The Bishop Shanahan baseball team had quite the historic run during the 2019 season.
The Eagles went to the District 1 Class 5A championship game, falling to Holy Ghost Prep, before going to the second round of the PIAA Class 5A tournament and losing to eventual state champion Cedar Crest.
One of the key players in the Eagles’ wild run to states was Justin Samson, who was a junior in 2019. Samson helped Shanahan to its first state appearance since 1998, and the 2019 team set the tone for future Eagles teams, starting with the 2020 edition of Shanahan baseball.
Now a senior, Samson is trying to deal with the cancelation to the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 virus, while also dealing with memories of the 2019 season fresh in his mind.
“It is really heartbreaking that we do not have a baseball season right now,” Samson said. “I am really frustrated by this cancelation and I was still trying to stay in shape and am working out with my brother who plays college baseball, so I am on his workout plan. … We have worked so hard as a team to try to get where we were last season.
“And especially after the run we went on last season,” Samson said. “We really became a close bunch during the run through districts and the state tournament. I felt we had a brotherhood on that team and I wanted to bring that kind of brotherhood to the sophomores and juniors on this year’s team. The closeness we had was really something I will never forget and [it’s] a real tough pill to swallow.”
Samson was counted on by Bishop Shanahan coach Brian Boyko to pitch and play a key part of the infield during the 2020 season. Boyko talked about how much he was looking forward to the season. Samson is a deft fielder with some pop in his bat, and was going to be counted on as a big mound presence for Bishop Shanahan this season.
“Justin is just a great kid who works very hard at whatever he does,” Boyko said. “I was really looking forward to seeing him and the other seniors compete this season.”
Although Samson had some Division III college offers to play baseball, he elected to and attend Temple University in the fall and focus on a major in finance.
“This was the hardest decision I ever had to make,” Samson said. “I really love to play baseball and it is such a big part of my life and I had offers to play at Widener University, Misericordia University and two others, but I wanted to go to Temple and focus on my future career to major in finance. It was really hard but it was something I felt I had to do. Baseball has been such a big part of my life and it will be tough but I feel I made the right decision. I just wanted to get out on the baseball field right now and experience my senior season and play with my teammates for one last time this season.”
Samson also formed a special bond with his teammate Simi Whitehill, who came in as a freshman during the 2019 season and was a big part of the Eagles’ state run.
“Simi is like a brother to me,” Samson said. “He was always next to me on and off the field. He and I created something special when he came in as a freshman and I was a junior. And it is a sad story to see this go so soon.”