Idaho Falls pitcher Shane Halley sat at a picnic table staring out at the field.
“People take the game for granted,” Halley said. “One thing I’ve learned is that you can’t take anything for granted and to use any day that is blessed upon you and try to make the most of it.”
For Halley, it’s been a long journey to finally fulfill his dream of playing professional baseball like his grandfather Jim Kennedy did with the Chattanooga Lookouts.
“Growing up, he was my favorite person to talk to about baseball because he still had a growing passion for baseball even though he didn’t play.”
Halley wanted to follow in his grandfather and father’s footsteps and go to the University of Tennessee but he ultimately decided on the University of Virginia.
“My grandfather played at NTSU and my dad played college football at the University of Tennessee,” Halley said. “My whole life I had wanted to go to the University of Tennessee but the year I was getting recruited, their coaches had gotten fired and Virginia called me down for a visit and I fell in love with the campus and the coaches.”
Halley arrived at the University of Virginia in 2009 and split duties pitching and playing in the outfield. Halley said his freshman year was difficult and he had to work hard to make the transition to college ball.
“My freshman year was hard because I had all three coaches on my back if I did anything wrong so I was kind of a head case. It was definitely tough because I’d have to hit and pitch and deal with all three coaches at the same time,” Halley said. “The coaching staff is extremely tough but they get the best out of their players. It took me awhile to really buy into their system and when I finally did, things worked out very well and I started playing the best I’ve played in a long time.”
Halley put up big numbers throughout his career at Virginia with a breakout senior year. During the 2012 season, Halley pitched in 50.1 innings striking out 46 and holding opponents to a .183 batting average. It caught the attention of the Kansas City Royals and he was drafted in the 20th round of the 2012 draft.
“It was a blessing. You’ve worked towards this your entire life to finally get to that point,” Halley said. “To see your name and have family, friends, and coaches call you, it’s exciting. I was so thankful because all the hard work and the trials and tribulations I had gone through up to that point paid off in the end.”
Finally part of professional baseball, injuries began to slow Halley down.
“When I was drafted, I was dealing with an oblique issue. I was rehabbing from that in Arizona for about a month and a half. I was finally getting back on the mound and was excited to pitch,” Halley said. “There was a guy doing bucket and balls were all over the place so I was like alright, I’m going to help this guy. I’m bending down to pick up a ball when a ball comes over the screen and smoke me in the face.”
The ball did its damage causing a broken orbital bone, broken nose, and caused several teeth to fall out. However, the injury got worse over the next few days.
“KC told me to wait because they would take me to their doctors in a few days. Three days after I was hit in the face, I had been spitting up blood and my roommate Kyle Zimmer comes in and was like man that’s a lot of blood,” Halley said. “He called his dad who was a cardiologist who told him to take me to the ER. We’re going to the ER and I stand up and a pool of blood starts from my nose and we can’t stop it.”
Halley had lost a clot. The emergency room in Surprise couldn’t stop the bleeding so Halley was rushed to the emergency room in Phoenix.
“I experienced the worst pain I have ever felt in the form of the ear, nose, and throat doctor,” Halley said. “I had lost so much blood that I had to have a blood transfusion.”
It took three months to fully recover from that injury and Halley said it had lingering effects.
“I came back for instructs and pitched well. But coming back was tough because I had lost so much blood, I was anemic for most of the season,” Halley said. “I’d be winded after throwing 10 pitches so it was rough.”
Going into his first full spring training, Halley knew something was up with his arm.
“Usually I can hit my spot pretty well but I wasn’t hitting my spots so I knew something was wrong,” Halley said. “I finally went to the doctor and he said it was a bone bruise.”
After rehabbing for five to six weeks, Halley began throwing again but noticed his arm wasn’t any better. He was sent back to Kansas City where they found a 65 percent tear in his UCL which required him to have Tommy John surgery. He rehabbed from Tommy John surgery and pitched well before the Royals assigned him to Idaho Falls for his first professional season in baseball, almost two years after they had signed him. Halley said he is grateful just to be back playing and that he couldn’t have done it without the two most important things: family and faith.
“There have been ups and downs and when you’re at your lowest, family and faith have pulled me through,” Halley said. “It was tough dealing with the rehab and being out of the game for two years. Being out here and trying to make the most of it is the most important thing I’ve tried to take into the game. I just want that opportunity to finally have a good time and have fun playing which is what I’m doing this season.”