One of the great joys of the Foresters coaches and staff is watching young athletes mature not only into outstanding players, but fine young men. Such was the case with James Shields, a 2011 inductee into the Foresters Hall of Fame. “I am honored and humbled to be able to be a part of this family of greatness,” he said at the induction ceremony.
James was a star in high school, earning CIF Player of the Year honors as a junior. After his senior year, he was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays, but came to Santa Barbara to play with the Foresters in 2001. Though he had been drafted, he had not signed, so the Foresters were going to be a learning experience on his way to the pros. He got more than he bargained for, gaining not only
pitching experience but lessons he still values today. “I really grewup in my year here,” he said at the induction ceremony. “I didn’t realize until I got here that there was so much more to life, and that what I have is a gift. What the Foresters does is make boys into men.” Even after he was offered a contract by the Rays, James chose to stay with the Foresters and help the team as it played at the NBC World Series in Wichita. He joined the Rays’ minor-league system later in 2001.
James’ gifts and new-won maturity carried him on a path that has led to six-season Major League career, an American League championship ring, and a reputation as “Big Game James,” a reliable, hard-throwing, batter-battling starter. James has reached double digits in each of his full seasons with the Rays and topped 200 innings every year from 2007–2010.
In 2006, he was one of the top rookie pitchers in baseball. In 2007, he was in the A.L. top 10 in strikeouts while allowing only 1.5 walks per game. Teaming with fellow former Foresters pitcher Matt Garza, Shields was dominant in 2008. His power pitching helped the Rays win the American League East for the first time. He won the first postseason game in Rays history, defeating the White Sox in the ALDS. In the World Series, he was the winning pitcher in Game 2, the only win for Tampa in their series loss to the Phillies. He became the first Foresters player to win a World Series game as well.
That success has made him the Rays’ Opening Day starter three times (2008, 2009, and 2010). His success off the field has been just as impressive. James and his wife Ryane work with Tampa-area foster-family organizations. They host family reunifications at Rays’ games, helping foster kids reconnect with their families, while also honoring families who help such children. “They’ve created ‘forever families,'” says Bill Pintard. “We could not be more proud of what James and Ryane are doing.” Welcome then, James, to a place in our forever family—the Foresters Hall of Fame.