A Letter to Carson Shaddy
I know we don’t know each other, but I felt compelled to write you after seeing the multitude of criticism you’ve taken after your Hogs lost Game 2 of the College World Series Finals series.
I admire you for two reasons. First, as a sports writer of 20 years and someone who has chronicled this team the past few years with opinion pieces, I like how you play the game. I’ve always enjoyed writing about “the grinders” as I call them. The guys who have to work a little extra hard to get in the lineup. Throughout its broadcast of the CWS, ESPN reminded viewers that you didn’t have a scholarship – that UA Coach Dave Van Horn saw you play in the state tournament with Fayetteville High School and remembered playing with your dad and gave you a shot. But, you weren’t just some role player utility guy, you were close to leading this mighty lineup in homes and your defense at second base was slick. You were the leader of this team. Secondly, as a father of two young boys, who adore Razorbacks baseball, I admire you because your story is a good model for them. They listened when ESPN sideline reporter Laura Rutledge talked about how you mentored freshman Casey Martin, and how he calls you, “Dad.” You are in that group of their favorite players, and when that ball was dropped they weren’t blaming anyone, surely not you, and were convinced, the National Title celebration would happen Thursday. I’m glad they like players such as you and their fellow Bryant native, Blaine Knight.
Anyway, when I started seeing Hogs fans blaming you, I wanted to reach out. You are smart and level-headed and probably already know this, but I wanted to remind you what my dad as always told me when it comes to criticism, “Consider the source.” No one in that clubhouse, your family or friends or the die-hard fans such as Mike Cormack or Hognoxious are tweeting at you. No one that cares about you. They all understand that pop-up, the loss it wasn’t your fault.
Anyone who hides behind a computer and bashes a college kid is an idiot. Period. It horrified me to see some of the things people had posted. And while you probably shrug a lot of it off, you may worry about how your family and friends take it. That’s natural, and I am sorry about that.
I’d like to say it will get better, but after becoming friends with former Hogs quarterback Clint Stoerner over the years, I’m not sure. Fans still bring up the fumble play at Tennessee in innocent and not-so-innocent ways. So, five years from now at Wal-Mart someone might ask “How did that feel?” or 20 years from now when you are out to eat with your family someone may ask, “How the hell did you not catch that ball?”
I hope it doesn’t happen, but both the audacity and stupidity of some people has struck Clint over the past 20 years. But, like I said consider the source. He’s had to remind himself of that repeatedly.
My hope for you is that you don’t focus on that one play or those two games and remember your entire career. There were plenty of highlights, and being a part of one of two teams in Hogs history to play for a CWS title is something to be proud of. You’ve also done plenty to make your family, coaches and teammates proud. You’ve done everything you can for five years to represent your team and hometown in a positive way.
Just don’t forget those things as you begin the next chapter. I don’t know if you will play pro baseball or coach or embark on a career, but I wish you good luck. You will be remembered by real Hog fans for more than just one play.