Long Climb for All-Star Shipman

West Tenn reliever Andrew Shipman earned a spot on this year's Double-A Southern League all-star team by posting a 3.03 ERA in his first 31 appearances with the club. His journey to all-star status was anything but typical, however. For one, the 23-year-old makes his home in Bellevue, Neb., yet his life experiences have come from all over the country. And, he has had to overcome the challenge of losing an eye at a very young age.

Shipman has worn a glass eye since he was 18 months old. It was at that time that he pulled on a family fish tank, which fell and slammed into his face to eventually cost him the sight from his left eye.

"I expected to go in the (2003) draft, but I didn't get picked because of my eye," said Shipman. "The scouts all said it was a health risk issue, so I kind of got snubbed. For me, I never knew what it was like with two eyes. I adapted to it and my dad did everything with me as a little boy. I learned how to do everything with one eye. It was never an issue for me."

Shipman's father, Jeffrey, has been most helpful to his son's progress over the years. His tenure in the Air Force is a main reason for all of the family's travels since Andy was just a child.

Jeffrey Shipman recently retired from the Armed Forces after serving for 28 years. His son began his college career at Allan Hancock Community College in Santa Maria, Calif., then spent his sophomore year at Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs, Iowa, before transferring to the University of Missouri for his third and final year of college ball.

Following a season in Columbia, Shipman knew he had a good shot at getting drafted. But he wasn't selected, again as the result of the glass eye, he says.

"At the time, I just wanted to go out there and pitch," Shipman noted.

So, after being passed over, Shipman opted for a collegiate summer league in Alaska: "The Alaskan Baseball League," officially.

One stint there was enough to convince the Boston Red Sox to sign him to a free agent deal in mid August of 2003.

Eleven months later, Shipman was shipped to the Cubs in exchange for veteran left-hander Jimmy Anderson.

Since joining the Cubs' farm system, the Warrensburg, Mo., native has excelled quite nicely. Last season, he was a member of the Florida State League co-champion Daytona Cubs, where he finished with a 3.18 ERA in 15 games with the club.

Just before the trade, Shipman was named to the league all-star game as a member of the Sarasota Red Sox, now the Class-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds.

This year, he has been a key part of a stellar West Tenn team that includes many of last year's Daytona-based prospects.

"I love to play baseball and I never get tired of playing everyday," Shipman said. "I want to get a chance to keep moving up and hopefully make it to the major leagues."

Shipman's belief system is stronger than ever before in his career. Last Thursday night, the entire Diamond Jaxx squad saw two more of their own - OFs Matt Murton and Adam Greenberg - get promoted to the major league club.

Shipman described the feeling.

"We were on the bus while they (Murton and Greenberg) were hanging out at the team hotel after being told they were getting promoted to Triple-A," he recalled. "Our manager (Bobby Dickerson) put the whole team on speakerphone and called Greenberg's cell. You could hear a pin drop on the bus when Bobby told them that they were not going to Des Moines, but to Fort Lauderdale instead. It was an inspiration to us all."

Making his major league debut, Murton (a native of Fort Lauderdale) finished 2-for-2 with a single, a double, a walk and a sacrifice fly. Greenberg was beaned in the head on the first pitch he saw in his debut big league plate appearance.

While back at West Tenn, Shipman has been more than an essential part of a Jaxx bullpen and pitching staff that leads the league with a 3.25 ERA. At times he has been asked to close games, but he has appeared primarily as a setup man.

Regardless of the situation he has been put in, Shipman has succeeded in most every challenge this season. His hard work paid off when he was voted to the Southern League All-Star Game along with six of his teammates, past and present.

Four will still make the trip with him to Mobile this week.

"My first year in Double-A has been so incredible," Shipman added. "I'm just trying to go out every day and do what I've been doing. I'm happy."

With the obstacles that Andrew Shipman has had to overcome, why shouldn't he be?

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