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Shawn Estes comes home

Sheila Gardner

As much as his fans hoped to see San Francisco Giants ace Shawn Estes close out his phenomenal rookie year pitching in the World Series, the 1991 Douglas High School graduate spent Series weekend back at Lampe Park in Gardnerville.

“It all started right over there,” he said, pointing to the T-ball field at where he started playing at age 8.

Estes was in Carson Valley for the weekend as one of the participants in the MeFiYi Foundation’s Celebrity Baseball/Softball Camp.

“It’s perfect today,” he said Sunday, taking in the 60-degree temperature and the beautiful autumn afternoon. “You don’t realize how beautiful it all is until you go and come back.”

Estes had a busy weekend. He drove to Gardnerville Friday, participated in the camp for 7-to-13-year-olds on Saturday morning, flew to Hayward, Calif., Saturday afternoon for a baseball card signing and returned to Gardnerville on Saturday night to attend Sunday’s session.

Estes was part of a team of celebrities recruited for the camp by Carson Valley resident JoJo Townsell, former Hug High School, UCLA and New York Jets football player.

On Sunday, the camp was geared for 14-to-18-year-olds. Between sessions, a few of Estes’ DHS classmates, former coaches and their families stopped by to say hello.

He greeted everyone with a hug or a handshake, gracious with his time and signing autographs.

Since the post season scramble for the National League pennant ended a couple of weeks ago, Estes has been on the run.

“I do a lot of charity things. I’m not able to just sit there. I have a lot more time during the season to myself,” he said.

During the season that Estes helped turn around with his 19-5 win-loss record, he was buoyed by the support of the fans in San Francisco and back in Carson Valley. A caravan of family and friends made regular pilgrimages to 3Com Park to watch him pitch.

“It’s exciting because the support was so good. Everybody jumped on the Giants bandwagon,” he said.

As much as he misses Carson Valley, Estes has his heart firmly planted in San Francisco.

“I love San Francisco,” he said. “There’s going to be a brand new stadium in 2000 and I want to be playing there.”

Estes said he’s on a year-to-year contract, but expects to be up for a multi-year deal if he has another good year in 1998 to follow his performance this year which earned him an opportunity to pitch in the All-Star game.

“I’m not ever going to make career money my issue. I’m never going to let it get to me or let it distract me,” he said.

“One year doesn’t make your whole career. I had an awfully good year. I couldn’t have painted a prettier picture. It was so exciting. The thing about the business of baseball is that you never experience the same thing year after year. You do it with a different bunch of guys. I couldn’t have asked for a better group to have shared this season with.”

Despite the attention he gained with his phenomenal season, Estes said the Bay Area fans respect his privacy.

“What I like is that they’ll come up and congratulate you, and they don’t expect you to sit down and have a conversation with them. They understand if you’re too busy to stay or have to leave before you can give out an autograph.”

Estes said he can’t wait to get back to 3Com Park to begin conditioning which starts in November.

“I want to stay healthy,” he said.

Spring training starts in March and until then, he plans to play a lot of golf and possibly look for a place at Lake Tahoe.

“A lot of people play golf to relax. Not me. I spend six months keeping my emotions in. I let it out on the golf course.”

Estes said he wished he had the benefit of a celebrity camp when he was younger. Nearly 150 kids from Douglas County, Carson City, Reno, Lake Tahoe, Fallon and Winnemucca made the trip to Lampe Park to learn from Estes, Giants third baseman Bill Mueller, 1996 Olympic softball gold medal winners Julie Smith and Shelly Stokes, Jody Schwartz of the 1984 and 1988 Olympic teams and Reese Borges, a Hug High School graduate and former Florida Marlins player.

To the kids at the camp, it was Estes who provided the proof that growing up playing baseball at Lampe Park just might mean a ticket to the majors.

“The little kids just want me to be there. They want to hear my stories. Their attention span is pretty short,” he said. “The older kids want to hear what I have to say.”

Estes said he advises young players to work on their mental game. As a high school player, he said he was too competitive.

“You want to do so good,” he said. “In high school, I was almost more competitive. It was a pride thing, a rah-rah thing. I wanted to keep on playing. I know I always pushed myself because I wanted to get to the next level. Sometimes trying harder is not always better. I tell young players to live in the present, not to dwell in the past. There’s no pressure in the present.”

Estes focused on the past a bit as he looked around Lampe Park.

“This brings back a lot of memories,” he said. “I spent my whole career here when I was young. Actually, kids are starting out younger than I did. Now they’re 5.”

And the young fans soaked up everything Estes had to say, hoping to duplicate his success.

I don’t think of it as quick,” he said. “I got drafted when I was 18. I think I was overdue.”

He was reflective considering the pressure on Jaret Wright, the Cleveland Indian’s 21-year-old rookie who started in the Series’ game seven on Sunday.

“That’s a big load for a kid that age,” said Estes, who at 24 is only three years older.