Wesleyan’s baseball team on a “mission” to win third state championship in a row

Wesleyan, the two-time defending state champion, has an interesting twist to its baseball schedule during the middle of the season.

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Every year during spring break, the Gwinnett private school and its athletic programs are completely shut down for a week.

While other baseball teams are holding practices and playing games, Wesleyan’s players — along with rest of the student body — are encouraged to go a mission trips to foreign countries.

It’s a time to serve, rather than to be served a fastball.

The players hit — not with a baseball bat, but rather a hammer or tool on a third-world building project.

It’s not exactly the way that top-tier baseball teams normally expend valuable time on spring break. However, it works well at Wesleyan.

“I guess if we didn’t win, then we’d have our skeptics,” said Michael Shaheen, the team’s seventh-year coach.

“When I was first coaching here, we went to the semifinals and state championship and lost. You always had people saying ‘If you didn’t take off 8 days for spring break …’ But once you win, you kind of silence that.”

Wesleyan captured the Class AA championship in 2008, and won it all in Class A last year. Shaheen has found positives in the unorthodox mid-season break from baseball.

“In retrospect, in May, when other teams have pitchers with their arms worn out and players mentally drained, because baseball is such a long season, we’re not (tired). We’re fresh.

Guess which dominating pitcher is getting healthy again? (AJC photo)

Guess which dominating pitcher is getting healthy again? (AJC photo)

“The other thing is that the mission trips are changing our kids’ lives. When they go to Romania, the Ukraine, Costa Rica, or the Dominican Republic, their lives are changed when they come back.”

More than half of Wesleyan’s 18-man roster has been on mission trips, including four players this spring. Junior outfielder Alex Thykeson traveled with 16 classmates and four teachers to Belize, where they taught arts and crafts to children, built picnic tables, and did minor construction repairs.

“You get so much out of it, helping people,” said Thykeson, who went to the Dominican Republic as a sophomore.

“Yes, it’s tough getting back into the baseball routine after a week away, I’m not going to lie. On my first day back, I looked like I hadn’t swung a bat in my life. You just have to rely on God to get you through that.”

Wesleyan is the favorite to win for a third year in a row, despite winning only two of its first eight games. The team’s best pitcher, Devin Stanton (signed with Georgia Tech), made his debut last week after being sidelined with arm tendinitis. The team’s best hitter, outfielder Conor Welton (Georgia), tore his ACL during football season and is out until late April.

“With 10 seniors coming back, our expectations were higher for the start of the season,” Shaheen said. “But we didn’t expect the injuries. If we get healthy, we have a shot at being a contender again.”

Shortstop Kevin O’Leary (Furman) is the leading hitter with a .402 average and two homers. Strother White (Rhodes University ) is Wesleyan’s biggest surprise, posting a 3-0 record and 2.63 ERA.

HERE’S THE BLOG QUESTION: Who are your state championship picks for all five of Georgia’s classifications? State your case and post below. We’ll revisit your picks in late May.

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11 comments Add your comment

southernpride

March 30th, 2010
8:06 am

Class A: Wesleyan
Class AA: Cook
Class AAA: Columbus
Class AAAA: Loganville
Class AAAAA: Roswell

Don’t know much about AAAA and AAAAA, just going by stats and records. However, in class A, Wesleyan has a load of talent and when they get healthy, they’re the best in A. Devin Stanton, O’Leary, Connor Welton will lead the Wolves back to glory. Cook is the best team in AA with the best pitching staff led by DJ Johnson and Kaleb Cowart. Cowart is the #1 player in the country. Columbus is ..well Columbus, and Kyle Carter is a beast.

Cherokee

April 2nd, 2010
10:52 am

You need to watch out for Wayne County out of AAAA. Very talented team out of South Ga. 13-1 right now and getting better?

Michael what is your fantasy about Wesleyan? It is the only school you write about in single A. Did you go there?

SiddyBoy

April 2nd, 2010
12:38 pm

“third straight championship” “in a row”.Check your grammar !!!

Daniel#12

April 3rd, 2010
9:37 am

A- – Landmark Christian will end Wesleyan’s run. Wesleyan lost too much from last year. Landmark is deeper pitching wise.
AA-AAAA- no idea
AAAAA Roswell. Best team in the state regardless of classification

Five Star

April 3rd, 2010
10:56 am

Landmark knows how to win but the test will be their defense. Landmark to the finals a third year in a row.

Wayne County Fan.

April 4th, 2010
10:21 pm

A- Landmark Christian.
AA- I’m feeling Cook this year.
AAA- Columbus
AAAA- I would LOVE to say Wayne County, as I am from there and still live there… But it’s too early to tell. 15-1 and counting, looking to be a big threat.
AAAA- Roswell.

southernpride

April 5th, 2010
7:26 am

I’d like to see Wayne win it also. Cook and Wayne are the best teams in south georgia hands down.

kramers2009

April 5th, 2010
9:51 am

Guys, come on… Lovett is the the best team in AA and will repeat. They brough back almost everyone from last years team that won it all… the same group of kids that continued to suprise everyone on the football field.. they will repeat.

metroAstar

April 5th, 2010
4:37 pm

I’ve seen both Cook and Lovett play. They’re both good, but wow is Cook the real deal with Cowart and Johnson. They’re catcher is the best hitting catcher I’ve ever seen in high school. They’re good and it’ll be interesting to see how it unfolds come May.

Wayne County Fan.

April 6th, 2010
12:46 am

Just a not on Wayne County, they won over a highly-talented FL team in James Rickards on Saturday, 14-4. They fell behind early, 4-0, and out-scored them 14-0 the rest of the way. The game ended controversially, when with two outs a Rickards player hit a two-run home-run, but the runner on second failed to touch third and was called out. Still… This FL school may not be anything like what could lie ahead for Wayne County at state, but I am optimistic. I have attended numerous games, including a 12-11 slug fest with South Effingham. They have a “never say die” attitude… You got to respect that!

Wayne County Fan.

April 6th, 2010
12:58 am