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Draft : : Story
Aaron Shipman: From Little Quitman to Pro Ball
Jim Ecker    
Published: Thursday, August 26, 2010

Aaron Shipman played his first game as a professional baseball player Tuesday night for the Oakland Athletics in the Arizona Rookie League. He batted ninth and went 0-for-4, but that’s OK.

“It was a little rough,” he said, “but it was fun.”

Shipman, 18, was selected in the third round of the 2010 draft and agreed to a $500,000 bonus on Aug. 16, beating the deadline by a scant 30 minutes. He left home in Quitman, Ga., and a week later made his pro debut against the Arizona Giants in Scottsdale.

“I was nervous,” he confessed. “I had a little gut-rot, but I was OK.”

The A’s gave Shipman a half-million dollars to sign because he’s considered a five-tool player who can run (6.34 in the 60), hit, hit with power, throw and patrol center field with grace and speed. He had a scholarship to attend Mercer University and aced eight hours of classes there this summer, but his heart was set on turning pro.

“I didn’t have a problem going to Mercer, but I really, really wanted to start my pro career,” he said.

It almost didn’t happen. The negotiations with Oakland went down to the wire.

“I don’t want to say we butted heads, but everything was going pretty slow,” he related. “I want to say about 30 minutes before the deadline, they gave us a final offer. So we sat around and we talked about it. And we decided, ‘You know what? I’m ready to start my pro career, let’s get a deal done.’

“Midnight was the deadline,” he said, “and I signed at 11:30.”

Shipman has already beaten the odds. He grew up in the small town of Quitman, Ga. (pop. 2,703) near the Florida border, yet he’s risen to great heights as a young man. His parents, Nechelle and Robert Shipman, deserve credit for that.

“They’ve always instilled values in me, and they always said my only job is to be a student until I’m 18,” he said. “So I wanted to do the best job I could in school. Yeah, I give them credit for that.”

Shipman was an excellent student at Brooks County High School with a GPA of 3.6. He also played the keyboard at church. His father, a former minor league player for the Twins and Tigers, coached Aaron on youth teams and also in high school as the head coach at Brooks County.

“From 6 years old to 18 years old, my only coach has been my dad,” he said.

Aaron’s older brother, Robert Jr., is a baseball player at St. Petersburg College. His younger brother, Eric Joseph, currently plays for their father at Brooks County.

“Playing for him wasn’t always easy, but it was a lot of fun, because he’s a baseball guy,” Shipman said. “He would push us (the brothers) a little more. He would take issues on the baseball field sometimes and take them home, and that wasn’t always easy. But we got over it. We ended up having a lot of laughs about it.

“If it wasn’t for him,” Shipman remarked, “I wouldn’t be here today. That’s point-blank.”

Shipman attended seven Perfect Game events during his high school years, including five in Marietta, Ga., which is about a four-hour drive from Quitman. He said the Perfect Game events helped develop him as a player and attract the scouts.

“I feel like if you don’t play in the Perfect Game events, that you don’t get the maximum exposure that you can get,” he said. “In southern Georgia, we don’t have tournaments like that. From my experience, if you go to Marietta and to Perfect Game, somebody will see you and they’ll give you a shot somehow. It’s very important.

“I remember particularly when I went to the National Showcase in Minnesota, it showed me that I needed to improve, because I was a little awestruck at all the talent there,” he said. “I went to Minnesota and some people were just as fast, some people had a better arm, some people had more power. So basically, it showed me you might be one of the best players in southern Georgia, but around the world these guys can play and you need to work hard and pick your game up. That’s how it helped me.”

Shipman went 1-for-4 in his second game for the Arizona A’s in the Rookie League Wednesday night, raising his average to .125 (1 for 8).  There are only a few games left in the season, and then he’ll play in the Arizona  Instructional League this fall. And make no mistake, he loves being a pro.   

“I’m definitely having a lot of fun,” he said.