Looking Back: Shorey took non-traditional route to becoming a success story

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Husson quarterback Jeremy Shorey drops back to pass against Becker during his senior season in 2007. (Husson University athletics)

Jeremy Shorey approached the football office at Husson College (now University) in 2005 and introduced himself to the man sitting just outside the door.

Assistant coach Nat Clark didn’t recognize the name at first, but he knew a potential football player when he saw one. And the 6-foot-4, 230-pound Shorey definitely looked the part, even though he also looked 10 years older than a typical recruit.

Inside the office, head coach Gabby Price overheard the introduction, but wasn’t sure if he could believe his ears.

“Who’s that?” Price yelled as he rose from his desk. Once the door opened and confirmed that he’d heard what he thought he’d heard, Price immediately went into recruiting mode.  

“Nat, Nat, Nat,” Price said to his trusted assistant, “We’ll walk him around.”

Price couldn’t believe his good fortune. A professional athlete had just walked onto his campus and, without so much as a phone call from a coach, was asking to play football for a program that didn’t exist a little more than three years earlier.

“I knew what a tremendous athlete he was in high school,” said Price, who had already become a coaching legend at Bangor High School before starting up Husson’s football program in 2002. “Certainly at that point, he was a man, size-wise and maturity-wise. It felt like a gift from someone. I don’t know if it was God, but it was a great gift.”

Shorey, a Lisbon High School graduate five years removed from being drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers and three years removed from being released by them, took the walk with Price and explained he didn’t care where, how or when — he just wanted to play football.

Shorey was eager to commit to school and sports again, just as he had at Lisbon.

“I wanted to be a part of it again,” said Shorey, now 37. “It’s not just athletic development, but personal and social development, the teamwork, the camaraderie building, the relationships that you build when you’re involved in those types of sports. You take it for granted at the time.” 

The distance that comes with the passage of time has provided Shorey the perspective to consider everything he gained from athletics as a high school baseball phenom, professional baseball player and college football player. But now he thinks about it more as the father of two young children, and what doors may open to them. 

First, football glory

Shorey’s size and athleticism allowed him to get an early start on his varsity career at Lisbon. As a sophomore, he was a starting wide receiver and free safety for coach Dick Mynahan’s first state championship team in 1997.

“The biggest thing I remember about that year was the snow games,” Shorey said. “We had a Monday game against Boothbay in the playoffs. Neither one of us could get anything going because the field had been plowed (following a snowstorm that forced its postponement) and it was just slop. Then the state game was actually moved from its original date, too, because of snow,” he added.

Defending champion Foxcroft Academy dominated that game early by giving the ball to star running back Ben Preston.

“He was beating us bad. We couldn’t figure out how to stop him and then, for some reason, in the second half, they went away from using him,” Shorey said. 

Led by Jason Brooks, Dave Wellington and Shorey, who had three catches for 28 yards, the Greyhounds rallied with a 98-yard drive late in the fourth quarter to defeat the Ponies, 19-14. 

Shorey took over for Brooks as the starting quarterback for his junior and senior seasons. But for the rest of his career, his powerful right arm would garner more attention when it was hurling a baseball than a football.

A new home

Despite his height, basketball was Shorey’s third sport at Lisbon. But it is the sport that introduced him to Jeff and Sam Ramich and changed his life during the 1998 ice storm.

“They’ve been my biggest support figures in my life,” Shorey said.

Jeff Ramich was Lisbon’s varsity boys’ basketball coach when the ice storm hit. His home in Lisbon had power back before many of his players, so he invited them to come over if they needed a hot meal or shower, a place to do laundry or spend the night in a warm bed.

Shorey was among those who happily accepted his coach’s hospitality. Not long after the basketball season resumed, Ramich learned from another player that Shorey, 17 at the time, was essentially living on his own in Lisbon.

Ramich invited Shorey to move in with his family, which also included daughter Kyrstin and son Cameron.

“When he was on his own, he was still doing his homework, still getting up every morning and going to school on time,” said Ramich, now the athletic director at Brunswick High School.

