As an outfielder, infielder, and pitcher for Florida’s baseball team, versatility has never been a struggle for sophomore Justin Shafer.
At Lake Wales High School (Lake Wales Fla.), Shafer earned all-state honors in both baseball and football. As a junior, Shafer led Polk County in passing with over 2,000 yards and 17 touchdowns. He also led the county in homers and RBIs and finished out his junior year by going to the regional finals for the second year in a row. In his senior year, Shafer had offers to play both baseball and football. The offers to play football came with one condition; he would have to give up baseball.
“The tough choice was just having to decide between football and baseball,” Shafer said. “But I always loved baseball.”
Baseball was one thing Shafer was not willing to give up. His love of the game developed at an early age.
“My grandfather would actually go and throw to me when I was young,” Shafer said. “I started playing T-ball when I was 4 or 5 and I’ve played ever since.”
A long way from his T-ball days, Shafer is now a key piece of the Gators baseball team.
As a freshman, he started in 44 of 50 games, and was a member of the 2012 SEC All-Tournament team. He batted .284 with 27 RBIs and had 13 walks, 11 runs, eight doubles and eight sacrifice flies. Shafer also made six relief appearances as a pitcher for a total of six innings with a 4.50 ERA.
During the NCAA Gainesville Regional, Shafer drove in two runs against No. 24 Georgia Tech with a two-run single. He went 3-for-7 in the Gainesville Super Regional sweep of No. 11 North Carolina State. In the NCAA College World Series against No. 4 South Carolina in the Gators’ next to last game in the 2012 season, he went 2-for-4 with a double and scored a run.
Shafer’s favorite part of playing collegiate baseball is the atmosphere during the big games.
“They got our crowd riled up and that was kind of crazy to see because it doesn’t get that loud here usually,” Shafer said about Georgia Tech and NC State when they came to Gainesville. “And then Omaha and how many people there, it was definitely a great experience,” Shafer said about playing in the College World Series.
As for Shafer’s future plans, he said he wants what all his teammates want: to play in the major leagues.