Always aspiring to be a team player and a leader, Shawn Abell wouldn't ever admit it. But there was a part of the former Lynchburg College baseball team's shortstop that coveted a spot in the LC Sports Hall of Fame.
With a last name like Abell, of course, there was a lot to live up to.
His father, Percy, and uncle, Todd, were both Hornets greats on the diamond, and Percy just wrapped up a 20-year coaching career at the helm of the LC program.
"Being successful as part of the team was always No. 1," Shawn Abell insisted, "but it was in the back of your head, you know, seeing your dad's name and your uncle's name in the hall of fame."
Shawn grew up on the Lakeside Drive campus as Percy and his mother, Amy, spent time as students and staffers. But as a senior at nearby Brookville High School, Shawn found a number of Division I scholarship offers at his feet. He took one and started 42 games as a freshman at Radford University, hitting .280. He went back to start his sophomore year, but something didn't feel right about Radford. He asked his father if he could come play at LC.
"I remember like it was yesterday," Abell said, "giving him a call … and saying, 'You know what? I think I'm ready to come home.'"
It worked out pretty well for everyone. Shawn came to Lynchburg and worked to show his father and his new teammates that he was going to earn the starting spot at shortstop. His father, meanwhile, was determined not to play favorites.
"He probably thought I was a little harder on him," Percy Abell said of his son.
Shawn started every game of his LC career at shortstop, and he didn't disappoint. He hit .319 as a sophomore and broke out as a junior, hitting .400 with seven home runs and a team-best 54 RBIs as Lynchburg's team led the country in slugging. He was tabbed a Division III All-American for his efforts.
But for his father and coach, it was Shawn's defense at shortstop that made him stand out.
"One of the best in the conference defensively," Percy Abell said.
He wasn't the only All-American on that team. Second baseman Anthony Palmisano and outfielder Steven Scott also earned that honor. It was only fitting, Abell said, to enter the hall of fame with his partner-in-crime up the middle, Palmisano.
"That second base-shortstop relationship is a pretty special one," he said, noting that they ranked fourth Division III in double plays as seniors. "I was almost happier for him than I was for myself."
Their teammate and current Hornets head coach Lucas Jones was an All-American pick the next season. Part of the reason those seasons were so special, Abell said, is because so many of the guys were local. He played at Brookville, district rivals of Palmisano's (Staunton River) and Jones and Abell's best friend Chris Knowles (Heritage), and all the Lynchburg-area boys wound up in Hornets jerseys.
"We always wanted to make a name for Lynchburg and for our hometown," Abell said. "It gave us an opportunity to do that in college."
The 2004 team won 20 games in a row, a feat no Lynchburg team has matched since.
Abell has remained in the game. He's coached stints as an assistant at Lynchburg, Longwood, and Vassar College (under LC alum Jon Martin), and he was the head coach at Rockbridge County High School for a time. Most recently, he assistant Liberty Christian Academy's team to a 2016 VHSL 4A state championship.
He, his wife Randi (Lynchburg, '08), and their daughter Paisley still live in the area.
This is the second in a series of features on the 2017 inductees to the LC Sports Hall of Fame. Five individuals -- Shawn Abell (baseball), Chad Clark (men's lacrosse), Lauren Askey Ey (women's soccer), Kim Vaughan (women's soccer), and Anthony Palmisano (baseball) -- and two teams of distinction -- 1991 men's cross country and 1997 women's soccer -- were inducted at last Friday's Alumni Association banquet.