Featured Future is a summer series where the Observer will highlight local student athletes who are preparing to continue their athletic and educational careers at the college level, or those who have already begun that journey.
Colin Shultz played baseball for four years at Plant City, now committed to Palm Beach State College where he will continue his playing career this upcoming year, but the Raiders’ baseball program was a part of his life long before he ever put on a Raiders uniform.
“While it does look like just four years on paper, I’ve actually been around Plant City and the program for eight years because my older brother played there for four years under coach Mike [Fryrear],” Shultz said. “So I’ve really been around that program and school all of my life and I’ve always been welcomed on the field and everything. I used to practice with the team, probably when I was eight years old and could barely make the throw to first base from shortstop.”
After winning a state championship with Plant City as a freshman, Shultz really stepped into his role as a driving force for the team’s offense as a junior. In his third year, Shultz finished second on the team with a .360 batting average, second with 18 runs scored, second with seven doubles, third with 15 runs batted in and led the team with four home runs. As a senior, those numbers only improved with six home runs – trailing only fellow senior Jackson VanDerZee’s seven – and a team-leading .378 batting average, seven doubles, .452 on base percentage and a district-best 26 runs batted in.
“It was definitely my approach,” Shultz said about what allowed him to be so successful at the plate this season. “My approach just got better. I started attacking more pitches in the zone and letting my strength do the work as opposed to just swinging out of my shoes every at bat.”
And in an unexpected turn in the fall, an injury left Plant City with a hole at catcher. Previously a corner infielder, Shultz stepped up and offered to jump behind the plate.
“It may look OK but without the help of my pitching staff it wouldn’t have been nearly as nice,” Shultz said. “I’m very thankful to have had such a good pitching staff to throw to me, that made me look a lot better. We had a little bit of a hole through an accident and I said, you know, I can catch. So I got thrown into the position one game, I did OK, so I stuck with it and stayed there for the rest of the year.”
With a couple other in-state and out-of-state junior college offers, Shultz ultimately committed to Palm Beach State College in Lake Worth, where he’ll join the team along with a couple of friends from travel ball teams and Durant infielder Avery Cherry.
“Palm Beach State just has a really good, winning history,” Shultz said. “They’ve never had a losing season, I love the coach, they’ve welcomed me with open arms, I love the area, it’s a nice beach town. I’ll be going there with a couple of friends that I know very well so I’m very excited… I’ve always been know for the big arm and the big power at the plate, and they like power hitters, so I think that I can fit in very well with how they play.”
After starting the season unranked, Palm Beach State entered the Top-20 and peaked at No. 18 in the 2022 NJCAA DII polls following wins over DI opponents in Miami Dade, Eastern Florida and Pensacola State College. Shultz added that despite just one year at catcher in high school, Palm Beach State gave him the option to stay at the position in college and he believes that’s the route he’ll take.
“Everything that I did this year couldn’t have been done without Coach Mike and the pitchers that I had,” Shultz said.