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Estes remembers past, looks to future

Dave Price, Record-Courier News Service

Nine years ago Shawn Estes was faced with a big decision: either accept the scholarship offer from Stanford University or the big signing bonus as the Seattle Mariners’ first-round draft choice.

Estes went for the money and the opportunity to play major league baseball, a decision that obviously turned out well. Drafted as the 12th pick overall as a senior out of Douglas High School in 1991, Estes spent four-plus seasons in the Seattle organization before he was traded to San Francisco on May 20, 1995, along with infielder Wilson Delgado in exchange for Giants veteran pitcher Solomon Torres.

If given the choice, though, would he follow the same route? The answer is, yes.

“I couldn’t turn down the money and I couldn’t turn down the fact that they (Seattle Mariners) gave me college on the side,” Estes said Saturday while playing the role of instructor at the MeFiYi/Douglas County Parks and Recreation Department Fall Baseball Camp at Lampe Park. “If I ever wanted to go back, they pay for college. I think it depends on the individual. I think if you feel in your heart that you have enough talent and desire and will to get to the big leagues and to make a career of baseball then take that opportunity as quick as you can… you may not get another opportunity to do it.

“You can go to college for three or four years to play baseball or athletics and there’s no guarantees that you’re gonna end up getting drafted or not get hurt. The thing about playing in the minor leagues is that the attention is focused on you, not the team as much. Until you get to the big league level, they’re more concerned about your well being than they are about the team’s well being. They want each individual to get to the big leagues because you’re a piece of the puzzle at the big league level.”

Estes did return for one semester at Arizona State University in 1993 – at which time he was involved with fall instructional league ball in Arizona – but he didn’t want anything to interfere with his focus on major league baseball.

“I said, ‘I’m going to get to the big leagues, it’s just a matter of time and I don’t need to go to school right now and if I have to go back to school one day, I’ll do it,'” Estes said. “Basically, I had figured out what I wanted my career to be and I felt confident that was going to be the path I was going to take.”

Estes, now 27, has made the best of his opportunity. After moving to the Giants in 1995, the 6-foot-2, 195-pound left-hander was quickly promoted through the minors and given a brief call-up to pitch in the majors at the end of that same season. He was 19-5 in his second full season and helped the Giants to the NL West championship and he was 15-6 this season and a key cog for the Giants in their run to another division title.

Does Estes consider his trade to the Giants to be a major break?

“I guess I could consider that a break, but I never felt I wouldn’t ever make it to the big leagues with Seattle, either,” Estes admitted. “I felt that I was going to have a breakthrough year in ’95, the year I got traded, and who knows where I would have ended up that year if I had stayed with Seattle. I felt I was going in the right direction career-wise, I was making progress.

Estes described it as a “wake-up call” that signed the time had arrived for him to get to work.

“I realized at that point in my career that I didn’t have any security by being a first-round draft pick,” Estes said. “When I got traded, I realized it was on me. I had to be one to take the bull by the horns and go out there and prove that I could pitch at the big league level. It made me realize, ‘Hey, wait a second, this could be over sooner than you imagined.’

“That right there was a motivating factor, that’s all I needed,” he went on. “It made he hone in and made me concentrate and made me focus on the things that were important to me and important to pitching in the big leagues. That was preparation, mentally and physically; it was trying to control my emotions and it was called just working hard and concentrating on baseball, nothing else. I was able to do that, I caught some breaks along the way, I had some good instructors in the Giants organization and I got the opportunity to pitch in the big leagues the same year I got traded to the Giants.”

Estes career stats

W L G GS ShO IP H R ER BB SO Sv ERA

55 42 135 133 6 831.0 784 433 399 444 686 0 4.32