Bellingham High School graduate Austin Shenton will be playing for Florida International University in Miami next year. After graduating from high school in 2016, Shenton was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 34th round of the MLB draft.
However, Shenton, 19, deferred his draft selection and decided to play college baseball with the intention of re-entering the draft in 2019. Shenton is a part of a talent-laden signing class for Florida International University that currently ranks No. 3 in the nation according to Perfect Game USA, a scouting service.
“I want to be a big-leaguer, I want to play in the major leagues,” Shenton said. "I think with the help of my coaches at [Florida International University] and the program and the pull they have within scouting organizations or Major League ball clubs, I think it’s going to be the right fit for me.”
Last year, Shenton attended Bellevue College. While playing for the Bellevue Bulldogs, the third baseman drove in 56 runs, the most in the Northwest Athletic Conference. Shenton finished the season with the team’s highest batting average of .395 in his 185 at-bats, picking up a league high of 73 hits in the process.
But Shenton’s swing hasn’t always been the same. The left-handed batter finished his high school career knowing he needed to change his game in some areas.
“I heard from scouts after I got drafted out of high school [there were] some things that I needed to improve on,” Shenton said. “I needed to get better at third base, find a position. I needed to trim down my body a little bit, get a little faster, and then show that I can hit for more in-game power. I think I crossed every single one of those check marks.”
Shenton said his future has not always been clear. He said recruitment for him this year was getting stale until he got in contact with his summer league coach from his senior year of high school, who is now the hitting coach and recruitment coordinator at Florida International University.
“I just called him up and asked if he needed a left-handed bat who can play third base and he was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ Then, it just took off from there,” Shenton said. “It just seemed like a really good fit for me with everything I want to do with baseball.”
Shenton will be following in the footsteps of other big league players next year, as six members of the Florida International University baseball team were drafted in the June 2017 MLB draft.
Shenton hasn’t been taking a break from baseball this summer. Since June, he has been playing with a summer collegiate team, the Bellingham Bells. The Bells play in the north division of the West Coast League and, through 34 games, Shenton is leading the entire summer league in batting average, sitting at .395 yet again.
Jim Clem, the pitching coach and recruiting coordinator for the Bells, has worked with Shenton for the past two summers.
“He’s got a great feel — I mean his instincts are really good, and his hands are exceptionally good,” Clem said. “Whether it’s fielding a ball or swinging a bat, his hands — they work and he knows how to use them. It’s a special thing, not everybody’s got that. But he does.”
Clem also said Shenton has showed a lot of improvement on the defensive end since last season. He said the third baseman worked hard to earn his spot on defense, and that he forecasts improvement in that area for Shenton.
“I feel that at a young age, he is actually further along than a lot of people are on the mental side of the game,” Clem said. “He takes success and failure both in stride and is the same guy every day.”
While Shenton’s stats last year and this summer speak for themselves, the process behind how he got there is a little less obvious. Shenton said his improvement on the defensive end started in the kitchen.
“I went paleo for a couple months and dropped about 13 percent body fat while I was at Bellevue. I hit seven home runs this year, which I haven’t done in awhile,” he said. “It’s a lot of hard work, and a lot of things are put into it. I kind of think of this like a business.”
Although improving his game is an important part of playing summer ball, Shenton said that playing for the Bells has other bonuses.
“Most summer leagues are on the East Coast," Shenton said. "It’s nice to be home and playing for my hometown, playing in front of my family and friends and being able to hang out with them for probably one last time before I have to go to Florida International University.”
Shenton was not the only one to acknowledge this may be his last summer in Bellingham for a while. His mother, Andrea Prendergast Shenton, said she thought they would have more family time while he’s home.
“It was kind of an illusion, I thought, ‘Oh I’m going to see him so much more.’ And then the fact is, between practice and hitting and for him to try and have a social life of his own, being a young guy,” Prendergast Shenton said. “Our best conversations are right in the kitchen while we’re cooking or cleaning and doing all that.”
Over the months of June, July and August, the Bells play in 57 regular season games, which doesn’t leave much time for summer excursions — or meals for that matter, Prendergast Shenton said.
“We squeeze in breakfast. It seems like dinners are always tough because of the schedule,” she said. “You just do the best you can.”
Prendergast Shenton said her son also has many other interests such as hiking, photography, cooking and writing poetry.
“He’s blessed. I don’t use that word that often, but I think he is. It’s his job to make the most of that. He’s got something, he works hard at it as well. I’m not saying it comes easy, because it really doesn’t.”
Andrea Prendergast Shenton
She added that one scout dubbed her son a renaissance guy.
“I thought, ‘That’s a little lofty for a 19-year-old kid.’ But it sort of fit,” Prendergast Shenton said.
But, she also acknowledged the talented baseball player’s undeniable ability.
“He’s blessed. I don’t use that word that often, but I think he is," Prendergast Shenton said. "It’s his job to make the most of that. He’s got something, he works hard at it as well. I’m not saying it comes easy, because it really doesn’t.”
Bellingham High School has had four graduates go on to play in the MLB since the school was founded in 1938. Two of those players, Cuddles Marshall whose major league debut was in 1946, and Roger Repoz in 1964, attended Western.
As of now, Shenton’s hard work and talent will take him to South Beach. He leaves Bellingham for Miami in August.