Former Kentucky baseball star John T. Shelby, who was an integral part of the 2006 Southeastern Conference championship team, has rejoined the program as a student assistant coach while he completes course work to earn his undergraduate degree in communications.
Shelby, an infielder from Lexington, enjoyed a stellar three-year career with the Cats from 2004-06. As the club’s second baseman, Shelby pushed the Cats to a then-record 44 wins in 2006, including a 20-10 mark in SEC play that earned the only league championship in school history and the program’s first opportunity to host an NCAA Regional. UK head coach Nick Mingione was an assistant coach for the team that season and forged a relationship with Shelby.
““I had the honor and privilege of coaching John T. Shelby in 2006,” Mingione said. “He and I have always kept in touch and as a result our relationship has grown. We are absolutely thrilled he is back at our great university to complete his degree. We speak about the student, person and player in our program and he is a great student, a phenomenal person and a tremendous player…
“Our players are in for a real treat. His experience here at Kentucky and in professional baseball are going to be an invaluable resource for our them. We welcome John T., his wife, Tricia, and their two adorable children back into our family.”
Shelby, who began classes on Wednesday, is excited to get started.
“I’m beyond grateful for the opportunity Coach Minge has given me to work alongside him and this awesome and knowledgeable coaching staff,” Shelby said. “It truly is a brotherhood and family atmosphere here with the guys working toward one goal: Omaha.
“The first thing I said to Coach Minge when he was our volunteer assistant in 2006 was that once SEC play started he wouldn’t be as enthusiastic and positive. Well, this man has never changed. He’s still as charismatic, energetic and motivational as ever and I’m thrilled to be back on this mission with him.”
Shelby earned 2006 Second-Team All-SEC and ABCA All-South Region team honors after hitting .291 with 18 home runs, a team-leading 12 stolen bases and OPS of 1.017. The home runs are the 12th most in a single-season in UK history.
In 2005, Shelby was the Cats’ top offensive player, leading the team in hits (77), home runs (10), RBI (52) and stolen bases (23). On the program’s career lists, Shelby ranks eighth in triples (seven), ninth in stolen bases (42) and 12th in home runs (33).
For his three-year career Shelby played in 159 games, hitting .307 with 131 runs, 36 doubles, six triples, 33 home runs, 131 RBI and 42 steals.
The versatile Shelby spent six seasons in professional baseball after being selected by the Chicago White Sox in the fifth round of the 2006 MLB Draft. He reached Triple-A with the Tampa Bay organization before spending three years as a professional scout for the Milwaukee Brewers. During his minor league career he hit .269 with 154 doubles, 34 triples, 76 home runs, 112 stolen bases and 339 RBI.
Shelby’s brother, JaVon, played for UK from 2014-16 and is currently a member of the Oakland Athletics’ organization. Their father, John, played 11 seasons in Major League Baseball and has been involved with professional baseball for more than 40 years.
The Wildcats are ranked No. 8 in Collegiate Baseball’s preseason poll and open their season at Wofford on Feb. 16.
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by Matt May