Shaun Chase was thrust into the conscience of Ahwatukee Foothills sports followers five years ago when playing for a collection of all-stars.
One of his final days in Ahwatukee before heading to Tucson for college, Chase will again be playing for a group of all-stars.
You might have heard of the Ahwatukee Dawgs, the 2006 Little League team that won the West Regional and missed the semifinals of the Little League World Series by one game in pool play.
Chase was one of the main cogs, getting noticed for hitting three home runs in one game, and pitching his team to several wins.
He comes full circle tonight as he plays in the Arizona Baseball Coaches Association 5A Division I All-Star Game at Surprise Stadium. First pitch is expected to be around 8 p.m.
“That experience (with the Dawgs) set my career off in the right direction,” Chase said. “It was a huge deal and it sparked my career.”
The exposure could have been a negative, possibly placed unfair expectations, on Chase after the success he had at an early age, but he never let it get to that point.
“It was only Little League so I don’t think people thought I was going to be hitting like that all of the time,” he said. “I didn’t really care what people thought or expected because I always played for fun anyway.”
Chase had a pretty astounding career as the Thunder’s catcher that was a bit overshadowed by a certain record-breaking catcher (Kevin Cron) at rival Mountain Pointe.
Over the last three years, however, it would be hard to find other backstops that hit a combined .410 with 32 home runs and 98 RBIs that led to a partial scholarship to the University of Arizona.
“I had a pretty good career, but it wasn’t the (senior) year I wanted,” Chase said. “We didn’t make the playoffs and I basically had the same stats as my junior year. We had great team (chemistry) and it was hard to end that season the way we did.”
The Thunder missed the playoffs by less than a point in the power rankings and lost the final game of the regular season.
The seniors wanted one more shot, but it never came to fruition.
So Chase and two others – Casey Thomas and Ryan Modi – will have to settle for playing for the South squad in the all-star game, while Mountain Pointe’s Anthony Balderrama, Jordan Kipper and Cron are on the North squad.
“It’s great that we get a few more innings together,” Chase said. “We’ve been together for a long time and that will be cool.”
Thomas, a shortstop, worked hard leading up to the season and it paid off with a great defensive year while hitting .367 with two home runs and 17 RBIs.
“I wouldn’t take any other shortstop in the state and I think a lot of coaches felt the same way,” Desert Vista coach Stan Luketich said. “He had a tremendous year.”
Modi’s season was interrupted for about three weeks with a boot on his injured foot but when he was in the lineup he did some major damage as half of his hits (16 of 32) went for extra bases. He finished hitting .444 with seven home runs and 19 RBIs.
“He was never 100 percent after that, but he had a great year,” Luketich said. “He has always been a good doubles hitter, but he got out early (with home runs) and kept going.”
Chase, who will play on the Arizona Firebirds with Cron and Thomas this summer, was one of the better catchers Luketich has had.
“He picked off a lot of runners from first and second base,” Luketich said. “He has great bat speed and that’s what gets him noticed but he is a good defensive catcher as well.”
As Chase, who might get drafted in the later rounds of Monday’s draft, begins to prepare for the next stage of his career, he’s happy about the development he showed over the years.
“I think I matured into a leader on my team, pushing our team to our limits,” he said. “We were a young team with a lot of injuries. Also, I will always remember the time with Coach Luke and my teammates. We always played as hard as we could for him.”
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