JaVon Shelby comes from a baseball family. The Oakland A's 2016 5th-round pick is the son of current Colorado Rockies minor league hitting coach and former longtime big leaguer John Shelby. Two of JaVon's older brothers played professional baseball and his cousin is Pittsburgh Pirates star Josh Harrison.
JaVon made a name for himself beyond his lineage during his three-year career with the Kentucky Wildcats. In 2015, Shelby was one of the top sophomores in the ultra-competitive SEC. That season, Shelby hit .312/.442/.525 with nine homers and 38 walks in 202 at-bats. He then played in the Cape Cod League, hitting .256 with a homer and seven walks in 21 games.
This season, Shelby got off to a hot start with the Wildcats, but struggled to hit for average for much of the SEC season. He still finished with a career-high 12 homeruns and he posted an 805 OPS. The A's liked Shelby's overall athleticism and his power potential and made him the second position player they selected in this year's draft.
Shelby made his pro debut in Arizona, but he was promoted to short-season Vermont after just one game in the Arizona Rookie League. Through Saturday, Shelby had a .182/.269/.268 line with two homeruns, four stolen bases and 17 walks in 41 games for the Lake Monsters.
Donald Moore spoke with the third baseman in late July about his transition to professional baseball.
Donald Moore: Hi JaVon, how is everything going so far for you this season?
JaVon Shelby: Loving it, you know. It's a transition from college, but I feel like the UK did a great job helping me make this transition to professional minor league ball.
DM: What are your goals for this season?
JS: Just polish up my game a little bit more and create the mindset that can help me last a longer season because in college you play 56 games, then you come here and play another 50 some games. I'm just trying to maintain everything to where when I come out next year, I'll be prepared.
DM: What do you feel is your greatest strength as a baseball player?
JS: I'd say just the passion for the game. I feel as though that drives me and that helps me with my talents, coming out with the passion to win for my team and play hard and that helps me steal a base or in a key at-bat.
DM: What would you'd like to improve on?
JS: Probably spraying the ball to all fields. That's what I'm working on right now and it's adjustment, but I can feel as though I can do it. In college, I had more of a pull approach, but I have to make that adjustment because of better pitchers and at the next level they will have scouting reports and start pitching me in different locations, so the sooner I make that adjustment, the better I'll be.
DM: How are you acclimating to professional baseball?
JS: I'm loving it. I've always wanted this and it's finally here and I'm just soaking it in. It's still surreal to me.
DM: What do you find is the best thing about being a professional athlete?
JS: Probably finding guys and getting to know people from different areas, not just from around the United States but beyond and all around the world. I love the Dominicans. They are hilarious. Also having just watched guys on TV in the College World Series and then you are playing against them, or even some of the guys in the Cape Cod League that were on my team. There is probably seven of them up in this league. Saying what's up on the base-paths. It is good to see everybody reach their dreams.
DM: What is the hardest thing about playing professional ball at this level?
JS: I haven't really thought about that one yet. There aren't many too many things I haven't seen watching baseball or even playing. Probably right now just coming to the park and playing everyday because in college, you had a three-game set, maybe two mid-weeks, but you had time to go to school, do your studies and then relax. You had more downtime. I'd say that is the biggest adjustment, not really the hardest adjustment, to pro ball. It's just different and getting used to it. The quicker I do that, the better baseball player I'll become.
DM: Any pregame routines?
JS: Music and say my prayers and get my mind right. That is basically it. Try to stay hydrated before the game because it has been pretty hot up here, so that is another routine, but music, say my prayers. I'm just thankful for this opportunity. It's really what it is and I want to make the most out of it.
DM: Any hobbies?
JS: Would you'd call going to the lake on off-days a hobby? That is what I love to do.
DM: Favorite baseball team growing up?
JS: The Dodgers, that was where my dad [John Shelby] was in my childhood. We'd go out there to LA every single summer. I love that team: Shawn Green, Raul Mondesi, Alex Cora, Gary Sheffield, all those guys.
DM: Where are you originally from?
JS: Lexington, Kentucky.
DM: You come from a family of very talented athletes and you are the son of former major league player. Can you tell me more about your brothers and who they were and are they currently playing professional ball?
JS: Since my father was away for what I think was about eight months a year, I had no choice but to look up to my brothers and watch on how they played. So I'd say they are big inspiration for my faith and passion for the game. My oldest brother, he was actually projected to be a major league player. He was drafted by the White Sox in the fifth round and then got traded to the Rays in the later part of his career, but he made it up to Triple-A. Just watching him play and know not only how he respects the game, but everything in his off-season workouts were tremendous and his work ethic and passion for the game. Also my older brother, Jeremy, he battled cancer when he was 13 and watching him go through that, he is probably one of the strongest brothers I have. There are a lot of us, but Jeremy is the strongest and one of the most encouraging. Then my little brother, he's going to make an impact on the world. My older brother Jesse played baseball, but he taught me to take care of my things and save my money.
DM: If there is one person who taught you the most about baseball, who would that be?
JS: My dad was always a coach so it was always a phone call, but my mom, she would always be able to watch my games, so if JaVon was dropping his hands, she'd would call my father and have him call me and tell me what I needed to do to improve my game. So it's probably my mother, she knows a lot about the game and she has been involved with the game for over 40 something years. If she notices something, she's right.
DM: Craziest thing you ever saw on a baseball diamond?
JS: One of the funniest things I saw was our last home stand. Our mascot, Champ, was was being pulled by an ATV and he was on skates, so I was waiting for him to fall but he was doing one legged tricks and that was really impressive to me and probably one of the most interesting and funniest things I ever seen on a field.
DM: What are your off-season plans?
JS: Workout, hang out with my family and say what's up to my friends, and I might head down to Florida. That is where my older brother lives. Actually my three older brothers and my oldest brother has a baby on the way, so I need to see her and he also has a son, little Jackson, and he is a chunky boy.
DM: Thank you for your time and the best of luck to you and your career.
JS: Yes sir, thank you.