“I’m hoping we gave him some continuity, gave him some structure, let him know he’s got two people that will love him forever,” Ramich added.

Though being able to play sports provided ample motivation for Shorey to get himself to school, he still wonders if he would have ultimately headed down a destructive path if the Ramich family hadn’t taken him in.

 “They accepted me into their family early in my high school years … and Coach Ramich and (his wife) Sam provided that parental guidance for me,” he said. “They recognized being in the situation that I was in, I needed that in order to stay active both in school and in sports.”

Plenty of noise

Shorey’s raw ability on the mound started to turn heads his junior year. Before his senior year, word had spread throughout college and professional circles of a 6-foot-4 kid (though 19 at the time) from Lisbon with a fastball topping out in the low 90s.

Ramich the mentor became Ramich the coach again, taking over as varsity baseball coach for Shorey’s senior year.

“I wanted Jeremy to develop that second and third pitch,” Ramich said. “That, and shielding him from all of the noise.”

There was plenty of noise. Recruiting letters from colleges started flooding the school office, to the point that Shorey would stop by daily to pick up a box of them. The phone calls from not only Major League scouts and cross-checkers but local newspapers and television stations never seemed to end. 

“It was a whirlwind season,” Shorey said. “I tried to not pay attention to that as much. There were a lot of phone calls at home. There was a lot of hype around the whole thing. I went through it kind of naively.”

“Once we got on the field, whether it was for practice or a game, we were focused on that field for that two or three hours,” Ramich said. “I didn’t do any coaching that year when he was on the mound. I left it to he and (catcher) Eric Roy, who was one of the most intelligent athletes I’ve ever known.”

Every start a spectacle

Shorey’s starts on the mound drew big league scouts from around New England and crowds from all over the state. David Chase, then a freshman at Oak Hill High School, had watched Shorey win a state football title with a couple of Chase’s cousins two years earlier. He recalls traveling with a group to Rumford for a big start against Mountain Valley.

“It was kind of a spectacle when he took the mound,” said Chase, who would become Shorey’s teammate five years later at Husson. “He was the kind of athlete you would go up to Rumford to watch him play because you didn’t want to miss what he might do.”

Shorey won all nine of his starts during the regular season, usually in dominating fashion. But rumors swirled throughout the season about when he might be drafted in the June baseball draft, and his anxiety about the future was mounting.

“There was a rumor that Dan Duquette had been talking about taking me as a supplemental pick in the second round,” Shorey said. “That rumor sparked phone calls from agents basically saying ‘As soon as you’re picked, call me.'”

The draft was not televised then, so when the day finally arrived, Shorey and the Ramich family sat at home waiting for a phone call, with television cameras there to capture the moment it came.

The call from the Red Sox never came, but the phone did ring.

Usually, it was a scout from the Milwaukee Brewers, who were considering drafting him, starting in the seventh round. Meanwhile, as round after round passed without Shorey being drafted, University of Maine coach Paul Kostacopoulos was on the phone, too, trying to entice Shorey to play in Orono.

The first day of the draft ended without Shorey being selected.

On to Ogden

“That whole first day getting done and everyone going home and seeing newspaper stories saying ‘Shorey undrafted but undeterred,’ that was a let-down,” he said. “Then I go to school the next day and get a call saying I’d been drafted in the 21st round (by Milwaukee).”

The stress and distractions of the draft clearly took their toll on Shorey, who later that day was upset by Wells in a quarterfinal playoff game for his only loss of the season.

Shorey and Ramich’s focus quickly turned to negotiating with the Brewers. After what both remember as fairly theatrical bargaining by the scout (designed, both believe, to get Shorey to agree to the least-expensive terms), he signed a two-year minor league contract. The deal included a provision requiring the Brewers to pay for his college education.

The Brewers assigned Shorey to their Class-A Rookie team in Ogden, Utah. 

Initially, he thought it was the best place for him. Then he saw the roster.

“We had a pretty robust bullpen my first year there,” Shorey said. “We had a plethora of pitchers to choose from, and my first season out there I think I threw 28 innings.”

