SCOTTSDALE – From the minors to the majors, a pitcher’s worst nightmare often revolves around suffering a season-ending ulnar collateral ligament tear that ultimately requires Tommy John surgery.
For Salt River Rafters pitching coach and former major leaguer Shane Loux, that nightmare became his reality and, even worse, derailed his MLB career.
Loux eventually found ways to contribute to the game outside of the diamond, using his unfortunate series of events to help other players along the way. But the road to coaching wasn’t always easy and involved him first waking up to the fact that he’d never pitch at an elite level again.
“You know, you never plan on like these massive year-long setbacks, but (the first surgery) I just kind of took in stride, didn’t know any better, was young, immature, did rehab, and never even crossed my mind that I wouldn’t play again,” Loux said after throwing batting practice before the Rafters’ recent Arizona Fall League opener.
After the Detroit Tigers drafted him in 1997, Loux struggled in his first two seasons in the majors, compiling a combined record of 1-4 and an ERA of 8.06 in 2002 and 2003. The Tigers sent him to Triple-A, where he hit rock bottom.
Loux suffered a season-ending UCL tear in 2005. He had surgery, recovered and continued to train but didn’t hear from another team until 2006, when he signed with Kansas City.
“You just kind of went through the process and followed directions,” Loux said. “Came back and everything was OK. And when it didn’t go well, I found myself out of my job and had to kind of change my way, reinvent myself a little bit, and then found the right path and the right people and (I) was making a pretty good headway.”.
However, in 2007, Loux once again found himself on the outside looking in.
“I didn’t have a job. I couldn’t find a job, nobody wanted me, I didn’t know what to do with my life, that kind of thing,” Loux said. “And then I rededicated my whole life getting back to the big leagues as far as diet, exercise mentality. And then just kind of refused to take no for an answer.”
In 2008, Loux signed with the Los Angeles Angels and was assigned to the Triple-A affiliate, the Salt Lake Bees. He was eventually recalled to the majors, and made 25 appearances over the course of two seasons.
Loux’s mentality was not depleted when he signed with the Houston Astros in 2010, his fourth team. He played one full season with the Triple-A Sugar Land Skeeters (now Space Cowboys) before eventually signing in 2011 with the San Francisco Giants, where the remainder of his career was spent bouncing between Triple-A and the majors.
In 2012, Loux’s dream became a reality, earning a World Series ring for his minor role with the Giants. However, the ring was more than just jewelry. It meant his struggles were worth it.
“A lot of people play a long time and never get that chance. And you know, I played a long time and didn’t have a big major league career, but played 20 years in the league,” Loux said. “It was one of those moments where I felt like it was OK to retire at that point. And I still played for three more years, but it was OK, my career ran its course and I got some unique opportunities, and one of those was to win the World Series and spending that year in San Francisco was one of the best years of my career.”
The following year, Loux suffered his second torn UCL, and while he rehabbed it over the next three seasons in the minors, Loux said no one would take a 35-year-old with two Tommy John surgeries under his belt. He hung up his cleats in 2015, ending his career on his own terms.
“It was time for me to get up and work and I was like, ‘Man, I did not feel like working,’ and then I got up and I was like, ‘I’ve never said that before,’” Loux said. “And it’s like, well, if I don’t work today, I do my teammates a disservice by not being prepared to play. So I was like, I think I’m done. It was just literally one day I stood up in my locker, I walked to the manager and I was like, ‘I think I retired.’”
Salt River Rafters pitcher Jackson Goddard had a chance to connect with Loux during spring training last year and played under him in Hillsboro. Goodard believes Loux is a model for those who suffer from career ending injuries.
“I can speak from a surgery standpoint. I had surgery last year and missed the entire 2021 season. So I know what that’s like,” Goddard said. “I know how tough it can be coming to the field every day and it’s obvious when you have a surgery like that, doubt creeps into your mind.
“And so for him to go through that twice and come out on the other side, I have a lot of respect for that.”
Loux knew he could continue to be in the game in other capacities, using his connections throughout baseball to land in the Diamondbacks organization with the Hillsboro Hops.
Hops pitcher Chad Patrick has only known Loux for a short time, but said he feels it is “awesome to work with him this fall and be able to develop as a whole with our own guy here.”
Loux hopes he can use his vast experiences to help propel other prospects further in their careers.
“I finished healthy, I finished pitching well. So like walking away at that moment, looking back was the best decision I ever made because it was just it,” Loux said of his sudden retirement. “When you feel like the game’s taken from you, it can lead to many dark places and I don’t ever feel that way. So, I’m blessed that way. My passion is to make better men, make better baseball players and better human beings along the way.”