its time but getting on the mound for me was more of a fun thing for me, I guess. It was never a serious thing that I dedicated an endless amount of time. Me and coach this year decided that the hitting would be the focus and he wanted me to become the hitter I should be.
It’s helped me out a lot. You only get X-amount of hours to be out there. So the small amount of time I have out there to be hitting and swinging I had to be throwing in the bullpen. I don’t really get the time I need to hit. I think it’s made a huge difference for me.
On the motivation of last season's finish and the battle-tested South Region...
Obviously, it wasn’t the way we wanted it to end. Ending the season with a loss isn’t what you want to do. We’ve got a lot of returners; the whole core of the team is back. The whole starting nine in the field is back and a good majority of us are seniors, that makes us hungry.
It’s what you want. You want competition. You don’t want to show up to the field and not be motivated to win. At times it is stressful, it’s hard. I think at this point in time, we’re at the same place as last year and we’re in third place in our region. It’s tough with Tampa and Florida Southern having great years. We’re hoping those guys lose games and we get a chance to bring it back here.
On his favorite MLB players...
I haven’t really had a favorite player in a while since Hamilton left the league. I was a huge Josh Hamilton fan. He was a Cincinnati Reds guy. I just remember going down there and all the big-time players that wouldn’t say hi to the little kids, and Hamilton came right up and ever since I’ve been a big fan of his.
I’m getting to that age where I finally have a few close friends of mine start making it up. That’s been really cool to watch. Andrew Benintendi, he’s from Cincinnati, he plays with the Red Sox. I played three years with him so it’s been really cool to watch. I was actually a Red Sox fan growing up. My dad was the biggest Manny Ramirez fan around.
His favorite baseball movie...
That is a tough one, it’s a stumper. I’m a big Bull Durham fan. Major League is right there with it. The Cleveland Indians, you know. But that is a tough question.
— Delta State Baseball (@DeltaStateBSB) April 10, 2018
Our own @zack_shannon has earned a spot on @USABaseball’s prestigious @USAGoldenSpikes Midseason Watch List! The list features 40 players and covers all amateur players. Shannon is one of just 2 @NCAADII athletes!! #TraditionNeverSlumps pic.twitter.com/CzeRn7KJ8S