Shinaberry shines as leader for Longhorns
June 23, 2009
There's a part of Keith Shinaberry that's a little bit adventurous, a lot free-spirited. And it's that part that guided his pen not so long ago when he was completing paperwork to finalize his placement with Teach for America.
Shinaberry has spent his entire life in Austin, Texas. He was born and raised here, and continued to grow here as a pitcher with the Texas Longhorns for the past four years. He wants to see, smell and feel something new.
So, when the Teach for America form asked where Shinaberry would like to be placed, he simply checked, "Wherever."
"So they put me on an Indian Reservation," Shinaberry says. "I think that's one of the exciting things -- living in such a different situation and figuring out how to manage."
That's how Shinaberry will spend the next two years of his life, while teaching pre-algebra at Todd County High School on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. He'll also be sharing a small trailer with one of the other teachers for Teach for America, a program that sends bright, recent college graduates to underprivileged areas to teach and influence today's youth.
Shinaberry's mother is a teacher, so he says he's always been intrigued by that lifestyle. But he had an internship last semester with the human resources department at The University of Texas, and from that experience, Shinaberry learned just how much he enjoyed helping others.
He also became a constant in Dr. Randa Ryan's academic services office. Shinaberry worked as a full-time mentor and part-time tutor for many of his teammates.
"Keith always gravitated to positions of trust and leadership," Ryan said. "I always expected he would continue on the path of changing peoples' lives, and he will in the Teach for America program."
Macie Garrett, a former UT swimmer, was already enrolled in the Teach for America program, and told Shinaberry about it. He knew it was the perfect fit.
"This reveals so much about his spirit, and his sense of giving and well-being," UT coach Augie Garrido said. "And how he brings hope to others."
Shinaberry's experience with the Texas Baseball team has uniquely qualified him for his next teaching role. Acute shoulder pain has kept Shinaberry off the mound this season -- he's pitched less than 10 innings -- but he's maintained a vital presence among this teammates.
He talks when things need to be said, works when an example needs to be set. He's the Longhorns' leader, and has a personality that provides a calming ease no matter the situation.
Austin Wood says Shinaberry is a "clown," who comes up with "inventive ways" to keep things loose. It's Shinaberry who gets the Longhorns going with the Flying V from the movie "Mighty Ducks," and does other silly dances in the locker room.
"On every baseball team, leadership becomes the most important ingredient," Garrido said. "And the ultimate reward on any team is respect. Keith has the highest respect -- for who he is and how he works thanklessly and unglamorously -- from everybody."
When the Longhorns' magical run in the NCAA Men's College World Series finally ends, Shinaberry will return with the team to Austin, and then fly off to Chicago for a five-week training session. Once that ends, he'll come home one last time, pack up and drive to South Dakota.
Shinaberry isn't entirely sure what awaits him there. He just knows he'll be teaching, and hopefully helping others.
And in that way, Shinaberry's new life won't be much different than his current one.
"I don't know how much I'll need to pitch to help this team, but for me, watching the younger guys has been the real joy," Shinaberry said. "For me, it's more about them than it is about me. I just want to do whatever I can to lift them up."