Dugout Dish had the great opportunity to interview upcoming and highly talented professional baseball player Raul Shah after his independent baseball season came to a close for the year.
Dugout Dish: How long have you played baseball? Was there a key moment in your life when you fell in love with the game?
Raul Shah: I started playing baseball when I was six years old. I used to live right outside Philadelphia and I started out playing in my backyard after my dad (finally) convinced me to watch a Phillies game with him on TV one night. I became infatuated with baseball at that very moment.
I would go outside with my wiffle ball and bat and, no pun intended, have a “ball” by myself. I would simply toss the ball up, hit it, retrieve it, and rinse and repeat. The best was when my dad would come home from work and throw to me – he would try to strike me out with breaking pitches and of course, it was my job to send them to the moon.
“I became infatuated with baseball at that very moment.”
–Shah on falling in love with baseball.
DD: Did you always know you wanted to play college and professional baseball?
SH: I always wanted to play in college and professionally. I “blame” my parents. Both my mom and my dad always told me if you work hard in life, you can do whatever you set your mind to. But they stressed… “only if you work hard.”
I think my parents are what separated me from a lot of other kids who had that same dream but did not pursue it. Some parents would tell their kids those goals are not attainable – which can have a devastating impact on a kid.
However, my parents not only led me to believe I could do it but encouraged me the entire way, believed in me throughout my struggles, and supported me through it all. With them behind me, all I had to do was outwork my competition. Piece of cake.
DD: How long have you played professional independent baseball?
SH: I started playing in 2017. I began my career in the Empire League. In three seasons there, I accomplished:
- Career Average of .343
- League Leader in Career Triples
- 3x All-Star
- 1x Batting Title
- 1x Slugger of the Year Award
- 1x Championship
Fast foward to 2020, I signed with the New Jersey Jackals in the MLB Partnered Frontier League. The entire organization, team, and fans were first class. I had another great season with a 50% extra base hit ratio, 1.000% fielding percentage at second base, and most importantly, won my second championship in four years.
DD: How did 2020 and COVID-19 affect your skillset and season? Did you have a favorite moment from playing with the Jackals this summer?
SH: In the offseason, I have a rigorous training schedule:
- MWF: Track Practice (10am-noon), Gym (noon-2pm), Baseball Practice (7p-10p)
- T: Hitting Practice in NJ (4:30p-6:30p)
- TH: Gym (whenever)
Since the season was pushed back due to COVID-19, I maintained that schedule for an extended period of time. I had to make certain adjustments as gyms were closed, but for the most part, my training was unaffected.
I was probably in the minority in believing that there would be plenty of baseball played, but it would all just start later and extend into the fall – and that is exactly what happened. Believing this, I was not too worried during the lockdowns as I felt baseball would return this year.
That being said, it was disappointing to have the Southern MD Blue Crabs season cancelled as that is where I was headed for Spring Training. However, I was incredibly fortunate to get asked to play for Bobby Brown in the California Collegiate League (CCL) in Santa Barbara, California after the Atlantic League cancelled its season.
I finished up in the CCL and then got signed to the NJ Jackals. I knew a lot of the guys on that team so I felt right at home from the start. My favorite moment was winning the championship. The tension and laser-like focus leading up to a championship victory (especially being down 2-0 with only two innings left) is hard to describe – it feels like time is frozen and you are solely living in the moment. It is a memory and feeling I will never forget.
“It feels like time is frozen and you are solely living in the moment. It is a memory and feeling I will never forget.”
DD: Before heading to New Jersey, how did you stay in shape and prepare for the game?
SH: I was playing games in the CCL until the middle of July. Luckily, the hitting coach there, John Stevens, lives in that area. So, I actually got to work with him every day for two weeks before I left to go play with the Jackals. He made a pivotal change in my swing, which is a huge reason why I had the success I did with the Jackals. We took all the incredible work I did with my offseason hitting coach, John Sangillo, and modified one thing – gaining more ground on my launch out.
I also went to a functional neurology center called Imagine X. There, I did a lot of reactionary training on a D2 board. It is a huge, upright board which has a small screen in the middle and square buttons which light up all over. There are different programs to improve your reactions, some even incorporate having to answer math questions in the middle screen while simultaneously hitting the buttons that light up red, but not green before they disappear.
Between making the adjustment in my swing and working on my reaction time, I felt prepared to face elite pitching. I should have definitely stayed away from my morning donut habit in Santa Barbara though – might have been able to steal one more base this season.
DD: Do you have a favorite all-time memory while playing?
SH: This question reminds me of the episode in The Office where Michael learns his branch will be closed so he and Dwight go to the CFO’s house to confront him and change his mind. While waiting in the car after numerous hours, tired, and at night, Dwight asked Michael, what his favorite memory of The Office was; to which Michael replied, “All of them.”
DD: Moving forward, where do you see yourself and your baseball career heading?
SH: My ultimate goal is to be in a Major League Uniform. That is where I see my baseball career heading. In the meantime, I have some special plans in the works so be sure to stay tuned!
I can’t just reveal everything at once, right?
Notable Accomplishments and Honors, Information.
High School: Mount Hebron High School
- 2x All-County (2011-2012)
- County Defensive Player of the Year (2011)
- Brooks Robinson All-Star: Named one of the Top 40 players in the state of Maryland and played All-Star game at Camden Yards (2012)
- Team Maryland: Named one of the Top 20 players in the state of Maryland (2012)
College: Johns Hopkins University
- 1st Team All-Region, Academic All-District, and All-Conference (2016)
Summer League: Maryland Collegiate Baseball League (MCBL)
- Single Season Record Holder for Hits at 46 (2016)
- Single Season Record Holder for Doubles at 15 (2016)
- All-Star (2016)
Independent Baseball: Empire League
- 3x All-Star (2017-2019)
- Batting Title (2018)
- Slugger of the Year Award (2018)
- League Leader in Career Triples (2017-2019)
- Championship winner (2017)
Independent Baseball: New Jersey Jackals
- Championship (2020)
Winter League: California Winter League
- Named one of the Top 10 performers (2018)
- Name: Raul Shah
- Ethnicity: Indian
- Height & Weight: 6’2/185
- College: Johns Hopkins University
- Degree: B.A. Economics and Finance
Raul Shah would like to give thanks to some very important people in his life. To Coach Culley for always supporting me even when I struggled. Coach Sangillo for getting up at 4:30 am just to work with me. Coach Scott for giving me so much of his time in exchange for nothing. Coach Sanjay for always believing in me and not yet killing me in training. David Mampre for being my best friend and always there to help out.
Dad for telling me to go for it. Mom, for all of the above and a 1,000x more.