Powerful right arm opened many doors for ULM’s Sheets

By Paul Letlow

Ben Sheets needed that light bulb moment to show him his full potential.

As early as his freshman season at the University of Louisiana at Monroe, coach Smoke Laval told the young pitcher that he possessed first-round talent. Sheets didn’t realize how talented he was and how special he could be until the summer before his junior season when he was invited to Team USA tryouts in Tucson, Ariz. There he saw that his skills matched up with anyone there.

The light bulb turned into a spotlight quickly for the St. Amant High School product.

“All it took was that one tool,” said Sheets, a 10-year Major Leaguer with the Brewers, Oakland A’s and Atlanta Braves. “A good arm. And I did it with two pitches. You don’t see that much. You don’t see two-pitch pitchers starting and going 200 innings.”
That powerful arm opened a lot of doors for Sheets, including the one leading into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame. Sheets is part of the Class of 2016 being inducted Saturday, June 25 in Natchitoches.

After helping his college team reach an NCAA regional at LSU, Sheets was a first-round pick by the Milwaukee Brewers in 1999. The Brewers took him 10th overall.
An Olympic roster spot gave Sheets the national spotlight when he tossed a shutout win over Cuba to earn the United States its last baseball gold medal in 2000. Team USA coach Tommy Lasorda became so enamored with the Louisiana native during their time together, he even flew into Monroe later on to attend Sheets’ wedding.

“I think when you’re in the moment, it doesn’t seem as big,” Sheets said. “At the time, it’s what I did. It was like going to work and logging in. But the further I get away from it, the more I appreciate what we did as a team and how special it was.”

Editor’s note – This is one in a series profiling the 11 members of the Class of 2016 being enshrined Saturday, June 25 in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame. Competitive ballot inductees are P.J. Brown, Jim Hightower, Rick Jones, “Gentleman” Dave Malarcher, Janice Joseph-Richard, Ben Sheets, Arthur “Red” Swanson, and Anthony Thomas. Contributor inductees are Dr. Julian Bailes, Jim Hawthorne and Bob Tompkins. A schedule of events from June 23-25, along with online sales for tickets and golf entries, is available at LaSportsHall.com, with information also available by calling 318-238-4255.