PRINCESS ANNE, Md.- University of Maryland Eastern Shore baseball coach Brian Hollamon feels like he has found the perfect fit for the Hawks’ coaching staff in Laurel, Delaware native and former Delaware State University star Shawn Phillips, who joins the staff from the high school coaching ranks.
“He played professionally and he played in the MEAC,” Hollamon said. “He brings a wealth of knowledge that will help our team and he understands the rigors of a 50-game college season.”
Phillips, who played for the Hornets from 2002-04 before being drafted by the Texas Rangers, still holds numerous pitching records at his alma mater. He spent the last 10 years working in the Delaware public school system in Laurel and Delmar, Delaware, while coaching baseball, softball, cross country and basketball.
“This was the opportunity to get back to baseball and back to the MEAC and Division I baseball,” Phillips said. “It was an opportunity to work with Brian. It’s on the Easter Shore where I grew up. It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”
After starring for the Bulldogs in high school, the right hander compiled 24 wins and the program record with 281 career strikeouts while pitching for the Hornets. He posted a 2.77 career ERA, which is No. 4 all-time in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. His 2004 ERA was 2.02 (Tied for 5th MEAC) and he appears in the MEAC Top 10 in seven different statistical categories.
“There is a ton of talent on the Eastern Shore and a ton of talent over the bridge in Maryland, and we just need to get it to Maryland Eastern Shore,” Phillips said. “Everyone plays baseball now year round and there is a lot of talent that needs to be seen. I told Brian to send me wherever he wants me to go. I know the life at an HBCU. I know life in the MEAC and I’ve got the experience where I can tell them up front what it is going to be like.
“My years at Delaware State are probably the best three years of my life and they prepared me for what I became. I got to play professional baseball and I just need to share my experience with recruits and parents.”
The 2012 inductee in the Delaware State Athletic Hall of Fame was drafted by the Texas Rangers in the 20th Round (Pick 581) of the Major League Baseball Draft. He went 6-1 in 2004 as a 21-year-old at Single-A Spokane, but injuries were a problem he wasn’t able to shake as a pro. He spent 2005-07 in the independent leagues before catching on with Greensboro (Marlins) in the South Atlantic League in 2008. He pitched 7 scoreless innings in three games for the Grasshoppers, but retired in 2008 due to injuries.
His bumpy minor league career — including the injuries and the realizations that come with baseball as a business — soured him on the sport a bit and he found other outlets for his competitive nature coaching other sports.
“I didn’t like the game when I left,” Phillips said. “I was tired of the game mentally and physically. After I got done retiring, I coached two years as an assistant baseball coach at Delmar, I needed to get away from the game for a while.”
While he did take a hiatus from \baseball, he found a love of basketball X’s and O’s coaching middle school kids before moving on to be the varsity coach at his alma mater. A move to Delmar, came later and there he was 43-49 as varsity coach in five seasons including two DIAA playoff appearances. He also became the cross country coach and this year was slated to be the softball coach after finding his way back to the diamond coaching his young daughters.
“Coaching and working with kids is about building relationships,” Phillips said. “It’s building relationships in the community, building relationships with other coaches and building relationships with the kids. That is what I am going into the job with. It’s the same stuff, coaching basketball and other sports. You learn about the individual players, figure out what pushes them, what motivates them and you make sure that they are focused on academics.
“At the college level, you are getting them to graduate and be better people in the community and get them ready for the real world. High school is a little different because you are trying to get them ready for college and what to expect at that level.”
The Hawks opted out of competition during the 2020-21 athletic season due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. When they were last in action, The Shore’s baseball squad had a 4-11 record when the 2020 baseball season was canceled by the NCAA because of the virus.
“Missing most of the last two years gives us a reason to get back to our roots,” Hollamon said. “I recruit the heck out of Maryland and Delaware because I think it’s important for us to be strong locally. Yes, we’ll pick up guys from other places, but the Mid-Atlantic is our stronghold and I think Shawn can help us tremendously with that recruiting area.”
Hollamon is in his fifth year as head coach for the Hawks and while the nearly two years that the program was shuttered due to COVID-19 was a significant setback to roster building, he is confident the players he recruited will respond well to Phillips.
“I’ve played with him and against him,” Hollamon said. “He’s a competitor. He’s not a guy who is going to be satisfied. He is going to be someone who is going to hold players accountable. I think our guys in the program are there now and I think this is a good fit. A lot of our guys are older with a very good couple recruiting class. We have a really good mix and I think the mentality is totally different. We’ve built that.”