Shawn Guinn throws from the left, Nick Brooks from the right. Both are Auburn Mountainview High School seniors, both play pitcher and first base, and both are 3A South Puget Sound League MVP-caliber athletes for what they do both on the hill and at the plate.
But their styles are as far apart as Democrats and Republicans. Brooks is overpowering on the mound and boisterous in the clubhouse, while Guinn uses a variety of off-speed pitches and speaks only when he has something to say.
They are two great talents and two great commodities at coach Glen Walker’s disposal. The problem: Only one can be the Lions’ No. 1 pitcher, the dynamics of the diamond don’t allow for two first basemen at one time, and the SPSL names only one MVP at the end of the season.
Their talents tend to collide — a lot.
“There is an elephant in the room between me and Nick because we both know there is competition between us,” Guinn said. “But it’s not something that we speak of because if we let that get in the way, then it’s going to be a cancer for the team. We don’t want that.”
Sometimes they collide on purpose. When Guinn pitches, Brooks starts at first base; when neither pitches, Guinn is at first and Brooks is at third.
Guinn didn’t think anything of it when he was on the mound for a game last season and Brooks took his position at first. He fully expected to retake first the next game and for Walker to slide Brooks back to the other corner of the infield.
That didn’t happen. Brooks started at first again and Guinn was relegated to designated hitter — and it didn’t go over well.
“For a while, me and Nick weren’t on speaking terms,” Guinn said.
“I know Shawn wasn’t a big fan of me playing first base,” Brooks said. “But he should have been mad. He is a great first baseman, and he is going to play college there someday. I’d be mad, too, if someone took my position.”
Walker and the coaching staff were teaching Guinn a lesson.
“One of our assistant coaches (Patrick O’Connor) asked me why I thought Nick was working in that spot,” Guinn said. “I told him — and it was out of some frustration — but I said that it was probably because some colleges wanted him there.
“He told me, ‘That is exactly why (Walker) is not playing you there’ and he walked away. No words were said. I realized my attitude needed to change, and I told myself that I would never let anything like that happen again.”
Now Guinn and Brooks try to make more of a concerted effort to feed off each other and complement each other’s styles of play.
Here’s how it works: One game, hitters get Brooks, who dominates with a fastball that reaches the mid-80s and a hard slider while keeping them off balance with a change-up. Guinn, the left-hander, gets the next game, and it’s almost the exact opposite. He is more methodical, forcing hitters to pop up or roll over, and works his looping curveball and a change-up with more downward motion than Brooks’ off-speed pitch.
Both styles work well.
Guinn posted a 0.97 earned-run average with 43 strikeouts in 29 innings last year, and Brooks had a 2.18 ERA with 62 strikeouts in 412/3 innings. Both were 3A SPSL first-team selections.
“You never know which one you are going to get if both are fresh, and that makes it pretty tough, especially since they are so different from each other,” said Decatur coach Korey Sites. “It’s natural to think the next game in a series will be easier — you don’t think it will get tougher.”
Auburn Mountainview coaches and teammates named Guinn the team MVP last season and a captain this year. Guinn said he thinks it was mostly to light a fire under Brooks.
“Nick is kind of a high-maintenance guy,” Guinn said. “If you get in the way of something he wants, then he will do whatever he can to get what he wants.”
Walker and his coaching staff are not above using such motivational tools this year because they are desperate to take advantage of a team filled with talented seniors after last season ended in disappointment in the subdistrict tournament.
“The biggest thing is that we are really focused this year about being all for one, on being all about each other,” Walker said. “When someone has a bad game, the entire team should be out there right behind him to pick him up.
“Last year we had decent leadership, but we didn’t have a ton of great baseball players. This year we have a ton of great baseball players, and it’s going to be about bringing them all together and making sure they are playing for each other.”