The past decade for the LA Angels has been dictated by bad contracts to aging stars and the ascension of Mike Trout as one of the best players in the league, to the best player in the league, to one of the best of all-time. However, one of the most important players to ever don the red and white was Matt Shoemaker.
The story of Matt Shoemaker and the LA Angels is one of the most unusual in the history of baseball. For Shoemaker, it was an everlasting stretch of trials and tribulations as he fought his way into the MLB. And one thing is certain, it was never easy for Matt Shoemaker.
Let’s start at the beginning (seems to make enough sense). Shoemaker, after attending Eastern Michigan University and posting a 4.85 ERA in his three years there, went undrafted. Now, while undrafted players can often find roles in the NFL or NBA, it is very rare for undrafted players to work their way to prominence in the MLB. However, after playing in a collegiate summer league to boost his stock, Shoemaker was given a shot by the Angels in 2008.
More from Halo Hangout
- New York Post columnist has LA Angels bringing veteran starter back to LA
- Dodgers make wild mistake signing failed LA Angels starter
- Why LA Angels’ Qualifying Offer to Raisel Iglesias could become historical
- Both Gold Glove finalists for LA Angels getting snubbed is a complete joke
- Marcus Stroman definitely appears to be interested in the LA Angels
Immediately, Shoemaker began improving. In his first full season in the minor leagues, Shoemaker’s ERA was lower than it was during a collegiate year he pitched. While it looked like he was well on his way to the MLB, Shoemaker hit speed bumps in his second year. His ERA ballooned and it once again seemed as if Shoemaker hit another obstacle in his race to be a Major League Baseball player.
But somehow, like always, Shoemaker found a way. In his third and fourth years, Shoemaker was one of the best pitchers across the entire minor league system. Spending time in AA and AAA, Shoemaker showed he was able to compete against top-level minor league players. However, it was not until Shoemaker’s age 26 season that he made his MLB debut. But boy, was it worth the wait.
After 134 games pitched in the minor leagues, Shoemaker took the mound in Anaheim against the division rival Seattle Mariners. He allowed two hits, two walks, and struck out five batters in five innings in his debut. The Mariners did not score with Shoemaker on the mound.
The following season, Shoemaker went on to finish second in American League Rookie of the Year voting, as he posted a 3.04 ERA while going 16-4 and having one of the best strikeout-to-walk ratios in the league. He pitched well again in 2015, and again in 2016.
Then, on a 3-2 count against the Kyle Seager of the Mariners, the same team he dazzled in his debut against, Matt Shoemaker took a 105 MPH line drive off his head. I remember watching the game live and being frozen still watching as trainers and teammates surrounded him.
As he documented in an article for the Player’s Tribune, Matt Shoemaker almost died.
After emergency brain surgery due to bleeding in his brain, Shoemaker’s condition began to stabilize. Somehow, after having life-saving surgery on September 4th, Matt Shoemaker was pitching again in the following Spring Training. Not just long toss, he was pitching.
I remember watching his regular season first start after the injury. He was solid, not miraculous by any means allowing two runs over five innings, but the Angels won the game, and tears filled my eyes watching Matt Shoemaker on a major league mound again.
It wasn’t the last time the man with the best beard in the MLB drove me to tears, either. His first start against the Mariners, facing Kyle Seager again, was one of the most emotional baseball games I’ve ever watched.
And now, as I write this article, tears are present once more.
You see, the thing is, it was never about the stats with Matt Shoemaker and the Angels. Winning of course was important for everyone, but there was something special every time Shoemaker stepped onto the mound. Like a David and Goliath type of thing. Shoemaker went undrafted, struggled in the minors, took a line drive off the head, and is still here. His heart is what separates him from the rest. In Matt Shoemaker, there is, and never was, an ounce of quit.
I guess why I’m writing this is to document what a special career Shoemaker had with the Angels. Was he ever the most dominant player? No. However, there was never a player in Anaheim, and next season there will not be a player on the Blue Jays, who ever had or ever will have more love for the game than Matt Shoemaker.