Utah baseball produces a Tiger

If you thought that Utah baseball didn’t do much in producing talent in baseball, think again.

On April 2, former Ute Chris Shelton was named to the 25-man roster of Major League Baseball’s Detroit Tigers.

He is a true Utah kid, “born and raised in Utah,” according to Utah baseball coach Tim Esmay, who coached Shelton when he played for the U.

Shelton played at Salt Lake Community College for two seasons and led the Scenic West Athletic Conference in hitting in 2000 with a .415 average.

His stats from that season included 54 runs, five home runs and 39 RBI, accompanied with 18 doubles, two triples and seven stolen bases in nine attempts to earn him the 2000 SLCC team MVP.

“He’s hit everywhere he’s been,” Esmay said of his former player.

“He’s really worked his tail off.”

Shelton played for the Utes as a catcher and designated hitter in 2001 as a junior under Esmay.

He led the team in batting average (.374), runs (63), hits (82), doubles (22), home runs (19) and RBI (66). He was named Mountain West Conference Player of the Week twice en route to being named the league’s MVP.

He was drafted in 2001 by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 30th round following his junior season, his only one in a Utah jersey.

The announcement of Shelton’s spot on the roster didn’t necessarily come as a surprise to Esmay, who said, “There’s not a greater baseball person around.”

Even after just one season with Utah, however, Shelton has continued to be a presence on the field for the Utes.

Esmay said that Shelton works out with the team every winter.

Shelton’s first gig in the MLB is “great for our program,” Esmay said. “He will be a goodwill ambassador for the Utes.”

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