A typical spring day at Boyd County High School consists of a sun rising, a dismissal bell ringing at 3:15, and Robbie Shivel digging a fresh crease for his right cleat to settle into inside the batter’s box later that afternoon.
Sporting bright red batting gloves on both hands and a focused yet eager look as he studiously eyes the pitcher, Shivel performs his daily duty.
“I like being the first guy up there,” said the senior. “That way I can come back, tell everybody what he’s throwing, what he’s got, what it looks like …”
There’s no secret what a lineup card will look like when Boyd County baseball is involved.
Coach Brandon Ramsey could probably fill out the first spot on the sheet in his sleep.
“The things (Shivel) does as a leadoff hitter — he sees a lot of pitches, he gets on base a lot, he can steal bases, he’s very good at scoring runs. Once he gets on, he finds a way to get around them,” said the fifth-year Lions coach.
“He’s an extremely hard worker, a dedicated kid,” added Ramsey, who also used modifiers like “serious” and “consistent” to describe one of his five seniors.
The versatile right-hander has not missed any of the Lions’ 76 games played over the past two seasons. In his three-year varsity career, he’s played six different positions — the exceptions are right field, first base and catcher.
As a sophomore, Shivel was primarily a designated hitter during Boyd County’s 16th Region championship run in 2011. He suffered from Little League Pitcher’s Arm, which involved extensive inflammation of the throwing elbow. It kept him off the mound the entire season.
“They were trying to show me how to throw a curveball and I wasn’t throwing it right I guess,” Shivel thought back to his freshman year. “I didn’t tell coaches I was hurting or anything, so that was my fault. I felt stupid for not saying anything about it.”
At one point, the condition was so overpowering that he couldn’t move his elbow. “It was pretty painful,” he said.
After undergoing physical therapy and a methodical recovery process managed by Ramsey and Aaron Acuff, the Lions’ pitching coach, Shivel’s arm feels “amazing,” he said, and the results have represented significant improvement. He is 3-1 with a 3.57 earned run average and 21 strikeouts.
Shivel’s favorite position, though, is located a couple hundred feet behind the bump.
His swiftness, range and instincts are on full display in center field. During the offseason, he knocked three-tenths of a second off his 60-yard dash time, to 6.8.
“I love chasing down balls,” he said.
He also loves racing along basepaths, where he finds himself often. His on-base percentage is a gaudy .529 this season. In addition to that, Shivel has 15 stolen bases and 36 runs scored. He will carry a .387 batting average and 19 RBIs into this week’s 16th Region Tournament.
“I’m seeing the ball a lot better this year,” said Shivel, who hit .345 as a junior.
Before Shivel’s junior season, Ramsey felt inclined to insert the speedy, smart hitter atop the lineup.
“He’s always been a patient guy ... has a very good approach,” said Shivel’s coach.
While Shivel said he batted second behind Dylan Grimm a handful of times in 2012, Ramsey has rarely wavered from the strategy.
The plan made Shivel uneasy initially, but since has worked out swimmingly.
In his first full season at leadoff, Shivel racked up these achievements: a 64th District Tournament Most Valuable Player award, a 16th Region All-Tournament Team selection and an All-Area honor.
“At first I really didn’t like (batting first),” Shivel said. “I thought I’d rather be a ‘two’ guy. But I started to really enjoy it. It comes with age, and experience.”
Shivel speaks like a veteran, and he backs up his words with actions.
“Robbie’s really taken to the leadership role,” Ramsey said. “He’s taken a lot upon his shoulders.”
A baseball player since age 4, Shivel is now orchestrating his Swan song. He isn’t pursuing a college baseball career. In fact, he already has a firm plan in mind.
“I want to focus on my studies,” said the Morehead State-bound Shivel. He will major in nursing.
Somebody else’s name will be etched onto Line 1 next season, but Shivel assured that he wouldn’t be too far from home plate for at least a few more first pitches.
“It’s an honor to be a Boyd County baseball player, something you take pride in,” Shivel said. “I’ll be back.”
AARON SNYDER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2664.