News From Terre Haute, Indiana

July 6, 2013

Waiting her turn

Softball phenom, 12, barely misses competing at All-Star Game, hopes to go next year

The Tribune-Star

DUGGER — Like many sports fans in the Wabash Valley, Shaughnessy Dinkins had been looking forward to the upcoming Major League Baseball All-Star Game in New York in a couple of weeks.

Unlike the rest of those fans, however, Dinkins was looking forward to the game because she’d been planning to be there.

As a participant.

That’s not going to happen yet — unless two 12-year-old girls back out of their plans to be there, perhaps — but it still could be a possibility for two more years. The budding softball star will continue to work to make it happen.

Shaughnessy is something of a legend already in Pitch, HIt and Run, a Major League Baseball-sponsored competition in which participants are given numerical scores by how well they can throw a ball through a strike-zone-like target, how far and how accurately they can hit a ball off a tee and how quickly they can run from second base to home. Those numbers are added and a winner is determined, which has been Shaughnessy — or Shoni, as the softball insignia on her mother’s car reads — every time.

Three times she’s gone to Farmersburg for local competition — and won. Three times she’s been to Victory Field at Indianapolis — and won. Three times she’s been to Chicago for team competition, the first two at U.S. Cellular Field and this year at Wrigley Field, and she’s undefeated there too.

Not all the winners from the 30 major league team competitions will be at the All-Star Game, however. The top three numerical scores from team competition are all that qualify, and Shoni learned Sunday that she was fifth. Fifth in the country, remember.

“I told her that fifth — from something like 200,000 that participated — is pretty good, but she thought this was her year,” said Tina Dinkins, Shoni’s mother, and the player herself was a little glum earlier this week.

“I was surprised, I guess,” Shoni said about finding out she wasn’t in the top three, and will be trying the next two years to continue her streaks in the 13-14 age group.

Shoni started playing softball when she was 8. Tina thinks her daughter may have inherited some ability from her grandfather, Ronald “Bones” Marlow, a slick first baseman in his day whose playing career ended when he went to fight in Korea.

Her coach three years ago on the Sullivan ADH Trucking team, Carmen Holeman, suggested that team members go to Farmersburg for the Pitch, HIt and Run competition, and the rest is history.

“I got to go see more players and more people [at Victory Field and Chicago],” Shoni said recently. “Watching people on the field makes you want to do better … makes you want to play on the same field they’re playing on.”

Currently playing first and third base — and usually batting cleanup — for the Vincennes Sting, Shoni was asked which of her skills was the most fun to use in actual games. She didn’t have to think hard about that question.

“Hitting!” she exclaimed.

A sixth-grader at Dugger Elementary School, Dinkins has already caught the eye of the Union High School coaches, and she doesn’t plan to make the Bulldogs her final team.

“She’s definitely going to college. She’s a straight-A student,” Tina Dinkins said. “She wants to go to Notre Dame [another thing that shows up on her mother’s car].”

Between now and an eventual college choice lie plenty of softball tournaments — very few of which seem to occur in Sullivan County — and probably a few more Pitch, Hit and Run ventures too. That’s a lot of miles on the vehicles and a lot of time spent by Kenny and Tina Dinkins — not that they’re complaining.

“It’s well worth it,” Tina emphasized.