It would have been easy for Astros prospect Shawn Dubin to wallow when his four-year college of choice folded its baseball program following the 2017 season.
But the 25-year-old Sugar Land Skeeters pitcher from Allegany, New York was determined to make his professional dreams a reality, and now stands on the precipice of the major leagues thanks to a bottomless reservoir of perseverance and the opportunity presented by a college more than 500 miles from his hometown.
“I’m from a small town in western New York – and I always dreamed that it would be possible,” he said. “But now that it’s on the cusp of happening, it’s a good example of following your dreams and striving for what you believe in.”
Dubin said he played baseball in high school, but initially chose to pursue playing soccer at Jamestown Community College in New York.
However, after that didn’t work out, he said he needed some time to focus on finding his passion.
“I wound up taking a year off and coming back, and found baseball again,” he said. “Then I played in a summer league, and just took it and ran with it from there.”
Dubin was working at Lowe’s during that year off, he said during an August interview with the Astros Future blog. But in 2015, he said, a close friend from his hometown encouraged him to throw a bullpen session for the pitching coaches at Erie Community College.
“(My buddy) knew that I was looking for a school to go to. I ended up going to throw a bullpen, and the coach signed me on the spot,” Dubin said. “So I became their No. 1 (pitcher) there, spent a semester there and wound up going (NCAA Division I). That’s where everything kind of got kick started on the journey again.”
Dubin posted a 5.50 ERA in two seasons after transferring to the University of Buffalo, but felt that he was making progress as his junior year of eligibility came to a close. However, he would soon hit a roadblock that was out of his control.
Following the 2017 season, the school announced that it was shuttering the baseball program along with three additional sports. So Dubin had come to another fork in the road as he faced some academic-related challenges in addition to the questions about his hopeful baseball career.
Eventually, he would find his way to NAIA Georgetown College in Kentucky. The then-22-year-old would go on to post a 2.09 ERA in 94.2 innings during the 2018 season at Georgetown with 12.2 strikeouts per nine innings.
“It turned out to be the best move I made to this point,” he said. “It was a little reality check.
But I met one of the pitching coaches down there, and everything kind of clicked. I’m grateful for the experience and the opportunity. It was a shock factor at first. But then I changed my view on things and really focused on becoming a better pitcher knowing that it’s tougher to get drafted out of the NAIA.”
Coming into an Astros organization known for developing young pitchers, Dubin said it feels like a perfect match.
Ranked as the Astros’ 11th overall prospect by MLB Pipeline, Dubin added a cutter and curveball to his mid-90s fastball, slider and changeup.
He has allowed opponents just a .411 OPS in five outings for the Triple-A Skeeters since returning from the injured list on July 27.
Dubin was the first Georgetown College player drafted since 1997 upon his selection in 2018, and the school has not had a player reach MLB since Paul Derringer in 1945, according to Baseball Reference’s database. But the right-hander is determined to pay back the opportunity that has been presented through his journey of perseverance.
“It’s a driving factor in me trying to get there, because they took a chance on me when not many schools did. So I’m trying to make them proud every day,” he said. “I’m thankful for the opportunity they gave me – and hopefully I can pay them back soon.”