Play Ball!

by Nov 4, 2021North Brunswick, People, Sports

Shelton M. Perkins, one of Leland’s own, makes it to the Minor Leagues.

In Aberdeen, Maryland, on June 27, 2019, Shelton M. Perkins struck out six batters in two perfect innings at Ripken Stadium.

The next day Minor League Baseball (@MiLB) Tweeted: “Best start to a pro career ever??? #Orioles prospect Shelton Perkins struck out all six batters he faced in his Minor League debut with @IronBirds.”

You can bet the Leland native and North Brunswick High School graduate was excited, as were all the Brunswick County fans following his debut in Minor League Baseball.

A current player with Baltimore Orioles’ Minor League affiliate Aberdeen IronBirds, Perkins has been involved in baseball most of his life. At the age of 4, he started on a tee-ball team with Dixie Youth Baseball in Leland. His grandfather, Elijah Perkins, a Dixie Youth legend, coached just about everybody in Leland. Elijah and his wife, Jeannette, are legendary for their coaching history and the snow cone truck they owned.

Leland NC Baseball Shelton Perkins

Perkins admits that in the early years he was more interested in forging friendships than the baseball aspect of tee-ball. “The coaches just wanted us to have fun and that’s what we did,” Perkins says. Even today, some of the teammates he met as a child are his best friends.

Perkins’ father, Shelton Perkins Sr., worked long shifts as a chemical operator, but still found the time to throw the ball with Perkins and his friends in the backyard, where they had a batting cage.

“I think my dad wanted more it than me,” Perkins says of his future in baseball. “He made tough decisions that I didn’t understand back then. He’s my hero.”

Perkins’ first baseball memory involved the Dixie Youth League season opening ceremonies. Etched forever in his mind is the carnival-like atmosphere in which the townspeople of Leland congregated behind the old post office.

“The smells of the festival were incredible — hot dogs, funnel cakes, cotton candy, popcorn,” Perkins remembers. “Excitement was in the air. Tents were set up for photos of the teams as well as local businesses. Each town had a queen for its Little League team — a young girl around age 12, usually someone’s little sister dressed up in a princess outfit.”

In Dixie Boys, Perkins made the All Star team, which went on to win the World Series when he was 14.

While attending North Brunswick High School and playing baseball, along with football and basketball, Perkins was recruited to play baseball by several colleges, including East Carolina University (ECU). He was drawn to ECU because of a baseball coach named Billy Goodwin. Unfortunately, Coach Goodwin left East Carolina the next year, and Perkins was cut from the team by another coach who didn’t see what Coach Goodwin had seen in him. Perkins attended one year at Pitt Community College and later transferred to James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, where he graduated with a major in recreation management and a minor in business.

Leland NC Shelton Perkins

After getting cut from the ECU baseball team, Perkins was distraught and didn’t care to play baseball any longer. But he came to realize, perhaps from his father’s lifelong advice about always turning lemons into lemonade, that there were other options. Internalizing his anger, Perkins says he worked his butt off not to prove the ECU staff wrong, but to prove himself right. He thanks ECU for inspiring him to be the player he is today.

“Everything in life shapes us into the person we are,” he says. “The experience transformed me into the person I am. I’ve learned each and every step along the way. I love the relationships baseball builds.”

Perkins dreamed of being drafted by a Minor League Baseball team, and luckily, he got that chance in 2019 when he participated in the Minor League draft with the Baltimore Orioles’ minor league affiliates. The entire process of the draft happened very quickly, Perkins says. The first round of the draft was televised, and Perkins got calls from several teams, but the offers weren’t that great. On the second day of the draft, he wasn’t confident he had any chance of being selected. With still no phone call after the 15th round, Perkins was attending a family gathering when he received a call from the Baltimore Orioles organization.

“They asked me, ‘Is this money good enough?’ and I answered yes immediately,” Perkins says. “I browsed Twitter and within minutes their post read, ‘Shelton M. Perkins, 16th round, Baltimore Orioles, 16th pick.’ It made me wonder if I accepted too quickly!”

After being drafted, Perkins flew to Sarasota, Florida, to take his physical, sign paperwork and attend spring training. From there he was sent to the Aberdeen IronBirds in June of 2019.

“Everyone was really close in age and looking to making a name for themselves,” Perkins says. “Friendships happened naturally from sitting in the bullpen and long road trips.”

One of Perkins’ close friendships is Jake Lyons. “We’re opposites. I’m 5’10’ and 215 pounds. He’s 6’6 and 300 pounds,” Perkins says. “He’s still my roommate and best friend.”

Shelton Perkins Leland NC Baseball

Perkins was assigned to the Delmarva Shorebirds, the Low A Affiliate for the Baltimore Orioles after spring training in May 2021. Then, on April 20, 2021, he was called up to Aberdeen IronBirds, which is now High A. His position with the Aberdeen IronBirds is a right-handed closer — pitching last. The slide is his best pitch at 82 to 83 mph, and his fast throw clocks in at 92 to 94 mph.

“A closer has an attitude that they are here to put the game away,” Perkins says. “Once I come in, the game is over. My pitching method — not too high, not too low. I live for the moment. I hope that doesn’t sound too arrogant, but I’m here to get the job done.”

Of course, Perkins, now age 24, has dreams of making it to the big leagues and becoming one of the best. But after his career in baseball, he has aspirations of building a sports facility in Leland and training and coaching kids in baseball.

“I feel like I have tons of knowledge to give back to the guys coming behind me,” he says, adding, “Everything in life shapes us into the person we are … it’s transformed me into the person I am. I’ve learned each and every step along the way. I love talking to everyone. I love the relationships baseball builds.”

Perkins’ journey through baseball has been inspired by the scripture Luke 12:48: “To whom much is given, much will be required.”

“It means to me that if you are blessed with talents, you have expectations to meet,” he says. “Do what’s required to work hard and do the necessary things in order to accomplish your goals. My dad instilled that verse into me at a young age.”

Perkins also says his experiences have taught him to be humble. “You need to be able to make fun of yourself, and roll with the punches,” he says.