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Waiting for call-up

There were nights over the last year and a half when Shawn Daughtery dreamed of many possibilities.

As his athletic potential continued to blossom, it seemed that by the end of the 1996 school year there would be a substantial number of scholarship offers.

Well, things have not worked out quite that way, and Daughtery, who was a three-sport star at Zephyrhills High, is unsure of his future.

"It's been disappointing for me because I really felt that there would be options," Daughtery said. "Now, it seems like I have to really have the odds against me."

The 6-foot-4, 190-pound left-hander once was on a roll unseen in the recent history of Pasco County high school sports. It began in his junior year. With a fastball that was clocked in the high 80s, Daughtery was hard to hit and even harder to beat. The word got around. Scouts began showing up. College coaches began paying attention.

Then came the summer season of American Legion and Daughtery's arm didn't let up.

By the time the 1995 football season was starting, the lanky lefty was not to be ignored. His senior season as the Bulldogs' starting quarterback was stunning.

Daughtery piloted the county's best team to a 10-record and a Sunshine Athletic Conference title. By season's end, he had amassed 1,489 yards, completing 90-of-167 for 14 touchdowns with just three interceptions.

"Shawn was really spectacular during the season," said head football coach Tom Fisher. "He's just a real competitor who played hard and came through for us."

As the football season came to an end, schools began to take notice, but Daughtery, an all-conference first-teamer in basketball and baseball in his junior year, wanted to weigh his options.

"He was very honest with me and the schools and he said he wanted to play baseball," Fisher said. "I think that made some of the programs back off."

"I don't regret it," Daughtery said. "I felt like I could have a career playing football, and I still feel that way, but I wanted to play baseball and I told that to Coach."

Just days after the football season, Daughtery sauntered onto the basketball court to resume his starting position at small forward. As one of coach Craig Milburn's three key starters, Daughtery averaged 18 points for the Bulldogs and was named an all-SAC first-teamer.

In the district final against Tampa Jesuit, he scored nine of his team-high 21 points and recorded three steals in a third-quarter turnaround that saw Zephyrhills take a lead. The Bulldogs would lose 69-67, but not before Daughtery clawed and scratched for every point.

"He played that basketball season the same way and with the same competitive hustle," said Fisher, an assistant basketball coach. "He was the kind of player who gave it his all, whether on the court or on the field."

All that was left for Daughtery was a consistent season on the diamond. It would not happen.

"I don't think I was tired or worn out from the consecutive seasons, but my arm was not ready for baseball," Daughtery said. "I lost my velocity and could not hit my spots. It was tough on me."

It was tough on the Bulldogs as well. With first-year coach Steve Mumaw learning the ropes, the Bulldogs could have used Daughtery's normal consistency on the mound. After jumping to a 3-0 record, the defense faltered and the pitching, Daughtery's included, went south.

"I knew we could have done better as a team," Daughtery said, "but I just couldn't find my rhythm."

His problems on the mound were never more evident than in a crucial district home game against rival Pasco High. It was late in the year, and the Bulldogs were looking for a shot in the arm, but Daughtery gave up seven runs on seven hits including two homers and was beaten 14-3.

Scholarship offers and draft possibilities went out the door.

"I was hoping that I would get some offers at that time of the year but things did not work out," said Daughtery.

Now, as the summer's long days draw on, Daughtery is searching for a last chance and is hoping it comes on the campus of Pasco-Hernando Community College.

He has approached baseball coach Steve Winterling and basketball coach Bobby Bowman asking for a chance to walk on. They are considering it.

"When he came to our tryouts his arm just did not have the same pep it once had," Winterling said. "He was throwing around 79-80 mph on the radar gun. That was not what we expected.

"Obviously, if he's going to try to walk on there is going to be a serious challenge ahead of him. He wants to prove that he can play and I like that attitude. Plus, he's a left-hander _ that's always a plus _ but he's going to have to show consistency."

Daughtery is not willing to surrender. He is pitching for Zephyrhills Post 118 in American Legion play and Mumaw, the coach, labels him one of his three aces.

"My arm is much better now," Daughtery said. "I'm going to try my best. I'm not giving up hope."