In three short years, Tim Shibuya went from being an unknown baseball walk-on out of Wyoming to taking the mound in Cary, NC in the 2010 NCAA Division II Championship game in Cary, NC as the ace of the UC San Diego staff. As a junior last season, the 6-foot-1 Shibuya earned first All-American honors while posting a 13-3 record with a 2.03 ERA for a Triton team that went 54-8 and fell one win short of being crowned national champions. Coach Dan O'Brien looks at the senior right hander's career with the kind of respect only a coach can have. "The thing people don't realize is how challenging it is to be an ace," says O'Brien, last year's Division II National Coach of the Year. "He goes out there cold in the first game of every series, facing the other team's top pitcher, and has to figure out the opposing hitters on the fly-he does an incredible job of consistently leading our team every weekend." Last Friday, in the second-ranked Tritons' season opener, Shibuya stymied Western Oregon, 5-1, to earn his first win of the 2011 season and the 29th of his UCSD career. The pharmacological chemistry major from Jackson, WY spent time recently reflecting on his career and looking ahead to his final campaign in La Jolla.
Q-Last year you started in the NCAA Division II Championship Game. Does that heartbreaking loss still stick with you and if so how has it motivated you for this season?
SHIBUYA-It has definitely stuck with me, but in a good way. Every day I am reminded of the things that the team and I need to get better at so we don't have to watch somebody else dog pile on our field in Cary, NC.
Q-Friday you pitched in the first regular season home game under the new lights at Triton Ballpark. How excited were you to be the starter and did the experience meet your expectations?
SHIBUYA-It was nice to get the ball the first game of the season, but the more important part was that we were able to set the tone for the season with a good team win over a regional opponent. As far as the night games go, it is awesome being able to play under the lights. Baseball was meant to be played at night and it is a great opportunity for baseball program to be able to do that.
Q-As a senior and one of the aces of the pitching staff what type of leadership role do you try to play? What kind of load do you expect the senior starting trio of yourself, Guido Knudson and Danny Simmons to carry this year?
SHIBUYA-As far as leadership goes I try and just lead by example. I come out each day to work harder than the guys next to me and expect them to have the same mentality. With Guido, Danny, and me starting we have the mentality of going deep into games and saving our bullpen for when it is really needed. Our job is to put our team in a position to win. Plus, those two are proven winners who know how to get the job done.
Q-What originally drew you to UCSD? How did baseball play into the equation?
SHIBUYA-My Dad is a ski instructor back home and some of his clients live in the San Diego area so when I was applying to schools they told me to put UCSD on my list. I applied and got in and decided to give it a shot. Baseball didn't really play into my decision. I planned on going to UCSD just because of the school and no matter where I went I was going to try out for the baseball or golf teams depending on which worked out better.
Q-Your freshman year you pitched out of the bullpen. How did you feel about that role and what was the transition like moving from a reliever to a starter?
SHIBUYA-Freshman year in the pen was great. I was able to spend a bunch of time with Keith Noe who taught me a ton about pitching and life in general. It was fun to come into a game in a jam and get a double play and let our offense hit. Moving to the rotation was not a big deal. I just looked at it as an extended bullpen outing. When it comes down to it, it is about making one pitch at a time.
Q-Your ERA has gone down every year since you joined the program in 2008 what have you learned the most about becoming a pitcher?
SHIBUYA-Our pitching coach Ryan Leake has taught me so much about attacking a hitter's weaknesses and what to look for in their approaches. The most important mentality is telling myself to win each pitch.
Q-What pitches do you throw? Which do you feel is your most effective and which do you wish was better?
SHIBUYA-I throw a two-seam fastball, cutter, change up, slider, and curveball. My fastball is my most effective pitch since I throw it the most. I like to force early, weak contact with my fastball and let my other pitches build off of that.
Q-Tell us a little about Coach Dan O'Brien. What has he meant to the overall success you have had since you joined UCSD?
SHIBUYA-Coach O'Brien is the most dedicated and passionate coach in the nation, hands down. His mental approach to the game has been invaluable in my development as a player. He is the reason that the teams the past few years have had success because he prepares us for each game and is never satisfied.
Q-In high school you played baseball and golf. What was the primary reason for you choosing to play baseball over golf collegiately?
SHIBUYA-Honestly, tryouts for the baseball team were before golf. If I got cut from the baseball tryout I was going to try and play golf.
Q-What was it like growing up in Jackson Wyoming? What is the most interesting story you have about your hometown?
SHIBUYA-Jackson is the greatest place to live. I loved growing up in the small town and being able to play outside all day. Fishing, biking, golfing, hunting, hiking, playing baseball, I could do it all. Best story was two summers ago I was fishing with some friends and we were drifting down the river when I saw a calf (a small cow) pinned up against the bank of the river. So I jumped into the river and swam down to the calf. The water was waist high by the bank so I was able to lift the calf out of the river and give him back to his friends.
Q-Your aspiration is to become a teacher. What grade and subject would you like to teach and why?
SHIBUYA-I would love to teach high school science and math. I like the smaller class sizes and interaction with students.
Q-Do you hope to continue playing baseball after college?
SHIBUYA-Absolutely. It has been a dream of mine since I was a little kid.
Q-What do you see yourself doing 10 years from now?
SHIBUYA- I have absolutely zero idea. It is all up in the air. My plan changes everyday. Too many things to do with not enough time.
Q-How would the ultimate conclusion to your collegiate career play out?SHIBUYA-Ultimate conclusion would be to be in the championship game in Cary, NC at night. Facing a hitter with two outs and two strikes in the ninth inning, I would throw a fastball in, freeze him and watch in slow motion as Kellen (Lee) comes out and tackles me and all of my other teammates jump on top to build the dog pile that we have dreamed about for three years now.
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