When junior shortstop Jake Wald left the GW baseball team for the minor leagues last June, head coach Tom Walter had cause for concern about who would fill the important infield position. Then came Tom Shanley.
At 5-foot-10, 180 pounds, the freshman began his collegiate career with a 15-game hitting streak, earning him two Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Week awards and effectively quelling any concerns his coach had about the starting shortstop position.
“I’ve never seen a hitting average from a freshman like Shanley’s in what were his first collegiate games,” Walter said. “His averages just showed us his natural ability to play at this level.”
Though his hitting streak ended, Shanley raised his batting average to .412 through last Sunday, good for second in the A-10 and 32nd in the nation. At the start of the week, Shanley also led the conference in on base percentage (.504) and was tied for the lead in runs scored (35) with sophomore teammate Anthony Raglani.
“Watching Tom play out there, he looks and acts like he’s been playing for four years,” freshman teammate Josh Wilkie said. “He’s been a leader not just for the freshmen but for the team, and we rely on him for big hits.”
While his older teammates have come to rely on him for his clutch play during games, Shanley said he can always count on them for good times off the field.
“I’m so glad I came here; it’s been awesome,” he said. “The team is amazing together, and everyone gets along great, so I couldn’t have asked for a better team.”
And it is that attitude that has earned Shanley respect for his character, as shown when he received the team’s second annual Jackie Robinson award last Saturday.
“The award is for someone who knows how to approach the game of baseball the way it is meant to be played,” Walter said. “When watching Tom play, not only can you see his strong work ethic, but also his love of the game.”
“He’s 100 percent all about baseball, and he never gives up when he’s out on the field,” he said.
Individual accolades are nothing new for Shanley, who was named New York State Player of the Year in his senior season at Pine Plains High School. During the 2002 season, the Stanfordville, N.Y. ,native hit .550 with 39 RBIs and 20 steals to lead his team to a state championship.
Still, Shanley said he didn’t expect success to come so soon at the college level.
“I didn’t expect so much so early in my career at GW,” he said. “But I was confident in my abilities to help the team toward a winning record.”
Despite his youth, Shanley said he tries to be as much of a leader as he can by “playing my best on the field and being a strong voice in the dugout.”
The Colonials (26-11, 4-5 A-10) have had no trouble getting off to a winning start after reaching the NCAA Tournament last year, but the team has been hindered by more than 20 cancellations and postponements because of bad weather.
“It’s frustrating,” Shanley said. “We like to get our games in, and it tends to put the team in a slump. But I think we’re going to come back a lot stronger this season and finish it off with a bang.”
If the Colonials are able to repeat last year’s strong late-season run, Walter said, Shanley will play a key role.
“Tom’s made all the difference,” he said. “He plays great offense and defense on the field, and for him to play this way as a freshman has been great.”