NCHS alum retires from pro baseball

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NCHS alum retires from pro baseball

Chad Hinshaw's baseball career timeline

Chad Hinshaw's baseball career timeline

Will Dowell

Chad Hinshaw's baseball career timeline

Will Dowell

Will Dowell

Chad Hinshaw's baseball career timeline

Chad Hinshaw, NCHS alum, has decided to retire from his professional baseball career after six seasons of playing all three outfield positions at every level of Minor League-affiliated baseball.

As for his future in sports, Hinshaw, who graduated in 2009, said his playing days now will only consist of “slow pitch softball.”
Hinshaw returned to Illinois State University, where he played collegiately, to graduate after his last run in independent baseball with the Lincoln Saltdogs. Now, he plans on taking on the real world as he did on the baseball field.

“As I see it, I have plenty of open doors and one of these days, I will choose one and run with it,” Hinshaw said.

As Illinois State’s single-season and career leader in stolen bases – when Hinshaw chooses to run, he is likely to find success.

Before landing at ISU, Hinshaw started three years of varsity baseball at Normal, though he says his senior year was his favorite. “Obviously it helps having the success I did, but I also realized I needed to cherish that last year because they were my final playing days.”

Varsity head coach, Mr. Ryan Short commented, “Chad Hinshaw is the most talented athlete to play on our baseball teams since I have been at Normal Community.” That talent and that success was the result of dedication and attitude.

“Chad always wanted coaches’ input on how he could improve. He never acted like he was better than his teammates or above correction,” Short said.

Describing his senior season as successful would be a bit of an understatement, as Hinshaw hit .573 with seven home runs, 25 runs batted in, and 46 runs scored, which earned him All-Big 12 Conference and All-State honors as an outfielder.

Hinshaw stole 34 bags in 36 tries that season, but this speed wasn’t only used on the basepaths, but on the football field where he was also a three-year starter and earned Big 12 All-Conference honors as kicker, wide receiver and safety at NCHS.

“He was the kind of athlete who would have been successful in any sport–from soccer to wrestling to track,” said Short. “It would have been easy for him to parade around our school knowing how good he was and it would have been easy for him to ignore coaches because of his natural ability. But what set Chad apart from student-athletes, both then and now, was his humility.”

After his playing days at NCHS, Hinshaw continued his academic and baseball career at Illinois State University where he had an immediate impact as a freshman in 2010 – batting .299 with a .424 on base percentage while playing in 55 of the Redbird’s 56 games. He continued this level of success all throughout his collegiate career at ISU, as he finished with a .274 career batting average and only committed 7 total errors in his four years at ISU.

While many high schoolers and collegiate athletes dream of going pro, Chad’s pursuit of attaining this dream of playing professional baseball suddenly became very attainable.

“It didn’t really hit me until senior year of college that I had such a good chance of being drafted,” Hinshaw said. That “likely chance” became a reality when Hinshaw was taken in the 15th round out of 40 in the 2013 MLB draft by the Los Angeles Angels.

“Obviously it was a goal for many years, but actually achieving such an accomplishment that many don’t get to experience was awesome,” Hinshaw remembers of draft day.

After playing 26 games in Utah for rookie ball, Chad moved on to low A ball, then high A where he showed the Angel’s organization his true tools on the field: a great glove, gap to gap power and blazing speed.

Hinshaw hit .270 over a 124 game season, a .365 on base percentage, 27 doubles, 11 triples, 16 home runs, and 70 RBIs with only six fielding errors as starting center fielder.

His speed was a strong suit in the outfield – helping him track down balls and cover both the left and right field gaps. He would finish the year with 41 stolen bases on 56 tries.

A year later, Hinshaw received the call up to the AA organization in Arkansas, where he continued his development and success; he hit .289 with a .391 on base percentage, which was well above average considering the MLB’s average last season was .318.

In the 2016 campaign, Hinshaw faced a common problem amongst many professional baseball players and athletes in general. Injuries. After all of this momentum in climbing his way toward the Majors, the physical toll of 120 plus game seasons began to set in.

There was “no point to not to keep going. I saw it as an easy choice to keep grinding for the ultimate goal,” said Hinshaw, who had already made it farther than most professional baseball players ever do.

But those injuries hindered his success in 2016, while he stepped up to the plate at less than 100 percent. He hit a dismal .190 over 205 at bats. The Los Angeles Angel’s organization then decided to cut ties with Hinshaw, making him a free agent.

Refusing to quit, Hinshaw signed with Southern Maryland of the Independent Atlantic League, which is not affiliated with any Major League organization.

After a short time with Southern Maryland, the Marlins’ AAA affiliate in New Orleans suffered an injury in their outfield; before he knew it, Hinshaw was heading back down south to play a level higher than he ever had, just one call away from professional baseball’s biggest stage.
After a hot start and talk of being brought up to the Marlins as a fresh set of legs in the outfield, it seemed that talk was just that – talk.

Chad ultimately wasn’t called up to the majors during the 2017 season.

Unfortunately for Chad and players with his skill set, the game of baseball has evolved drastically in the last few years. Power and home runs are now what are valued in a hitter. Launch angle has become a focal point when it comes to analyzing a player’s swing, as players try to get elevation and backspin on the ball for high soaring home runs. As long as fans want to see home runs, and as long as fans pay for tickets, the fate of defensively sound, speed freaks like Chad, who have gap to gap power to utilize their legs on the base paths may not lead them to the majors. The MLB organizations want outfielders to have the most powerful bats as possible at the cost of other tools.

“Could I have tried being the awesome story people love and grind it through Indy ball to get the second chance in pro ball? I could have, but I promised myself once the progression stopped I wasn’t going to force what was most likely inevitable,” Hinshaw said.

Today’s game of baseball is based off of business decisions and the roster moves teams make are often based off of what will sell tickets and make money. Baseball has evolved into a business of which statistics, advanced analytics and sabermetrics drive almost every choice. It has become an easier decision for MLB executives to keep power hitting outfielders on their Major League rosters because it is what the fans want to see when they go watch a game, and if it sells more tickets then it is making more money for the organization.

Baseball is a business and unfortunately for speedy outfielders like Chad, who don’t hit for power on a game to game basis, the lifelong dream of playing in the MLB becomes even harder than it already is.

 

This article originally appeared in the February 2019 print edition of the Inkspot.