Thursday, September 2, 2010

Shuck Gives Father Quite a Ride; Headed to AFL

Courtesy the

The 2008 sixth-round pick out of Ohio State is proud to carry the "gritty baseball player" label

By Ryan Metz of

Jack Shuck estimates he has logged over 200,000 miles on the two cars he's driven to watch his son play baseball. First there was the Pontiac Sunfire he totaled on a trip to Tennessee to see a game, and now he has a Pontiac G6 that has seen the odometer tack some miles.

Traveling from the small northern Ohio city of Galion where the blue-collar family calls home, Jack remembers the four consecutive weekends when he made the trip to Florida, the cross country journey to California, and - more recently - the 27-hour ride to Corpus Christi to watch his son J.B. play for the Hooks.

Showing the same steadfast loyalty that he displayed when he coached J.B. all through his son's younger days, the elder Shuck missed only two games of his son's games in college when he played at Ohio State. He now makes as many trips to Minor League parks as he can.

"I've been very proud of the kid over his entire career," Jack said. "I'm overwhelmed with how well he's doing. It's been fun ... quite a ride."

J.B., the 23-year-old Express center fielder and leadoff batter, was promoted to Round Rock on July 30 and had four hits in Monday night's loss. He's toting a .307 batting average after Monday's game.

It's the same consistency at the plate in his short time with the Express that helped him move through the Astros system after being drafted in the sixth round of the 2008 draft.

In his first professional season in 2008 at Tri-City, he hit .300. In 2009, he advanced to Class-A Lancaster and posted a .315 average. Before his call-up to Round Rock, he fell just one hit shy of .300, posting a .298 mark with the Hooks.

"I guess .300 is a good number to be at," J.B. said. "I try not to think about it too much; but, I know if I'm hitting .300, I'm doing my job and getting on base."

In true dad fashion, he would like to see him closer to .320.

"He's doing very well, but I'd like to see him at .320 myself," Jack said. "I always want more. I'm not very satisfied, but I know he gives everything he's got."

Astros scouting director Bobby Heck called Shuck "a gritty baseball player" after he was drafted by Houston.

So does that trade mark still hold?

"I think so," the 5-foot-11, 185-pound J.B. said. "You see a zero in the homerun column. That's not my job. I'm trying to get on base any way I can. Then, I'm trying to steal a bag or go first to third."

His father saw that mentality from an early age.

"He's hard-nosed with his work ethic," Jack said. "Guys play it for fun, but J.B. plays it because that's what he wants to do.

"There were a lot of times when he was younger he had the opportunity to go swimming with the guys or play Nintendo with guys, but he would rather be on the ball field. I remember throwing batting practice to him when he wanted the extra work."

J.B. will have to continue the gritty style since he has seven homers since being a professional. He did not pattern his game after a slugger when he was younger.

"I always liked watching Kenny Lofton play," he said. "Being from Ohio, I was a big Indians fan growing up, and I loved the way he played - the way he covered center field, and the way he hit the ball."

Shuck has taken a lot away from the Buckeye state, including his dad and family, for which he is quick to give thanks.

"He's driven to my game my whole life," J.B. said. "He loves the game and has been a huge supporter for me. It's great he gets a chance to come and watch. My family has been so supportive."

So the first thing he wants to buy with his big league money is a new car for his dad, right?

"We'll see," laughs J.B. "If I can make a lot of money maybe I can help him out."

Shuck Tabbed for Prestigious Arizona Fall League

Shuck's strong season between the AA and AAA level has saw him emerge as one of the Astros' top prospect. With that honor comes the task of seeing where the outfielders' game stacks up against the best of the other top prospects among the other 29 MLB teams.

When the rosters were announced for the 2010 Arizona Fall League Shuck found his name on the list as he will play for the Peoria Javelinas, a team that will also have the second overall pick from the 2009 draft, the Mariners Dustin Ackley.

In the same town Shuck will find a former teammate as the latest Buckeye to reach MLB, Cory Luebke, will be playing for the Peoria Saguaros. The Arizona Fall League announcement was made on the same day that Luebke was recalled by the San Diego Padres, making August 31st, 2010 a day Luebke surely will not forget soon.

For those unaware the AFL is where many of baseball's top prospects sharpen their tools, refine their skills, against other elite players. Last season former Buckeye Matt Angle of the Baltimore Orioles farmsystem would find himself on the same team as Washington Nationals' Stephen Strasburg and Drew Storen.

The 2009 AFL class also included Buster Posey, Ike Davis, Starlin Castro, Jose Tabata, and Domonic Brown, all of which made high-profile debuts this season and are having amazing rookie seasons.

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