 Over the course of a 75-game season, Ogden used 20 pitchers. Shorey ended up throwing 29.2 innings in 15 appearances, all out of the bullpen. Throwing two innings every five games or so made it difficult to stay sharp.

Despite winning two of his three decisions and collecting a pair of saves, he finished with a 9.10 ERA.

“That first year was a hard year for me because you’re playing with your own psyche — ‘Why aren’t they pitching me? I’m better than this guy?,'” he said. “It was tough for me mentally.”

“I think his mind was right, but I think he was frustrated because he wasn’t getting opportunities,” said Ramich, who listened to streamed radio broadcasts of the games on his computer. “A lot of times he was going in when the games were already decided. He came home that winter very, very frustrated.”

Deciding point

Before he went home, the Brewers asked him if he would be interested in playing winter ball. Shorey realizes now that his response sent the wrong message.

“At the time, I didn’t know what winter ball was,” he said. “It was pretty much ‘Here’s your ticket to development. Would you like to take that ride?’ And at the time I was, like, ‘Nah, I’m going to go back home. I’ve already got a plan to get into school and get a couple of classes in so I can start working towards a degree.'”

“Basically, I think that was a deciding point for my development in that organization. They saw it and wondered if they had a guy that was really committed,” he said.

The Brewers reassigned him to Ogden for the 2001 season. Ogden’s bullpen was even more crowded, with nearly two dozen pitchers on the staff over the course of the season. Shorey did better with his still-limited opportunities, finishing 3-2 with a 5.53 ERA in 22 games (one start) and 40.2 innings.  

He arrived at spring training in 2003 hoping to move up in the organization, and the Brewers sent signals that might happen by having him pitch with their Double-A roster during camp. But one day, he opened his locker to find a tag hanging in it — a note to see Greg Riddoch, the Brewers’ director of player development.

He arrived in the clubhouse office to find not only Riddoch but Ogden manager Ed Sedar. 

“I asked, ‘Are you releasing me? ‘Did I do something wrong?’ They said, ‘No, you didn’t do anything wrong. We’ve got to make cuts and it turns out you’re one of the people we’re cutting,'” Shorey said. 

“Obviously, it was a big shock to the ego,” he said. “What do I do? Do I try to hook up with another team?”

Shorey did try attending regional tryouts, but the only call came from the Bangor Lumberjacks, a short-lived independent league team. He suited up for them, but quickly started to feel he’d been signed because he was a recognizable name.

Epiphany from tragedy

He moved back home and found work at Bath Iron Works as a shipfitter while exploring college options. He even flirted with playing baseball at University of Southern Maine before it became clear that NCAA rules prohibited it.

He’d worked at BIW for two years when news of the suicide of a contemporary of his, former Winthrop quarterback Lee St. Hilaire, struck a chord.

“In that tragedy, I had my own epiphany that life is too short. I don’t want to do this for the rest of my life. Not that it’s not an honorable job, that’s just not what I want to do with my life. I need to go to college and get myself a better opportunity to further my career and my life,” Shorey said.

He followed his then-girlfriend and enrolled at Husson. And since he was in school again, naturally, it was time to start playing sports again.

‘Papa Shorey’

Price figured at the very least, Shorey could serve as competition for Chase at quarterback. 

Shorey, meanwhile, had no expectations. He was willing to do whatever the coaches asked, and he started doing it from the first practice.

“It didn’t take long for the spectacle to come to Husson,” Chase said. “He’s out there effortlessly throwing the ball 60 or 70 yards in the air and everyone’s looking at him and I’m standing there thinking I was going to be in for a battle.”

Shorey and Chase had already become friends, so the battle was respectful. Chase won and Price moved Shorey to flanker.

Bigger than most tight ends in Division III, he quickly became a favorite target for Chase. Not in terms of volume (he caught 14 passes for 233 yards and two TDs in 2005), but in terms of reliability.

“He wasn’t the fastest guy out there, but his route-running was so precise and he had great hands,” said Chase, a two-year starter who went on to set numerous school passing records and was inducted into Husson’s Sports Hall of Fame in 2014. “When I was in trouble, he was the guy I looked for, every single time.”

