Journey to the Top: Brian Shouse

Nov 20, 2008

by Mark Darnall and Bruce Darnall

For the man they call ”Shousie”, the road to success in Major League Baseball has not been easy. Brian Shouse is a left handed, side-armed relief pitcher for the Milwaukee Brewers.

Brian was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1990 out of Bradley University (Peoria, Illinois) where he was a very consistent starter for four years under the long time and recently retired coach, Dewey Kalmer. He made his Major League debut on July 31, 1993, playing in six games before being sent back down to Triple A in Buffalo, New York. Brian’s pitching in the Minor Leagues took him from Buffalo and Calgary (Pirates) to Rochester (Orioles) and Pawtucket (Red Sox). Boston brought him up to the “Bigs” in 1998 for a brief time before sending him back to Pawtucket. Eventually his contract was sold to the Kintetsu Buffaloes of the Japanese League to finish up the year. It proved to be an important step in Brian’s walk with the Lord.

While in Japan, he was alone and knew only a few people, but he felt God was allowing him to enjoy the game of baseball. It was there he really dug into the Scriptures and searched for what God’s plan was for him. “My plan in baseball was to get to the Majors and earn lots of money. As it turned out, it was not God’s plan. I had to tough it out - even going to different countries.

I was taught perseverance and patience. God’s plan was for me to figure out my priorities:

God, family, others, then baseball. I got to the Majors on God’s time line, not mine.” Philippians 4:13 took on great meaning for Brian as he returned to the States: “I can do all things in Him (Christ) who strengthens me.”

In 1999, the Arizona Diamondbacks signed him and sent him to Tucson. An elbow injury sidelined Brian for most of that season. He signed with the Mets to start the 2000 season where he spent his time with Norfolk before going back to the Orioles and Rochester.

Brian’s big break came the following year (2001) when he was signed by the Houston Astros and assigned to their Triple A team in New Orleans. That season he was teamed up with pitching coach, Jim Hickey, the present Tampa Bay Rays’ pitching coach. “Jim asked me if I wanted to play in the Big Leagues and I assured him that I did. Then Jim told me that I had to do something different and unique. Up until now, I was an overhand pitcher. Jim suggested throwing side-armed.”

That season in New Orleans, with Hickey’s guidance and using his new pitching style, Brian was very successful. He also had a great winter season. That led to being signed by Kansas City. Beginning the 2002 season, Brian left spring training and went north with the Royals, but he quickly got into bad habits and had elbow problems. “I got into technique problems and I did not know how to correct myself.” He came off the DL and was sent to Omaha, only to be released by the Royals. “I believe it was a ‘Blessing in Disguise.’ I signed with Houston again and was sent back to New Orleans and Jim Hickey. Again he helped me to correct the bad habits and be a more effective pitcher.” That winter Brian signed with the Texas Rangers for the 2003 season which gave him the chance to team up with Orel Hershiser and Mark Connor who helped him “understand how to throw strikes and to command pitches.” Finally, Brian’s long journey in the Minors was coming to an end and his perseverance and hard work would pay off.

With brief appearances in Triple A Oklahoma City, Brian stayed with the Rangers where he earned his first Major League save (8/19/03) and first Major League win (6/24/04). He started the 2006 season with the Rangers before he was placed on the DL for a strained left calf.

By May 13th he was traded to Milwaukee where he has been a stable figure for the Brewers’ bullpen. “I will always be grateful to the Rangers for sticking with me and giving me a solid chance and to the Milwaukee Brewers for picking me up in 2006.”

As for the Brewers in 2008, Brian was a work horse in the bullpen, appearing in 69 regular season games with a 5-1 record and a 2.81 ERA. Pitching coach Mike Maddux says “Brian is a little man with a big heart. I call him a “grinder” - a person who is not blessed with the most talent or size - but with God on his side and his great work ethic, Brian has been successful. Brian has the “three abilities”: Durability, Reliability, and Accountability.”

It is easy to see how Brian Shouse could have given up and let his dream to pitch in the “Big Leagues” slip away after having to endure the difficult roads in the Minor Leagues. He was able to endure and persevere with support from his wife, Trish, and his family and from relying on his faith. Brian first met Trish at Bradley University in an elementary education class their senior year. Trish was a very active member of Campus Crusade for Christ at Bradley. It was Trish’s gentle and loving guidance that helped Brian to grow in his relationship with Jesus Christ. She was there for him all through those Minor League years. A Bible verse that gave them the confidence to continue their baseball journey is “We know that in everything God works for good with those who love Him who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

Brian, born to Alvin and Elaine Shouse in 1968, grew up in Effingham, Illinois, where he was the Flaming Hearts MVP and an all-conference pitcher. He was a fan of the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team which is just a mere couple of hours down I-70. He and his brother, Mark, grew up in a Christian home where worship and the Word were important to his folks and their nurturing of their sons. Brian was 12 years old when he accepted Christ as his Savior. His high school years were ones in which he grew in understanding and knowledge of his Lord.

