TAMPA BAY (WSIL) -- November 2019, SIU baseball fans celebrated when former Player Derek Shelton was named manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Shelton completed his first season as an MLB manager. He's tired after finishing the season, but made time for us to talk about his love for the Salukis and Southern Illinois.
"One of the things I'm most proud of is being a Saluki," Shelton said. "I always tell people throughout the game we are God's people."
For fans it's always cool to hear your town or university mentioned during a big league broadcast, Pirates Manager DerekShelton loves talking about Southern Illinois and SIU baseball.
"There's a small fraternity of us in professional baseball. It's extremely important to me for the university for the area. My parents are from Southern Illinois. Born and raised there. My brother and I went to school there so I am extrememly proud of it. When people are talking about it, especially when you get into the St. Louis or Chicago markets because there are so many people from there that come to school in Carbondale that it makes me smile."
When Derek was a student-athlete at SIU he developed friendships within the athletic department. When I asked around about Derek many said early on he had the makeup of a big league manager. Gene Green is one of those former SIU employees and to this day Gene and Derek are still good friends.
"We sat on mnay bus trips going to Creighton or going to Wichita and talking about the game. It's funny, I think Reis posted a picture the other day of Fred Huff who was a longtime SID in Carbondale and I used to sit in Gene's office and during in between classes and talk about baseball and Fred who is an encyclopedia of Saluki knowledge and talk about things but to hear those guys say that that have known me since I was 18, 19 years old, it means a ton to me because those friendships mean a ton to me and it's what my ties to Saluki athletics are."
It was almost this time last year the Pirates named Shelton their Manager. Before landing the Pirates job, Derek managed in the minor leagues, held various coaching positions at the major league level. Learned from some of the best baseball minds. His college Coach Itch Jones is a hall of famer. There's a bit of Itch in Derek's manageing style.
"I think so. I think you take from Itchy. He's such an impactful person. He came into my life at a young age because people don't even realize but because my parents being down there I went to baseball camp, SIU baseball camp when I was 8,9 and it was the first I was ever away from home and staying in the dorms in Carbondale and going to camp so very impactful and being able to play for him for two years and to play on one of the best teams in Saluki history and even learning from him now, I see him at least once a year, heck he probably lives fifteen minutes from me in Florida when he's down here in the winter time. but someone who created the term or embodied the term growth mindset. Itch is 81, 82 years old. He still wants to learn every day why we are doing things, how we are doing things and then asking ok lets have the explanation on it so I I definitely learned a lot. The attention to detail he had every single practice whether it was at the Rec Center at 5:30 AM in the winter time when it was cold or being out on the field at Abe Martin is definitely something I have taken throughout my career."