Shorey never “big-timed” his teammates or coaches as an ex-professional athlete, Price said.

“He fit right in as an elder statesman and a mentor,” Price said. “He never missed practice. He worked so hard. He was needed for a new program like we had. A person like that puts us on a higher level.”

“Our group still calls him ‘Papa Shorey,'” said Chase, who lives in Lewiston and remains friends with Shorey. “He was so much older than us and had so many life lessons.”

Shorey basked in the role, and appreciated the professional atmosphere Price instilled into the program, similar to what he had experienced as a baseball player.

“I loved playing up there with that team,” Shorey said. “Coach Price and Coach Clark were top-notch, class guys, definitely people you want developing young men. We had 120 guys every year and they developed everyone.” 

Success story

In 2006, Shorey again competed with Chase for the starting quarterback job in preseason. Again, Chase won the job outright. With him and Shorey connecting on a career-high 33 passes for 423 yards and four touchdowns, the Eagles captured the first winning season in the program’s history (6-4).

Chase graduated and Shorey, now a team captain, lost out the starting QB job again the following preseason, this time to Fryeburg’s Jonah Chappell.

Shorey, who enjoyed being a wedge-buster on special teams at least as much as he enjoyed throwing or catching the ball, saw his receiving numbers decline (12 for 138 and three TDs), in part because he suffered the first serious injury of his athletic career, a third-degree right shoulder separation. Two weeks into his recovery, Chappell got hurt, and Price called on Shorey to start at QB for the season finale against Becker.

In his only collegiate start at quarterback, he went 6-for-16 for 47 yards and two TDs. The Eagles rolled to a 46-20 victory to finish the season 6-3.

“It was a Senior Day (home) game in the pouring rain,” Price said. “He did pretty well for a guy with two days of practice.”

Shorey, who four years later went on to play QB for the Maine Sabers, a Portland-area semipro team, is still amazed that he could throw at all after the injury.

“It’s the oddest thing,” he said. “I can throw a football from here to that 342 sign (in right field at Lisbon High School’s Doughty Field) still to this day, but I couldn’t throw a baseball to that sign. I couldn’t throw a baseball 100 feet right now.”

Shorey graduated from Husson in 2008 with a degree in business administration, then returned to BIW as a designer. After two years, he moved to the material group, working his way up to operations manager.

Now living in Topsham with his wife Crystal, most of Shorey’s athletic endeavors involve keeping up with their six-year-old son, Jeremy Jr., and four-year-old daughter, Andie.

Rather than reflect on his own career, he looks forward to how he can create opportunities for his kids, whether they come through athletics or something else. 

“Most of my time is consumed by thinking about how I share the same opportunities that I had with them, while at the same time being mindful of the overbearing parents that push push push push push and then they end up pushing them away,” Shorey said.

Ramich, who is still close with Shorey and his family, said the excitement of watching him as a father far exceeds anything the excitement he felt watching him as an athlete.

“My wife and I absolutely adore him,” Ramich said. “We’re extremely proud of him, and not because of his athletic attributes whatsoever. His heart is so big. He’s one of the great ones. For where he’s come from and what he had to go through to where he is now, he’s just one of those top-shelf guys. He’s just one of those success stories.”

Jeremy Shorey was a standout pitcher for the Lisbon Greyhounds. (Portland Press Herald file photo)

Jeremy Shorey holds his two children, daughter Andie, front, and son Jeremy Jr., last week. (Randy Whitehouse/Sun Journal)

Jeremy Shorey plays in the snow with his two children, daughter Andie, front, and son Jeremy Jr. (Submitted photo)

Jeremy Shorey, bottom right, and his family with the Ramich family. Far left are Jeff Ramich and his daughter Kristin; at top are Sam Ramich, Jeremy Shorey Jr. and Cameron Ramich; middle right are Shorey’s wife Crystal and daughter Andie. (Submitted photo)

Maine Sabers quarterback Jeremy Shorey throws the ball over New Hampshire Wolfpack’s Marquez Herrod at Scarborough High School in July 2013. (Portland Press Herald file photo)

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