Shawn Hillegas had a major-league career that saw peaks and valleys as he logged time with five different organizations at baseball’s top level.
His time on local diamonds gained him regional recognition and even gave him some fame on a national level.
As a scholastic hurler, he helped the Forst Hills High School Rangers capture the 1982 District 6 Class AA crown and make a run to the PIAA quarterfinals. Hillegas went on to play for junior college powerhouse Middle Georgia.
He struck out 14 Cincinnati batters for Ramada Inn in a 10-0, seven-inning win in the 1983 AAABA Tournament. That effort placed a national spotlight on Hillegas as Sports Illustrated published a feature story that focused on his outing.
Hillegas was originally drafted by the then-California Angels in the 26th round of the 1983 MLB draft, but did not sign with the club. The Dodgers took him fourth overall the following January in MLB’s secondary phase draft. He saw his first action with the Dodgers in 1987 and spent most of the 1988 season in Los Angeles until he was dealt to the White Sox on Aug. 30.
In his debut with the Dodgers on Aug. 7, 1987, Hillegas pitched 8 2/3 innings, scattering seven hits with six strikeouts and two runs allowed in a nationally televised 5-2 win over the Atlanta Braves at Dodger Stadium.
"I was nervous as heck out there, but not really as nervous as I thought I was going to be," Hillegas told The Los Angeles Times. "I think after the first inning, I settled down and settled into it.”
Hillegas had an abbreviated rookie campaign that yielded a 4-3 record with a 3.57 earned-run average.
The Dodgers went on to win the World Series in 1988, while Hillegas finished the season in Chicago.
“There are really no regrets,” Hillegas told The Tribune-Democrat in a story published on Oct. 21, 1988. “I have been feeling for myself because I wish I could be there. That’s the team that drafted me. I have a lot of friends there and that’s the team that sent me up for my first experience.
“But this is an occupation where you never know what’s going to happen. There are times where this stuff happens. You have to know how to handle it.”
He spent parts of seven seasons in the majors, winding up in Cleveland after his stint with the White Sox. Stays with the New York Yankees and Oakland Athletics closed out his career by 1993, as Hillegas took home a 24-38 career mark with 10 saves and a 4.61 ERA.
Hillegas posted 48-38 career record in the minor leagues with 17 complete games, four shutouts and nine saves in Class A, AA and AAA. Hillegass, who tossed his last pitch in the majors in 1993, turned down an offer by the California Angels to join a major-league roster in 1995 during the owner’s lockout.
“Knowing that I played five years in the major leagues, if I crossed the picket line, there’s going to be a lot of looking around and a lot of people saying ‘You’ve got this much time in,’ " Hillegas said in a Jan. 29, 1995, edition of The Tribune-Democrat. “Everyone would be against you because you crossed the picket line.”