Shawn LeVan knows what it’s like to be the only sophomore on the field.
He’ll never know what it’s like to be one of the seniors.
LeVan recently graduated from Father Judge High School, and he was penciled into being the team’s starting shortstop for a second year this year. But when he was a sophomore, he was the only 10th-grader to start for the Crusaders in a season that ended in the semifinals of the Catholic League playoffs.
The quarterfinal win was a memorable one. In that one, the Crusaders knocked off the then-defending Catholic League champion Neumann-Goretti, and LeVan played the entire game of the extra-inning affair and even had a clutch at-bat in the final frame, as Judge went on to win the game.
He was grace under pressure. At least that’s how it seemed to anyone watching.
“I was scared, I was very scared,” said LeVan, who worked a walk after a 10-pitch at-bat in the final inning that helped win the game. “I wasn’t too nervous at the plate, but in the field. There was a popup in the first inning with men on, two out. I made the play, but all I kept thinking was I can’t drop this. I caught it, though.
“It was hard being a sophomore on that team because we were good. But I learned a lot. I learned a lot from everyone. I learned from (starting shortstop) Matt Spaeth. He helped me with a lot of things. Helped me with footwork, but a lot of other things, too. That year was good, but it was rough being the younger kid.”
It paid off, though.
LeVan became one of the top players in the Catholic League during his junior year thanks to the experience he picked up during his sophomore year, and the Bensalem native moved to shortstop and even made the Carpenter Cup squad last year thanks to his .444 on-base percentage. He also had a huge hand in the Crusaders once again making it to the Catholic League semifinals.
He had hoped to make even more noise as a senior, but coronavirus spoiled that from happening.
“I never thought we would have the whole season canceled, I kept waiting for them to tell us it would be OK to play, but then we found out it was over,” LeVan said. “It sucks that we lost to La Salle in the semifinals our last two years, and we thought this year was going to be really good.
“We brought back seven, or six, starters and our top three pitchers. We had a really good team with a lot of experience. You never know what will happen, but we wanted a chance to see what we could do.”
Ever since the season was deemed unplayable, LeVan has been back to work.
It’s tough getting organized baseball practices, but he has had no shortages of guys to work out with during the pandemic. He’s turned to old friends and old rivals to help keep him sharp.
“I’ve had people to work out with, I’ve been working out with Chuck Kelley, he went to Judge, everyone knows him,” LeVan said. “And a bunch of guys from Roman, they sometimes come up. A lot of guys. We have guys just come a few days, some come a lot. It’s not the best, but at least we’re doing something because we can’t play anywhere.”
LeVan has to be ready because next year he’s going Goldey-Beacom College in Pike Creek Valley, Delaware. And just like he did at Judge, he might have to move around the infield to get playing time to start.
“They had a shortstop who was going to be done, but because of everything, all seniors got an extra year, so he’s staying and he’s good,” LeVan said. “They have third base open, and there’s a chance I could be there as a freshman. They’re going to see who plays better, and I’ll have a chance to win it.”
He’s not just going for baseball. He plans on majoring in sports management, with a plan to stay around the game he loves.
“I want to be an athletic director somewhere,” LeVan said. “It just seems like a cool job, you get to do a lot around sports. And I could definitely see myself coaching some day. Definitely baseball.”
He’s looking forward to going to college and showing what he can do at the next level, and he’s also looking forward to the freedom of going away. But you can be sure whenever he’s taking the field, his biggest fan will be in the stands cheering him on.
“I live in Bensalem, but I went to Judge because my grandfather (Bob Dillon) went there and he loved it and I really liked it,” LeVan said. “I’m happy I went there, I liked high school a lot. It’s tough not going back. It ended, and we didn’t know it was going to just be over like that.
“My grandfather is the man. He never misses a game. He’s great. I know he’ll be coming up to watch. He’s so supportive. He comes to everything.”
And LeVan hopes to give him a show. Even if he’s playing as a nervous freshman.