Kelly Shoppach chose family over being a major league catcher.
In 2013, Shoppach, who had been in the majors nine years, decided to leave the Cleveland Indians to stay home to be there for his kids — and specifically his daughter Alex.
“I had some opportunities to play, but my oldest daughter was going into high school and they weren’t going to travel with me anymore,” said Shoppach, a Fort Worth native, “and we thought that was important for her to stay here, so basically before the 2014 season I limited all my options to just the Rangers.”
That opportunity didn’t pan out, and Shoppach coached high school and summer league baseball before becoming a Rams assistant coach this summer, thanks to an informal meeting with head coach Mike Jeffcoat at Sycamore Park.
“Really it was just by chance that we happen to be playing summer league game at Sycamore Park, and coach Jeffcoat was there and we just got to talking,” Shoppach said.
In addition to the Indians, Shoppach, 36, played for the Boston Red Sox, New York Mets, Seattle Mariners and Tampa Bay Rays. His career batting average was .223, with 70 home runs.
His nine years in the majors, combined with Jeffcoat’s decade, means Rams baseball coaches have 19 years of major league experience.
Shoppach said jokingly that his expectation for the year is to learn everyone’s names, due to the large number of players on the team. On a more serious note, he feels he can bring life experiences to any of the players.
This is especially true, he said, of athletes “with aspirations of going to college, graduating college, what they miss out if they don’t graduate college and the experience that I had in life playing professional baseball to translate more than just baseball.”
New graduate assistant and former Rams right fielder Erick Quesada speaks very highly of Shoppach, calling him a “great and knowledgeable coach.”
“ He has a ton of experience and knows so much about the game, seems like he will bring a lot to the program and help us win a lot of ball games,” Quesada said.
As an aspiring coach, Quesada said he wants to learn how Shoppach studies the game and how he approaches the game and players.
“I feel with all his expertise he will help me as a coach and our team as players propel to the next level,” Quesada said.
Senior left fielder Blake Seaton is eager to see what MLB experience Shoppach brings to the pitchers and catchers of the program.
Seaton hit .328 last year and wants to do better this year. He said he is excited to see what Shoppach can bring to the batter’s box and his perspective on hitting.
“I hope to learn what the right way is to approach different situations on the field and off, because he has that MLB experience he’s been there and done that,” Seaton said.
Seaton believes with the experience in the coaching staff and returning players this year the Rams can go deep into post-season and win a championship.
“As far as the returners and how well we mesh and the experience from the coaching staff I feel the experience will help us go far,” Seaton said.
Shoppach is glad to be anchored in the Metroplex.
“I don’t want to move anymore,” Shoppach said. “I moved for too many years. This just kinda seems like a fit for me and what I want to do and what they want from me.”