As soon as news broke on Day 3 of the 2019 MLB Draft Wednesday that Anthony Lepre (pictured above) had been selected by the Seattle Mariners, Aaron Shackelford picked up his phone and called the friend with whom he formed the most prolific duo in Master’s history.
Shackelford was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 14th round Wednesday. Lepre went in the 28th round.
“We were pumped,” Shackelford said. “He deserves it. He deserved to go way earlier, but the Lord has his timing.”
Shackelford and Lepre combined to hit 64 home runs in 2019, more than all but 13 of the NAIA’s other 181 teams. Master’s hit a program-record 89 blasts as a team.
Shackelford told himself he didn’t hold any expectations entering the draft. The left-handed hitting shortstop had done everything he could to position himself for selection in a favorable round. He blasted 36 home runs, he tallied 99 RBIs, he earned his school’s first-ever NAIA Player of the Year award.
That didn’t mean it wasn’t taxing for Shackelford to watch Rounds 3-10 on Tuesday.
“The Lord already knows and He has the perfect plan for (my wife and me),” Shackelford told himself as the rounds passed. “It was still hard to keep that truth running through my mind all day.”
Shackelford’s patience paid off on Day 3 Wednesday when the Pirates selected him with the 424th overall pick, making it 10 out of the last 11 years that Master’s has had a player picked.
Shackelford (pictured above at right) is the second Mustang chosen by the Pirates in the draft’s history. Josh Higgins was taken by Pittsburgh in the 23rd round in 2000.
“I’m so thankful,” Shackelford said, “and so glad this process is over and I can just play.”
The Pirates are getting a player who posted almost unprecedented power numbers in 2019. Shackelford led the NAIA in nine offensive categories, his 36 homers falling two shy of matching the association’s single-season mark.
Shackelford said he hopes to bring a ministry mindset to the Pirates organization, wherever it sends him and his wife, Brooke. The Pirates have rookie ball affiliates in Bristol, Virginia, and Bradenton, Florida; a short-season Class-A team in Morgantown, West Virginia; and a Low-A team in Greensboro, North Carolina.
“I hope to use it as an opportunity to make Christ known as well as grind every day to make it to the big leagues,” said Shackelford.
At Master’s, Shackelford set all-time program records for home runs (67), RBIs (231), total bases (534), runs (215) and triples (15). He set TMU single-season records this year for runs (83), RBIs, home runs and slugging percentage (1.096).
In the final nine games of 2019, as Master’s was making a push toward the NAIA tournament, Shackelford went 15 for 28 at the plate with 11 home runs and 29 RBIs.
He walked 15 times and slashed .536/.674/1.750 during that span.
Lepre, a right-handed hitting catcher, tallied 28 home runs in his senior season at Master’s after transferring from UC Riverside. He drove in 80 runs and broke TMU’s single-season hits record with 91.
“These players made their marks on the history of the program,” said TMU coach Monte Brooks on Day 3. “To see Aaron blossom before our eyes to national dominance over his four years was beyond outstanding. And Anthony’s lone season was legendary, it will never be forgotten.
“Their amateur years were amazing. I’m looking forward to watching their professional career, and I hope to see them in the big leagues soon.”
— By Mason Nesbitt, TMU Sports Information Director
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