In some cases, you can go home again. At the very least, you can stop by and catch up.
Or, like Liberty Lake native Rusty Shellhorn did on Monday night, you can throw down.
Shellhorn, a Central Valley High graduate and former Washington State Cougar, looked right at home on the mound at Avista Stadium. In front of 3,418 fans, the local lefty threw a commanding six innings of shutout baseball in Everett’s 5-1 Northwest League win over Spokane.
“It’s really weird, to be honest, because I grew up coming to these games and I always cheered for the Indians,” said Shellhorn, who struck out seven and scattered five hits with no walks (though he did hit two batters) before he was replaced in the seventh.
“I felt like this was way out of reach as a kid, it’s weird being on the other side but it’s really nice to be home,” he added.
Shellhorn was part of a 2008 Greater Spokane League class that produced a handful of Division I-caliber pitching arms.
That year, Shellhorn made headlines when he struck out 21 batters and came close to perfection in a seven-inning victory over North Central.
Shellhorn reportedly walked one, and he ended up allowing two hits in the seventh inning of the game – spoiling the no-hitter – but his 21 strikeouts in the game set a state record, topping Ryan Johnson’s (Oak Harbor) 20 in a 2003 game. According to the National High School Sports Record Book, Brett Jennings (Lingville, Texas) racked up 24 in a 1986 game. Six others have fanned 23 and seven have struck out 22.
“The guy just goes about his business,” former Central Valley coach Barry Poffenroth told The Spokesman-Review at the time. “He’s blue collar and goes and does what he needs to do.”
That same mentality included a detour that took Shellhorn away from the Northwest in 2010, when he transferred from WSU – where he wasn’t getting the playing time he wanted – to Texas Tech.
“Unfortunately it didn’t work out (at WSU) – it wasn’t the right fit,” he said. “I love WSU, but I just needed to get out of town for a little bit, and it’s kind of ironic for my baseball career to bring me back up here, but it’s nice to be in the Northwest again.”
Shellhorn is also pleased to be playing within the organization for the other team he grew up cheering for. Following his senior season this spring, Shellhorn was picked by the Seattle Mariners in the 31st round of the MLB draft.
“I don’t think it could be any more perfect, to be honest,” Shellhorn said. “When I got drafted, it was kind of surreal. I’ve been a Mariners fan my whole life – I’ve dreamt about playing for the Mariners my whole life. It really worked out perfectly for me.
“I was really relaxed, honestly. I thought I’d be more nervous. I was hitting my spots and I almost felt like I had the crowd behind me. It was awesome coming home again.”