For years, Brandon Shiota dreamed of playing college baseball but faced self-doubt because of his size and plate discipline. That all changed in summer 2014 heading into his freshman year of high school. Shiota rigorously trained with his best friend and mentor Mikey Perez, learning new aspects of baseball along with gaining significant amounts of muscle.
Shiota recently won the SCIAC Athlete of the Year award for the NCAA Division III. He is a huge contributor to the La Verne baseball team, with eight home runs, 62 RBI, and a .418 batting average his senior year. He bats fourth in the lineup and is arguably the most impactful player on a championship-contending La Verne team.
For the 22-year-old senior business administration major who has been playing baseball almost his whole life, his personality also revolves around the sport. He holds himself accountable, learns from his failures, is hard on himself and is willing to make adjustments. These are lessons he has learned from playing baseball for so long.
Shiota did not grow up with much, but his parents made sacrifices for him. His kindness and willingness to help others is recognized by his teammates and coaches. Shiota credits much of his success to his former and current teammates and coaches from Gahr High School in Cerritos along with the University of La Verne.
Shiota said he takes nothing for granted. He said his mother took him to Mexico when he was young, and they would live on a farm for days with no electricity and his father taught him gratitude and kindness.
“My dad raised me to be grateful for what you have,” Shiota said. “He would always be kind and give rides to kids for example. I credit that to how I am as a person. I will always go the extra mile to help someone like a coach after practice with something… I know if I was in that same situation, I would want someone to help me too.”
Shiota grew up in Cerritos, and he played only one full year of varsity baseball at Gahr High School. He was able to obtain a scholarship to the University of La Verne where he said his life changed for the better.
“I wasn’t that good compared to everyone else in high school, considering I only played varsity for one year,” Shiota said. “I have really evolved as a baseball player and I credit that a lot to my coaches for doing such a good job with me. It’s so rewarding to see results after hours and hours of hard work.”
At 5-foot-7, Shiota was always the shortest on his teams.
“I have always played like I am the smallest guy on the field… I use my speed to my game,” Shiota said. “I definitely always had the potential growing up because I would hit the balls hard. However, it was never like the consistency I have now. Being a small guy I was always shy in my playing style, I wouldn’t swing the bat at all, which caused me to lose confidence and struggle a lot. Mentally I was out of it and it hurt at the time knowing I could do it physically.”
Shiota said he felt like he had nothing to lose, and that is the same mentality he maintained this year and during his senior year at Gahr. Shiota was able to gain confidence, he said. That same confidence earned him a scholarship to La Verne where the rest is history.
“A big influence on how I play and how I train is my best friend who I always keep in touch with, Mikey Perez,” Shiota said. “He took me under his wing. I don’t think I would have the success I am having now without his advice.”
Shiota is finishing his undergrad now that the season is over. After graduation, he plans to play summer ball in Canada for two-and-a-half months.
“Once baseball is over I will be headed to Canada,” Shiota said. “I already signed the contract and turned it in. My plan is to have fun and see what opportunities there are for graduate school or any draft possibilities. If it doesn’t pan out then I will play in an independent league. My goal is to play baseball for as long as I possibly can.”
Shiota’s kind deeds and attitude have earned him the respect of former and current teammates. Many on the team consider him a leader and a big influence for their own success.
“He is a great player who can lead by example and vocally,” freshman infielder and business administration major Malachi Francois said.
Sophomore communications major Anthony Salcedo said Shiota’s strong character shines through.
“How he treats others is his best quality. He is always focused on working. You can tell he is a student of the game and learns from his teammates” Salcedo said.
“I know he is someone I could always count on whether it be now or 50 years in the future.”
“Even though he’s one of the best players on the team, he does not mind taking time out of his day to help the freshman or struggling hitters,” said junior communications major Kevon Churchill. “He is definitely the definition of what it’s like to be a leader.”
Shiota plans to have a polished baseball career for years to come. His focus is preliminary on the summer baseball season as he looks for new opportunities.
“If baseball ever comes to an end for me, my goal in the future is to build my own training facility and help kids learn the game that I have loved my whole life,” Shiota said.
Aidan Balderas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.