It’s fitting that Shawn Grandmont plays for the Northwest Nazarene University Nighthawks.
Seemingly under the dark of night, the hard-hitting infielder has put up some of the best college numbers of any Alberta baseball product over the last few seasons.
It was hard for anyone to ignore Grandmont’s success this spring, as he hit .315 with ten home runs, 58 runs batted in and 23 stolen bases to pace the Nighthawks to an impressive 35-10 record.
For the first time in their 21-year history, NNU won the Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC) title and moved onto the NCAA Division II National Championships in Cary, North Carolina.
While they finished with a win and two losses, it was a memorable experience for Grandmont, who finished with three hits in those three games.
The Lethbridge product was rewarded for his strong play during the season by being named a All-West Region Second Team All Star and an All-GNAC honoree.
THE BIG STAGE
Grandmont was no stranger to success when he arrived at NNU.
After successful years with the Lethbridge Elks and Vauxhall Academy of Baseball programs, he started his post-secondary career with the College of Southern Idaho in 2016.
In the spring of 2018, Grandmont hit .282 with seven homers and 44 RBI as the Eagles advanced to the Junior College (JUCO) World Series.
While they didn’t win the championship, it gave Grandmont some of his best baseball memories.
“I remember hearing people say it would be packed with a great atmosphere,” he told Alberta Dugout Stories: The Podcast. “We get there for our first game at eight in the morning on a Wednesday, thinking no one would be there. As it turned out, there were six- or seven-thousand fans in the stadium.”
Just a few days later, Grandmont would face Spruce Grove’s Kobe Hyland and Iowa Western for a Memorial Day clash.
“I don’t know if I’ll ever get to play in front of that many people again,” he laughed. “It was a crazy atmosphere, completely packed in the outfield and all around, helicopters coming in, and I think there was something like 16,000 fans there.”
Despite his success, Grandmont was left with what he called “an uneasy feeling” that summer.
He played in six games with the West Coast League’s Yakima Valley Pippins, but an arm injury forced him to the sidelines.
Grandmont was also not totally certain on where he would land to continue his college career, eventually committing to NNU as he liked Idaho.
He posted good numbers in his first season with the Nighthawks, hitting .258 with a pair of dingers, 34 runs batted in and 14 stolen bases. But he wanted more.
“After my junior year, I went home to work to help pay for school,” Grandmont said. “I was just like, ‘Something needs to change for me to be more consistent.’”
He leaned on his dad, Garry, as well as some time alone, to figure out how he could avoid the hot and cold streaks.
“That was one thing I worked on that summer, was just trying to be in a stance where I was comfortable all the time,” he added. “I wanted to see the ball better and not have those cold streaks where I could feel like I’m not seeing the ball.”
TRUSTING HIS HANDS
Once Grandmont found his inner peace at the plate, he was able to pick up the spin on pitches and lay off the bad ones.
Then he made a philosophical change.
“I needed to buy into trusting my hands more,” he admitted. “I’ve always been told I have good hands and have really fast hands, but I’ve never really been able to trust that until the last couple of years.”
That trust paid dividends in the COVID-shortened 2020 season, as Grandmont hit .339 with six home runs, 15 RBI and eight stolen bags in just 16 games. His slugging percentage also took off, from .430 a year earlier to .694.
“I feel confident in letting balls travel a little bit further and I can lay off borderline pitches,” Grandmont analyzed. “I just feel way more comfortable that if I take a borderline pitch for strike one, that’s probably not going to be the do-or-die pitch for me, making me second-guess myself on if that was ‘the’ pitch.”
The success he’s had at the plate makes him feel like a weight has been lifted off his shoulders.
“It’s definitely been a relief for me,” the 6-foot-1, 185-pound third baseman said. “It’s been fun, just having that confidence and actually believing in myself.”
CHANGING FUTURE PLANS
With his college career coming to a close, Grandmont has his eyes set on the future, whatever that might look like.
“Personally, I think if I keep playing the way I can, I think I can move onto the next level,” he said. “Maybe sign a minor league deal or get a shot with an independent team.”
He was initially named as one of the first recruits to the Appalachian League for its inaugural summer collegiate season.
Just weeks before he was set to suit up, Grandmont was informed he wasn’t eligible because it was affiliated with USA Baseball and he’s not an American citizen.
While he was disappointed with the news, he realizes he wasn’t the only one in that situation. He also leans on something he learned in Vauxhall.
“The biggest thing I took away from that experience was that one year isn’t going to make or break you,” he said.
Grandmont didn’t commit to CSI until late in his high school career, refusing to get caught up in the race to sign as he felt the right place would find him.
He also signed late with NNU, so changing direction is really nothing new to him.
“I think that’s the main thing: play baseball and love the game,” Grandmont said. “That’s why you’re playing it, is because you love it. That’s when things will happen and fall into place.”