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Friday, May 6, 2016

Playing summer ball

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Top: Former Northview Knight and current Olney Central Blue Knight, T.J. King is playing this summer for the Tradewater Pirates based in Kentucky.

Bottom: Northview graduate Brady Shoemaker is hitting over .500 for Wayne Newton Post 346 this summer.

Nothing quite says 'summer' like baseball and for many area high school and college athletes, their diamond season continues past the typical spring schedule these days and into the steamy days of July and August.

Prime examples are Northview graduates T.J. King and Brady Shoemaker, who are teammates for the Olney Central Blue Knights during the collegiate season, but have remained on the diamond this summer for extensive extra work for different teams.

Shoemaker remained with a familiar squad, playing for Wayne Newton Post 346, as he did last summer. King meanwhile has made the trip to Kentucky where he plays in a wooden bat league for the Tradewater Pirates.

The Pirates play an extensive schedule over the course of the summer and have a travel slate not unlike a minor league baseball team. Based out of Dawson Springs, Ky. The squad plays their home games in Riverside Park.

Currently batting near the .400 mark for the summer, King is part of a Pirates team that has gone a remarkable 38-3 and are preparing to head to Wichita, Ks. for their version of the World Series.

As for all the extra work during the summer, King believes that there are nothing but benefits to playing while many are on vacation. "Playing summer ball helps keep me in shape. Swinging a wooden bat is making my hands and arms stronger. It's a bonus to play."

The competition is also stepped up in many instances with the Pirates featuring some Division I college players as well as other teams. "Everyone plays hard. Some of the close games have been very intense. We all want to win. The pitching is at or slightly above what I see in college. You have to stay sharp," said King of the level of focus required to succeed.

While there are plenty of lessons to be learned on the field, another aspect is living with a handful of teammates away from home. King and his teammates have gotten the opportunity to meet a lot of people while playing away from their respective homes and college situations.

"Six players are living in a house near Dawson Springs. One of the board members own it. It is five minutes from the field. Some days we work at the diamond or go to the city park and swim. We have watched a couple of Legion games the local team has played. We went to a town festival called Friday Night Lights and learned to line dance with some of the town's people. (Brian) Jett and (Nate) Noland are good friends. It's fun to meet other players to see how they play. My dad (Wayne King) said to enjoy this opportunity, get to know the people and play hard. Most of all, I am having fun," said King of the experience.

For Shoemaker, the summer has been filled with plenty of success as well with his squad heading to Legion Regional competition at Madison beginning on Friday.

After leading the nation in RBIs at the junior college level, Shoemaker hasn't missed a beat as the mercury rises during the summer. He stepped into one of the most formidable lineups that the area has ever boasted, batting between 2006 Indiana Mr. Baseball Josh Phegley and Mr. Baseball candidate Nick Ciolli. Shoemaker has hit to the tune of a .537 average this summer and has 12 of his team's 21 homeruns while scoring a team-leading 41 runs and driving in 55.

In just 82 times at bat, Shoemaker has struckout only five times and has shown off his power to teammates and opponents alike. But much like King, you'd never be able to tell just how successful they've been because each player would be the last person to brag about their abilities. Neither King nor Shoemaker have ever been the type to talk about anything other than their team's success. Which, when you ask any of their coaches, past or present, they'll tell you that they are the prototype teammate.

While the summer begins to wind down as school looms ahead, both Shoemaker and King are preparing to put the cap on yet another season on the diamond. While plenty of athletes are sitting by the pool, the pair continue to strive to improve. And if you ask either one, the only place they want to be is on the diamond working for another win with their team.

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