Volume 93, Issue 1

Friday, May 14, 1999


SPORTS

Halftime: The use of drugs in sports

Legacy of the Great One

Young Toronto Jays star ready to rise

Three Mustangs selected in CFL draft

Young Toronto Jays star ready to rise



By Randy Quan
Gazette Staff



TORONTO–Despite various chaotic instances faced this year by the Toronto Blue Jays, it seems like short stop Shannon Stewart remains one of the few things making sense.

The 25 year-old lead off man was named the American League player of the week for April 26. However, there was never any doubt Stewart had the raw ability to become a premier baseball player at the Major League level.

A graduate from Southbridge Senior High School in 1992, Stewart feels one of the keys to his success has been confidence. "Obviously, when you watch guys like Derek Jeter from a couple of years ago when he first came up – now he seems in control of himself," Stewart said. "And that's what it takes – a little confidence, a good year and you may have another good year and then you start believing 'hey, I can do this.'"

The Toronto Blue Jays batting coach Gary Matthews is equally confident of his outfielder's abilities. "He's gotta come to play every single day. He's a young hitter and he's probably going to be one of the best lead off hitters of all time," Matthews said. "He's a very coachable player."

Stewart's teammates have also seen the left-fielder's progression. Shawn Green who, like Stewart, was a product of the Blue Jays farm system has high praise of his fellow outfielder. "Shannon's been doing great," Green said. "He's one of the best outfielder's today."

Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, Stewart was Toronto's first round selection in the 1992 entry draft. In his first season in the majors, Stewart opened the season with the club and played two games before being sent down to the minor league affiliate in Syracuse. After a 58 game stint in the minors, Stewart returned and finished with a respectable .284 batting average with 22 runs batted in, seven triples and 10 stolen bases.

In Stewart's first full season with Toronto things got off to a slow start when he suffered a mild hamstring pull in the first season game. However, Stewart returned four games later and finished off the month of April batting .277 with three runs batted in and five stolen bases.

He finished overall with a .279 batting average, 12 home runs and 55 runs batted in. He led the Jays with 51 stolen bases and was third overall in the American League.

The right-fielder who is elusive to the opposition on the base pads proved just as evasive in revealing his goals for the 1999 season. "I'm a guy who doesn't talk much about them because I keep them personal," Stewart said. "Then after the season ends I can look back and say I planned to do this and that and I did it."

So far this season, it looks as if Shannon may very well exceed any goals he has set for himself. In the first 31 games Stewart has been amongst the league leaders in almost every offensive category in the American League. In 124 at bats, Stewart is seventh overall with a .347 batting average, second in stolen bases with 12, first in hits with 43 and third in runs with 27.

However, Stewart acknowledged statistical achievements aren't everything. "It's important staying consistent but the big thing is making the playoffs."


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Copyright The Gazette 1999