Former Eagle Shoemaker shines in homecoming against Tigers

 

Los Angeles Angels pitcher Matt Shoemaker, currently the only former Eastern Michigan baseball player playing in Major League Baseball, pitched 7.1 innings of shutout baseball Thursday afternoon in his home state against his favorite team growing up, the Detroit Tigers.

Shoemaker was born in Wyandotte, Mich., roughly 20 minutes from Comerica Park, and attended Trenton High School, where he played baseball. He had played only once before at Comerica Park in an all-star game during his high school days.

“We came to a lot of the Tiger games growing up,” Shoemaker said. “Tiger Stadium first, and then Comerica Park when it got built.”

“When I was a little kid my favorite [player] was Cecil Fielder,” Shoemaker said. “I played pitcher, third base and first base. [Those were] my three positions, so as a little kid, he was my guy.”

Shoemaker noted his favorite Tiger’s season was “probably ‘06. That’s when I was still a Tiger fan. I was in college so probably ‘06,” Shoemaker said.

Following high school graduation, Shoemaker decided to play college baseball at Eastern Michigan University. After redshirting his freshman year, Shoemaker would come out of the bullpen for the Eagles the next two years. In 2007, his sophomore season, Shoemaker set EMU’s single season saves record with 14 and was named to the second team All-MAC list.

His junior season would be his last at Eastern Michigan as he graduated and decided to forego his senior season. Shoemaker would move to the rotation and would help lead the Eagles to the 2008 Mid-American Conference Championship.

Shoemaker would proceed to work his way through the minor league system and after five years he got his major league call up to the Angels in 2013.

The following year, Shoemaker spent the entire season with the Angels and posted a 16-4 record with 3.04 earned run average. He finished second in the American League Rookie of the Year voting.

This year hasn’t treated Shoemaker as well as he had posted a 5-9 record and 4.76 ERA going into Thursday’s matchup with the Detroit Tigers and had just been called back up from a minor league stint.

“Everybody’s different,” Shoemaker said about what corrections he made in his minor league stint. “Your upper half and lower half have to work together. If something starts flying open, eliminate that. Drive right at my catcher. They’re such little things that, when you do them right, [they] change the way your pitches come.”

Shoemaker did not disappoint in his start as he went 7.1 innings allowing only one hit, one walk and struck out five.

Shoemaker exited the game and waved towards a group of family and friends cheering him on behind home plate.

“Coming off the field, it’s definitely special,” Shoemaker said.

Although he was locked in during the game, Shoemaker made note of family and friends in the stands before the game as well.

“I definitely took it in, kind of, just warming up,” Shoemaker said. “Just kind of the fact that you’re in a game, you take it in, take a breath, see some people when you go out there to stretch get ready pregame.”

When asked of what pitch felt the best for him he noted that all four of his pitches felt really good.

“Really all of them, to be honest with you,” Shoemaker said. “Fastball was working, locating fastball command, which is key, and then using all other three pitches.”

Shoemaker spoke of how his old pitching coach and current Eastern Michigan baseball associate head coach, Mark Van Ameyde, had texted him, wishing him luck the night before.

“We're very proud of Matt and excited to see him have success in his hometown,” Van Ameyde said. “He is a tremendous competitor and an even better person, we wish him continued success the rest of the way.”

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