Shane Crouse’s stay with the Winter Garden Squeeze this summer was certainly brief — but for good reason.
Crouse, a former pitcher for West Orange who had just wrapped up his sophomore season at Lake-Sumter State College, was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the 24th round of the 2014 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft on June 7 and left the team last week to begin his pro career.
Getting the phone call from the Reds that day, surrounded by friends and family, completed one major step of a long journey for Crouse that included a detour to have Tommy John surgery his senior year with the Warriors.
“That’s not just the rehab, that’s hard work that I’ve had since I was three years old when I started baseball,” Crouse said. “That’s all I ever dreamed of was getting that call.”
In the time since, Crouse — who had been committed to Miami before his injury — battled back while pitching for Chipola State College and then Lake-Sumter, under head coach Josh Holt.
In addition to work ethic throughout the process, Holt said the one thing Crouse always has had going for him is a knack for throwing the ball awfully hard.
“The number one thing Shane has is arm strength — his velocity has always been there,” Holt said. “He’s a couple years removed from that [rehab] process and I’ve told scouts … ‘I think his best days are ahead of him.’”
Crouse left for Arizona on Friday, where he will be playing for the Reds’ affiliate in the Arizona Summer League. Upon arrival he will sign a contract with the Cincinnati organization, the terms of which he has already agreed upon with the ballclub.
The former Warrior said he spent the days between the draft and his departure with his family and friends, enjoying the euphoria of the milestone achievement before setting off to get back to work.
“I know starting tomorrow it’s hard work and working my way up,” Crouse said this past Thursday. “You got to make sure you really want it and I really wanted it.”
Crouse tossed just two innings for the Squeeze, but says his short stint with the team left an impression, nonetheless.
“There are some great guys on that team,” Crouse said. “Great coach … [Squeeze coach Ruben Felix] gave me some advice … I had just met him but he gave me a lot of great advice.”