By Trey Williams
Coastal Carolina red-shirt sophomore pitcher Shaddon Peavyhouse was impressively bouncing back from a season lost to Tommy John surgery, which repairs an injured elbow ligament, when another season was taken by the coronavirus pandemic.
When the 2020 season was permanently interrupted in mid-March the former Unicoi County standout was 1-0 and had allowed no earned runs in 11 innings. He’d struck out 10 and walked none while allowing nine hits.
Now, however, the 6-foot-2, 205-pound Peavyhouse’s baseball is limited to throwing bullpen sessions to promising Tennessee High freshman catcher Garrett Embree behind Bristol’s Avoca Christian Church under the watchful eyes of Vikings assistant coach Adam Cross.
“It’s not ideal, but I’m just glad I started off on the right foot (this season),” Peavyhouse said. “Honestly, I was just finally starting to get my feel back. They say Tommy John (surgery recovery) is about 12 months, but it’s tough. I think it’s more a 19- or 20-month process. I was finally starting to feel pretty good and get my feel back for my pitches. …
“It’s terrible the way it ended. It is what it is, I guess. I just hate it more for like the seniors and the high school kids, honestly. The seniors in high school that aren’t gonna go on and play anywhere, it’s terrible for them.”
Peavyhouse was offered $300,000 to turn professional out of high school and has heard from a number of scouts this spring. The Major League Baseball draft is always awash in uncertainty, and the pandemic has made the shortened 2020 version significantly more difficult to predict.
Peavyhouse won’t be disappointed if he’s back at Coastal next year, where he’ll still technically be a red-shirt sophomore after having this season restored by the NCAA. Barring a deal he can’t refuse, the former Blue Devils shortstop will likely be back in Conway, South Carolina, where he would graduate next year and could finally have a lengthy audition for MLB eyes.
“Physically and mentally, I’m definitely ready for professional ball,” he said. “What hurts me is I didn’t really pitch that much in high school and my freshman year I only got like 30 innings in before I tore my UCL. And then this year I only had 11 post-TJ (Tommy John Surgery).
“I’m still getting a lot of calls from scouts and stuff talking to me about the draft or saying I’m on their list or whatever. We’re gonna come up with a dollar sign and if I get it, I get it, and if I don’t I’m going to go back to school.”
Peavyhouse grew up on a farm across from Lamar School in Washington County. His mother Cindy taught school in Unicoi County, where he attended school from kindergarten through seventh grade. He then switched to Providence Academy in Johnson City and was held back a year due to his birthdate and spent three years there for grades 7-9.
He enrolled at Unicoi County High School for the 10th grade to play for first-year coach Chad Gillis, who had worked some for Peavyhouse’s father, Paul Shaddon Peavyhouse II.
“I wanted to play for Coach Gillis,” Peavyhouse said. “That dude’s my second dad.”
Gillis didn’t play favorites with his phenom, who just happened to be a family friend. He’d eventually lecture Peavyhouse about academics and punctuality. Peavyhouse began making a habit of getting to school around 9:30 a.m. or so during his senior year.
“And he sat me down one day and he said, ‘Boy, if you ain’t there at 7:30 in the morning you’re gonna stay with me until you figure out how to wake up,’” Peavyhouse said. “He was about to make me sleep on his couch until I could show that I was gonna show up at school on time. I tell you what, I wasn’t late no more.
“Coach Gillis is the man. I talk to him all the time. I love that man to death. He always texts me and checks on me after every outing. Through the week he’ll always see how my bullpens are going. I owe that man a lot. I’ll probably never be able to pay him back for all he’s done for me.”
Along with baseball, the tandem shares a love of the outdoors.
“We used to go ‘coon hunting some,” Peavyhouse said. “But then he started having kids. I’m pretty sure he had a kid every year I was in high school. … I do need to go fishing with him. He can fish a little bit – him and his brother.”
Gillis knows he landed a big one when Peavyhouse transferred to Unicoi County.
“The Peavyhouses and I go back to when I was in high school,” Gillis said. “My dad worked for Paul for many years. That’s how I met Paul and the rest of the family. Paul helped me out with summer work for many years while in college also. Shaddon had been at Providence for a few years, but I had worked with him some on the mound. The summer going into my first season, Paul calls me and tells me they are bringing Shaddon to UC. I knew what kind of player he was so I was excited he was coming back to UC schools. Shaddon brought work ethic, a desire to win, and has a competitive edge like no other. He just had ‘it’.”
The Blue Devils defeated Sullivan South for a district title when Peavyhouse was a sophomore and eventually lost at Knox Catholic in the sectional. The sectional setting is arguably Peavyhouse’s most vivid memory in a Blue Devils uniform.
“Knox Catholic had the catcher (Kole Cottam) that went to Kentucky,” Peavyhouse said. “And they had a lefty (Ethan Elliott) that we faced that was pretty solid. He went to LMU.”
