UB baseball's Bobby Sheppard leaves it all on the field
Senior shortstop wants to emulate Jeter’s leadership
Any time a shortstop wears No. 2 on their jersey, they’re inviting themselves to be compared against a former shortstop that famously donned the number – Derek Jeter.
However, Bobby Sheppard, the Bulls’ starting shortstop, embraces the comparison.
Jeter has always been his favorite player, and for the Bulls baseball team (11-20, 4-8 Mid-American Conference), Sheppard is hoping to mimic Jeter’s production on the field and his leadership off of it.
Sheppard is hoping to be the spark plug for a turnaround for the team. Despite a slow start to MAC play that has left Buffalo in last place in the MAC East Division, the team is now headed toward the most important part of their schedule. Sheppard leads the team with a .326 batting average this season and has been a staple at the top of the lineup for the Bulls all season. He’s been an anchor for the Bulls at one of the sport’s most important positions.
Sheppard is a former JUCO transfer in his second season with the Bulls and coming in as a bit of an unknown out of Prairie State College. He knew he had to work to earn his keep in Buffalo and now, in his second year, he’s stepping up as a leader.
“Last year was a little tougher being the first year here but I’m a lot more comfortable with the guys this year, the coaches and everything,” Sheppard said. “So I think they look to me to be a team leader definitely.”
Although Sheppard was one of the better hitters on the team last season, this year has been his true breakout. It began with a standout performance in the second half of last season, when he separated himself as one of the Bulls’ best hitters.
Head baseball coach Ron Torgalski said it was an injury that held Sheppard back in the first part of last year.
“Last year, he had surgery four weeks before the season on his hand so he rushed back,” Torgalski said. “From that standpoint, he probably wasn’t ready to play but he did, so by the time his hand got the strength back you could see it in his numbers toward the end of last season.”
Many of Buffalo’s best hitters have fallen victim to injuries this year. The team was missing its second, third and fourth place hitters in Wednesday night’s loss to Canisius College, but Sheppard has been one of the few guys this season Torgalski has been able to count on.
Torgalski also agrees that Sheppard is most definitely the team’s leader this season.
“As he goes we go, just like Jeter used to.” Torgalski said. “Guys look up to him, they look for his leadership.”
No matter who’s injured, what the score is, or what his team’s record is, Sheppard says he wants to do just as Jeter always did - leave it all on the field. Sheppard’s motor is always going and he’s willing to do whatever it takes to help his team get a win.
“He always talked about things like ‘why not give it all you can’ and I’ve always fell into that trap,” Sheppard said. “I just figure why not give it all I’ve got.”
Sheppard’s not yet ready to think about what comes next after college, right now the only thing he wants to focus on is his final season on the diamond.
Next up for Sheppard is a three-game series at his home state, Northern Illinois, starting this Friday.
Corey Klino is a staff writer and can be reached at email@example.com