Baseball: Southland Vikings’ Bobby Sheppard eager for next phase at University of Buffalo
By Tim O’Brien For Sun-Times Media July 1, 2014 11:01PM
Bobby Sheppard, of the Southland Vikings, connects for a three run home run against the Joliet Admirals at Homewood-Flossmoor High School, Monday, June 16th, 2014, in Flossmoor. | Gary Middendorf/for Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 2, 2014 2:14AM
Bobby Sheppard was raring to go, his college baseball career waiting in front of him.
And then it wasn’t.
Days before UIC’s season opener in 2012, Sheppard attempted to plant on his left ankle during a rundown. His ankle didn’t plant. It broke. His freshman season was over in a blink.
“I didn’t feel quite myself until three or four months after that,” Sheppard said. “After that, I recovered and felt better, light on my feet again. I’ve just gotten stronger since, and the ankle feels good.”
Down but not out, Sheppard wasn’t going to be stopped. After redshirting his freshman year, Sheppard’s route changed but he kept at it.
The 5-foot-11 shortstop ended up at Prairie State College, where he played the past two seasons, helping the Pioneers to the program’s first conference title, not to mention two regional titles.
As a sophomore this season, Sheppard hit .353 with two home runs, 44 RBI, 43 runs and 21 stolen bases. His success at the junior college level translated to Division I success: The Oak Forest grad has earned a scholarship at the University at Buffalo.
“Buffalo said they liked me a lot, liked juco players, because they know the grind,” Sheppard said. “A lot of games on top of each other, doubleheaders, doubleheaders during the week. It’s a lot, but I feel like it made me stronger as a player. I know what it means to grind and get out there and win.”
A team leader and captain on Oak Forest’s 2011 Class 3A state runner-up, Sheppard has done his best to work on his all-around game, on top of his already solid play at shortstop.
Typically hitting out of the No. 2 spot in the batting order for the Southland Vikings, Sheppard wants it all: He wants to show gap and home run power, make contact and beat out grounders.
“I had a pretty good glove in high school and a good bat, but I wanted to take that next step offensively,” Sheppard said. “My speed also developed, working by myself, working with coaches, so I’m glad about that.”
With a month-plus left in the Vikings’ season, Sheppard will begin focusing on Buffalo and an up and coming Bulls program that’s giving him a chance to perform at the Division I level.
That’s all it is, though, a chance. Sheppard will have to do the rest.
“They gave me an acknowledgement that I’ll have a good chance at short,” Sheppard said. “They’re not giving me anything, which I respect. I don’t want that. I want to go out and earn my spot. Hopefully, it all works out that way.”