Gerry Foster for the Grand Forks Gazette
I’ve been watching the Grand Forks International baseball tournament since 1986. The number of players who have graced the beautiful stage, named James Donaldson Park, number in the thousands. Years ago, under the excellent guidance of the tournament’s founder, the incomparable Larry Seminoff, the advertising slogan “Come see tomorrow’s stars, today!” was first used.
The number of players who have come through Grand Forks and gone on to play professional baseball is remarkable. Close to 40 made it all the way to the major leagues, some becoming superstars; John Olerud, Larry Walker, Josh Beckett, Jeff Francis and Tim Lincecum are names baseball fans would immediately recognize.
Not to be overlooked are less familiar participants who have made significant contributions to the sport. Shawn Schaefer is one who must be mentioned in this group.
He was named the Most Valuable Player at the 2014 GFI, the year when a Canadian team finally won the event. The Burnaby Bulldogs, backed by the outstanding pitching performance of this native of Pitt Meadows, B.C., delivered one of the most thrilling moments in the lengthy history of the event.
For Schaefer, who has been selected more than once to the tournament All-Star Team, this was one of many highlights in his career. He holds a litany of accomplishments including pitching twice in the NAIA College World Series. The first was with a Canadian team, the UBC Thunderbirds; the second was with Cumberland University, an American college located in Lebanon, Tenn.
His 2010 season at Cumberland featured a 14-0 record, which tied him for the best in North America. The highlight reel didn’t end there either. Schaefer continues to perform on the mound in his post-college life. Each summer he plays for the Coquitlam Angels and has been added to the roster of the Burnaby Bulldogs for specific events. Two years ago he joined the Bulldogs for the Canadian Senior Championship, striking out the final batter in the championship game against Fredericton and clinching the title for Burnaby.
A writer from Prince George described him as “a weekend workhorse.” He pitched in three games in three days. Not surprisingly, Schaefer was selected the MVP of that tournament.
What you have read so far is only part of the story. Schaefer’s resume includes coaching, namely as the pitching coach at Douglas College for a few years. I asked him to comment on the adjustment from player to coach. He replied, “As a player, you kind of have to think about the here and now; as a coach, you are always thinking down the road and how to make adjustments.” Additionally, he said, a coach “has to learn to deal with different personalities and how to get the best out of the players.”
In 2015 he was named Baseball Canada Lionel Ruhr Coach of the Year, being referred to as “a player’s coach.”
His involvement in the sport led him into yet a third facet, umpiring. I asked Shawn about this area of baseball after being a player and a coach. He said, “Being an umpire taught me a lot about the game that I never thought of as a player. It has a lot to do with relationships and being able to handle different situations.”
Last year this outstanding college and post-college baseball star and successful and recognized baseball coach, was honoured as the Most Inspirational National Umpire. Truly a remarkable history in baseball!
Yet there remains even more to Shawn Schaefer’s contribution to the sport in this province and country. He serves on the administrative staff of Baseball BC as the Grass Roots Coordinator.
What’s more, he is a marvellous athlete who also played junior hockey! In 2007, a teammate of his on the Burnaby Express was Kyle Turris, who was selected third overall in the 2007 NHL Draft.
“I think it’s imperative that kids play multiple sports growing up, and at a high level for as long as possible to make them athletic,” Schaefer said, offering some advice to parents and their children.
If I were presenting an award to Shawn Schaefer who has made such a huge contribution to baseball in this province, it would include the distinction, magna cum laude. This GFI alumnus, former tournament MVP and All-Star, would be an ideal candidate for the GFI Hall of Fame.
Good news for the 2019 tournament: this past and current star confirmed that he will be in the lineup of the Burnaby Bulldogs.