Skyler Weber was eager to jump on board with what the Tiger Baseball program had to offer. Weber, a rising senior catcher at Gainesville High, knew the long-term benefits that could come from playing under the direction of Tigers program director Shane Monahan, a former All-American at Clemson University and major league outfielder with the Seattle Mariners.
“Shane’s building a great program right here in Gainesville,” said Weber, who previously played summer ball in East Cobb. “He’s a great coach, great guy and always there for us.”
Even though the Tiger Baseball program is in its first year, it has certainly caught on quick. Monahan has four different teams, ranging from 14-and-under to 17-and-under. He’s enlisted a team of six coaches to help run the organization, with plans to branch out for teams for kids as young as 10 starting next summer.
Now that Monahan, a professional baseball sports advisor, lives in Hall County, he’s convinced that the level of baseball talent in Northeast Georgia is skilled enough for an organization catered to those that want to play high-level college baseball and professionally.
The organization he’s building is designed to compete with the other elite baseball organizations, such as East Cobb, which is where he coached for four years before starting the Tigers.
All tryouts are done during the summer for the following year’s teams. So far, Monahan is impressed with the response and player interest.
“We’re looking to put the best 12-14 players on a roster to travel and play the best summer baseball,” said Monahan, a two-time ACC Player of the Year. “What separates us is not just the level of coaching but the background that our staff has.
“I really believe in what we’re doing.”
Monahan feels the talent base is strong in Northeast Georgia, even though it is untapped in some regards, he said. His main philosophy is that hard work is the only way to earn a Division I or Division II scholarship opportunity.
“Players have to work at this every day if they want to be successful,” Monahan said.
Gainesville rising junior outfielder/pitcher Michael Gettys had a similar experience to Weber before joining the Tigers. Both were traveling to play East Cobb baseball during the summer, and as a result, already were familiar with Monahan.
As part of the 16-and-under Tigers, Gettys relies on Monahan’s baseball background and is always eager for advice from him about becoming an elite player. He credits Monahan for seeing his ability to be a strong hitter, and not just locking him into the role of being a pitcher.
Gettys hopes that being a two-way player will make him even more valuable down the road as he is already verbally committed to play at the University of Georgia.
Monahan’s best season in the majors came in 1998 when he hit .242 with Seattle. He was drafted out of Clemson as a center fielder, but had to shift to left field when he made it to the pros since the Mariners had Ken Griffey Jr. at the position at the time.
“I think it’s wonderful to play for a coach that’s been there and done that,” Gettys said. “I’m always going to listen to what he has to say.”
The Tigers are represented by almost all Hall County and Northeast Georgia schools. Monahan even has players travel from as far as Chapel Hill High in Douglas County to play for the Tigers.
Supporting Monahan’s reputation is the fact that he’s placed seven players in Division I programs since he started coaching with the 14-and-under East Cobb Braves starting in 2008, which went on to place fifth in the country.
Among players from the most recent high school graduating class through the Class of 2014, Monahan has five players that have pledged to the University of Georgia, one to Georgia Tech and another to North Carolina.
This week, Pope High’s Duane Underwood became Monahan’s first player picked in the MLB Draft. He was taken No. 67 overall (second round) by the Chicago Cubs.
Monahan first started working with players in this area by teaching lessons on the weekend, even though he was living in Cobb County at the time.
“Sometimes, I was teaching 25 lessons on a Sunday,” Monahan said.
That’s why he moved his family to Gainesville in 2011.
North Hall rising junior infielder Andrew Smith was a member of Monahan’s East Cobb Titans team last summer. He was one of the first players to jump on board when he formed Tiger Baseball.
He said one of the draws to playing for the Tigers is the competition in their own dugout.
A third baseman during the high school season for the Trojans, he plays middle infield in the summer for the Tigers. Gainesville’s Hunter Anglin is the Tigers’ starting third baseman on the 16-and-under team.
“I think the best thing is that there is a lot of competition on my own team,” Smith said. “It makes me step up my own game.”
Even though Monahan has made a living in baseball, his family heritage has deep roots in hockey. His grandfather, Bernie Geoffrion, and great grandfather, Howie Morenz, are both NHL Hall of Famers. His father, Hartland Monahan, and two other family members also played professional hockey.
Geoffrion was the player credited with creating the slapshot in hockey.