SANDY — Colton Shaver hates doing push-ups.
Beginning when he was 8 years old, Shaver’s dad would pitch to him in the batting cages, and for every ball Shaver didn’t hit whether it was a ball or a strike, Shaver had to do 20 push-ups.
Shaver did a lot of push-ups when he was younger, far too many to ever count. “When my dad’s throwing, you don’t know where the ball’s going,” he said.
In the latter years, though, Shaver’s dad rarely threw anything past him, no matter how wild he was.
Those early hitting drills honed Shaver’s hand-eye coordination, making him a great contact hitter who rarely struck out. And, because of all those push-ups, he had great upper-body strength from a young age and could crush a baseball.
Shaver’s dad had created a monster, and combined with an unmatched work ethic and a love for the game, Shaver was always destined for baseball greatness.
The hard work paid off ten-fold this season, with Shaver leading Jordan High School to its second 5A baseball state championship in school history and earning the 2014 Deseret News Mr. Baseball award.
“What I love about baseball is the mental aspect of it, you have to really think and you have to really try to be successful. If you don’t have that mental strength, if you don’t have that work ethic, you can get passed up by anybody,” said Shaver.
Shaver said his favorite player, Boston’s Dustin Pedroia, is daily proof that size isn’t everything in baseball. Like his idol, Shaver worked hard to achieve success.
“His work ethic is amazing. He’s always trying to get better and he’s extremely coachable,” said Jordan coach Chad Fife.
Whether it was catching behind the plate, spraying balls all over the field or serving as Jordan’s No. 3 pitcher on the mound, Shaver excelled on the numbers that speak for themselves.
Shaver batted .478 this season with 14 doubles, a state-best 12 home runs and 39 RBIs. He walked 33 times — most of them intentionally — for a scintillating .627 on-base percentage, and only struck out nine times.
On the mound he finished with a 6-1 record with 67 strikeouts and a 1.13 ERA.
Fife was very impressed with how Shaver handled the frustration of 26 intentional walks. It would’ve been easy to allow it to become a distraction, but the senior just continued to go about his business and waited for his next opportunity. It inevitably came and he took advantage.
Shaver also took pride whenever his pinch runner came around to score, which happened a lot throughout the season.
His defense behind the plate is one of the things the BYU commit is most proud of. During his sophomore and junior seasons, one of the things he heard most from college coaches and scouts was that his feet were too slow behind the plate.
“I really took that to heart and worked really hard over the offseason,” said Shaver.
He did most of the work at the gym with his little brother Jacob. Working with a trainer, they ran ladders and shuffles, did band-resistance drills with cables strapped to their ankles, in addition to running sprints and long distances afterward.
Sometimes, however, he simply practiced dance routines with his little sister Alexis at home.
“Now I’m hearing that everyone thinks one of my strong points is my feet work really well and quickly behind the plate,” said Shaver. “It’s satisfying.”
That improved strength behind the plate was a big reason Jordan finished with a 25-6 record and a state championship this year.
“You’re only as good as your catcher in most games. He has such good leadership and control of the game, everybody feeds off of him,” said Fife.
Next year at BYU, Shaver may continue to play catcher or he may shift to a corner infield position. Regardless of where he plays, Fife expects Shaver to be successful at BYU with a shot to play pro ball too.
“With his work ethic and his confidence and he’s so coachable, I think that’s something that will allow him to have a shot at it. He’s just so big and strong, and his natural ability is off the charts, I think it’s realistic,” said Fife.
Shaver knows he’s heading to BYU with high expectations, but he’s been groomed for this opportunity from a young age, and he’s not about to take anything for granted.
Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company