When It Clicked: Rays RHP James Shields
Nearly six years passed from the time James Shields was drafted by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the 16th round in 2000 until he made his major league debut in 2006. But by 2007, he had established himself as one of the top young pitchers in the game, and by 2008 he was leading a youthful pitching staff all the way to the World Series. We asked Shields when it clicked for him, and he took us back to the darkest point of his long slog through the minors.
"I'd probably say the main thing for me was [that] I had to fail to succeed. I always had the passion to play baseball. But when you're a kid growing up you have all the passion you need, and when you get older you actually have to find that passion.
"I had [shoulder] surgery in '02 and I was pretty much out of game and was on the brink of getting released. I was on my way out of the game. A lot people go through it, but after surgery you're never the same. So it was something I had to deal with. I had to deal with a lot of failure when I came back. And that made me drive even harder to get over the injury.
"I was getting hit around, and the game was kind of surpassing my ability to play. There was never any doubt in my mind I wanted to play baseball. That's the one thing that kept me in the game. Having that drive and passion to succeed. But it's like a bus is thrown right in front of you and you have to dodge it.
"It was a long, slow process, and it had its ups and downs. But I did it, and I was better off for having gone through the hardships."
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