MOUNT OLIVE — For University of Mount Olive baseball player Robert Shipman, the road to a college degree has not been an easy one. After two years of college and financial struggles, he was forced to sit out of school to help his family. His experiences have only made him stronger in his faith.
Shipman, a Brooks County, Ga., native, fell in love with baseball at an early age. His father, Robert Shipman, Sr., was a former 10th round draft pick to the Detroit Tigers in 1987. He later was traded to the Minnesota Twins and ended his career shortly after, so baseball has always been in the family’s blood. Shipman’s brother, Aaron, also signed with Mercer University before becoming a 3rd round draft pick to the Oakland Athletics in 2010.
“I was blessed enough to play for my father from t-ball all the way through high school,” shared Shipman. “After playing for Brooks County High School, I signed with the University of Georgia to start my college journey as a student-athlete.”
After four semester at the University of Georgia, Shipman had to put his pursuit of a college degree on hold. Shipman took two years off of college and baseball before hearing about a second chance at the University of Mount Olive.
“I had been praying for another chance to play college baseball somewhere,” said Shipman. “UMO has transformed my life because it gave me a second chance to redeem myself as a person, student, and athlete. I’m blessed to be here and I feel God choose this place for me for a reason.”
Shipman also attributes his return to college and baseball to Coach Carl Lancaster.
“I’m humbled by the opportunity Coach Lancaster gave me to be part of a powerhouse program,” he said. “He provided me with a chance to pursue a degree in sports management, receive scholarships, and be in a winning program.”
Lancaster was impressed with Shipman from the start. ‘Shipman is one of the finest young men to come through our baseball program in quite some time,” revealed Lancaster. “Ship, as we call him, has been forced to take a much different path than most student athletes to obtain his education. Thankfully, his former coach contacted us. Otherwise we could be seeing Ship in the batter’s box against us!”
Shipman is also a devoted Christian and is a member of Stay in the Word Ministries.
“Jesus Christ has played a vital role in my academic journey,” Shipman said. “Even through all of the changes and ups and downs in my life, Christ’s foundation has remained solid in my life. He is by far the head of my life.”
Recently Shipman spoke at the Faison Baptist Church Celebrate Recovery Program and reached out to the members in need. Inspired by his second chance at UMO, he decided to spread his faith onto others that are in need of a second chance in their recovery.
“The experience was amazing. I have spoken before in other places, but never in a recovery program. One thing I noticed right away was the pure honesty of the people who are in the program. It’s one thing for a person to have a problem, but to be able to face other people and admit the problem is big,” said Shipman. “I just wanted to encourage them to continue to fight every day and recover.”
Shipman’s hard work in the classroom, on the field, and in the community has not gone unnoticed. Lancaster shared, “Ship has been a model for the rest of us to follow. He has been strong in his faith, always tries to do what’s right, and is a genuinely fine person. The way he lives his life has impacted his teammates as well as our coaching staff.”
Shipman is set to graduate in May of 2016 and hopes to receive the chance to play professional baseball.
“I would love an opportunity to play professional baseball. Also, I would like to minister. The Bible says in John 9:4 ‘I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.’ As long as I am able, I need to be attempting to reach and lead people to Christ.”
The University of Mount Olive is a private institution rooted in the liberal arts tradition with defining Christian values. The university, sponsored by the Convention of Original Free Will Baptists, has locations in Mount Olive, New Bern, Wilmington, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, Research Triangle Park, Washington, Jacksonville, and in Smithfield at Johnston Community College. For more information, visit www.umo.edu.