Peavyhouse might’ve had his most fun in high school when the Blue Devils stayed in a house in Myrtle Beach’s Ocean Lakes campground while playing in the Mingo Bay Classic. A year later, he was some 10 miles up the road enrolling at Coastal Carolina.
Coastal Carolina won the 2016 national championship, though it had little, if anything, to do with Peavyhouse signing there. He said the Chanticleers were the first Division I program to offer him and he liked the stability of coach Gary Gilmore’s staff.
“I felt like the coaches weren’t gonna leave and go anywhere else,” Peavyhouse said. “Once they offered me everyone else started to, all the bigger schools. So I felt like Coach (Drew) Thomas and Gilly just kind of took a chance on me.”
Thomas, a pitching coach, saw Peavyhouse throw in a travel-ball tournament prior to his senior season.
“The summer of his senior year he is playing in Charleston and I’m at the beach,” Gillis said. “Coach Thomas from Coastal calls me and says, ‘I just saw one of your guys play’ – I had already made a contact with him in previous years – ‘and I need him on my staff.’ Thomas made that call before he even left the ballpark, which told me he really had high interest. Coach Thomas ends the conversation with, ‘Let’s make it happen.’ No pressure, right? I’m glad he chose to go to Coastal and I’m very proud of the player and man he has become.”
Peavyhouse pitched 32 innings as a freshman at Coastal. He went 2-3 with two saves and a 6.00 ERA. He allowed one run in three innings that year in a start at No. 6 Clemson.
“Clemson was sold out,” he said. “I think it was like 6,500 fans but it really wasn’t that loud until I gave up that home run (to cleanup batter Chris Williams) and they started chanting ‘Clemson’ or whatever.”
Science Hill graduate Matthew Beaird was Peavyhouse’s catcher in the start at Clemson.
“He may be my favorite catcher ever,” Peavyhouse said. “He’s smooth. Matt Beaird was unreal back there.”
Peavyhouse has also crossed paths with Science Hill products Daniel Norris (Detroit Tigers) and Will Carter, who reached Triple-A with the New York Yankees before signed in the offseason by the Chicago White Sox. Peavyhouse’s father and Carter’s father Bill are friends, and he said he saw Carter and Norris at the Carter’s home on New Year’s Eve.
“If they ever get back to playing baseball, Will’s probably gonna make it to the Show now that he’s with the White Sox,” Peavyhouse said. “If he got up to Triple-A with the Yankees he’ll definitely be in the Show with the White Sox.”
Coastal Carolina football coach Jamey Chadwell is a former East Tennessee State quarterback. Peavyhouse, who also played football at Unicoi County, sat beside him at fundraiser.
“We talked about ETSU and he’s from the Knoxville area,” Peavyhouse said. “It was cool to sit there and talk about Pal’s (food). That was the main topic. …
“Coach Chadwell is doing a good job. I see him sometimes riding the golf cart around or whatever. He’s really like trying to turn the whole program around. I think he will.”
Gillis saw Peavyhouse’s toughness on the baseball diamond. Peavyhouse played through significant back pain during one stretch.
“I’m pretty sure it was his junior year in the district tournament,” Gillis said. “He was having some pain in his back that hurt him to throw and swing. This kid gets a cream to put on his back and we wrap him up. Every couple innings we would rewrap the ace bandage around his back because it would loosen up. He couldn’t swing. So he placed bunts wherever he could to get on base.
“One game in particular – I think (Sullivan) East knew he was going to bunt. We had talked about maybe him swinging in that at-bat. I believe he showed bunt one pitch and was swinging on the next one. He gets a big base-hit in that at-bat.
“He also saved more than one game on defense that tournament. He made some unreal diving plays and throwing the runner out, even with the pain he endured to do so. There was zero chance Shaddon was going to let a sore back prevent him from playing.”
Peavyhouse always led by example and became a more vocal leader.
“By his senior year, he became another coach on the field,” Gillis said. “We trusted him to make decisions and suggestions to other players while in the field. I can remember watching shortstops like Andy Baxter and Cubby Lane. Shaddon fits right in there with those great shortstops that have played here. It was sometimes hard to pitch him because you lose that potential at one of the most important positions.
“I loved working with him on pitching because he was so eager to learn and those are the guys that make my job easy. I can remember showing him the slider I threw in college and he mastered it in a short amount of time. I think we both were sold on him throwing it in the first pen we worked it in.”
Among Peavyhouse’s memorable moments at Coastal were playing at home against Oklahoma and in the rowdy atmosphere at Louisiana-Lafayette. He also made Baseball America’s all-names list for the second time this season.
“I wish it was a list that actually meant more than just my name,” he said with a chuckle, “but it’s still cool.”
Indeed, Peavyhouse is confident his name will be called because of his game when it matters most, whether that’s in the 2020 or 2021 MLB drafts.
“I’m not too worried about it, to be honest with you,” he said. “If it happens it happens. If not, I’ll go back a year and I’ll get what I want next year. I’ve just got to throw a whole year and show that I’m healthy, pretty much, and I should be good to go.”