TAMPA BAY, FL (WSIL) -- Pittsburgh Pirates Manager Derek Shelton has a strong love for SIU and the southern Illinois Region.
Former Saluki Mark Newman passed away this year. He was a mentor for Shelton.
So many fond memories. So I asked, first word that comes to mind when you think of Mark Newman.
"Gratitude," Shelton said. "Mark is a former Saluki He was as proud of being a Saluki as I was and I think it was something that really resonated, he gave me my first job. I played in the Yankee organization as a very bad player and he gave me the opportunity to work in that organization and he never let me be satisfied as a minor league coach when I thought I had mastered something or thought I got something, he challenged me with something else so gratitude comes to mind and like you said Mark has passed and besides my dad, Mark probably had the big influence in my professional life just in terms of challenging me. We just did his virtual service a couple of weeks ago and it was extremely impactful to me. I sat and watched the service because we can't go and I was sitting outside my daughter's volleyball game here in Tampa and with tears in my eyes. If you would've walked by my car you would've seen me sobbing because he meant that much to me and during the service they showed a clip of my pre-game the day he died and asked about it. I can't say enough for what he did for me. Everything that he has done for me will continue, hopefully some of the things he taught me I will be able to pass on to other people."
First year as a big league manager and the Pirates Derek Shelton already impacting the game beyond wins and losses.
"Coolest thing that happened this year for me if you take my family, if you take COVID and take X and O's out and I'm actually wearing the hat right now is the 21. The day we were able to wear the 21 in honor of Roberto Clemente on Roberto Clemente Day. I feel very fortunate I played a small part in that. The Clemente family and Major league baseball, petitioning Major League Baseball for letting us wear it and the Clemente boys through numerous conversations agreeing to being a part of it and putting on the number 21 in a Pirates uniform in our entire group and the fact that every Puerto Rican player was able to wear it was extremely impactful for me and a lot of people, and I know we are in southern Illinois and they'll like this and it was extremely impactful. The first time we played the Cardinals after that series, I had an opportunity to meet with Yadi and Yadi gave me a signed jersey of his basically thanking me for my part in it and I actually get goosebumps talking about it now. Joey Cora who is our third base coach is a Puerto Rican native and was like hey Yadi wants to talk to you. I met Yadi in the hallway and he gave me a jersey that will be framed in my house that's something really hearfelt on it about how much he appreciated my personal effort in that so when you get a guy that is a future hall of famer and talking about Roberto Clemente and we're able to do it. That's something that really stands out like we made an impact in the game this year."
What a great story. A friendship among rivals showing us all some things are bigger than the game.
"Any time we can do anything that has an impact on the game is extremely important. The game is a lot bigger, it's going to continue to go on without Derek Shelton or whoever the next person is or Mark Newman or whoever but if we can leave a little bit of impact on anything, it's extremely important."