But as Brian went off to college, he had some doubts and questions about his beliefs. “My belief in God was being tested. When I met my wife, she helped me remember the essentials of being involved in church, surrounding yourself with the right people, and living out what you believe.”

Through time Brian developed his personal relationship with Christ and relied on Jesus to help him in his journey in life and baseball. It was important to him to get into God’s Word to help in that journey.

As Brian tells his story and is a witness to his faith in Christ to Church and Youth groups, FCA groups, and at the Faith Days at the Ball Parks, he shares one of his favorite verses in John 3:36: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.” He tells kids that he can not promise they can make it in the pros, but he can promise eternal life through our Savior Jesus Christ.

Shouse card 001 In the off season, Brian, Trish and their three daughters, Haleigh (15), Emmy (12), and Daisy (11 months) live in Washington, Illinois. As a family, they worship at Grace Evangelical Church in Morton, IL. They attend their daughters’ sporting events and school activities at Peoria Christian Schools. He basically tries to catch up being a Dad. He will play a little golf and takes on Trish’s father at ping pong. Brian works out at a private gym and with the Bradley Braves baseball team. Brian was inducted into the Bradley Athletic Hall of Fame in 2003.

Haleigh says she “really loves baseball and coming to the ballpark.” She also enjoys volleyball. As for Emmy, she is quite a competitor and enjoys all sports. Brian and Trish have not quite figured out where Daisy will fit into the sports scene!

Trish said that “being the older couple with the Brewers, and Brian and I having the older children, the players and wives enjoy having caring and responsible girls to help watch and baby sit their little ones.” Trish goes on to say, “Brian is the type of person who leads by example, both in baseball as a veteran and as a Christian witness.” A story Trish likes to share is about a season in Buffalo with the Buffalo Bisons in the former American Association League. “One of the Bisons’ players gave Brian a hard time during the season about his faith. When the Bisons won the championship, the team was celebrating in the clubhouse when this player stopped the celebration and asked Brian to lead the team in prayer. It makes it all worthwhile.”

Mike Maddux said, “Brian is a true gentleman on the field and even better gentleman off the field. He is a good father, good husband, and God has given him ability and talent. He continues to use it to glorify God.”

Brian really enjoys his teammates. When the team is at home, their team chaplain leads them in Sunday service and several of the players attend. On the road, players themselves will get the group together for a service or Bible discussion. Brian and Marcus Hanel are key leaders in the group. The wives get together also. Trish added “I am much like Brian as I try to be a good example as a Christian witness. Several wives like to get together on a regular basis for Bible study; and we do several charitable things including supporting the Women’s Shelter once a month having a dinner with the mothers and giving backpacks and other items to their children.”

Hanel, the Brewers bullpen catcher, sums it up: “What Shousie has gone through to get to the Big Leagues is a testament to young kids. His story is one of resiliency; having gone through his trials brings out his character and patience. Shousie everyday brings a sense of joy and a smile to the ballpark. We just went over the Scripture from Galatians 6:9: “Do not go weary for doing good.” Brian’s heart is into serving the Lord and encouraging others and he gives God the glory. He does not grow weary doing that.”

As for the 2008 season, the Milwaukee Brewers were in the thick of things all year, although they went through hot streaks and cold. The Brewers found themselves on a hot streak in August with a combination of power and pitching. But September found them struggling until the last week of the season; and then on the last day the Brewers won on the pitching of C.C. Sabathia and the power of Ryan Braun. “Needless to say, it was an exciting win, and it was special to celebrate with my teammates, my family, and the great Brewer fans.” As Brian looks back, he can only say, “After 18 years in the pros, I am very thankful for the opportunity to go into my first October playoffs and for being a part of the 2008 Milwaukee Brewers.”

Brian Shouse had labored in the Minor Leagues for most of twelve years; but, for the last six years, he has shown how patience, hard work, and perseverance can get you to the top.

Whether in the Minor Leagues or now in the Major Leagues, Brian knows that God loves him.

With his priorities in proper order, Brian takes heart in Colossians 3:2: “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” This side-armed lefty presses on as a Christian example and witness for Christ.