Mike Shubert would have preferred not to know just how close he was to losing his son.
May 18, 2018.
The Santa Fe High School shooting.
Ten people — eight students, two teachers — were killed. 13 were injured. 16-year-old Rome Shubert, who starred for the Houston Athletics at the 2020 Grad Class Tournament both at the plate and on the mound, was among the latter.
“The bullet entered around his C-1 vertebrae and came out just behind his left ear,” Mike Shubert told FutureStarsSeries.com
“The emergency room doctor said it missed his vertebrae by about two millimeters. I was like, ‘If you don't tell us, I'd be much happier not knowing how close it was.'”
Remarkably, Rome Shubert was otherwise unscathed in what some have described as a “miracle,” and became one of the faces of the survivors in the national media, appearing on countless local and national television shows.
“I'm very proud,” Mike Shubert said. “He took it like a champion with the way he conducted himself. He got a lot of national media attention and conducted himself very well. He told his story. He just wanted to get back to baseball, he couldn't wait for the day he could go back and throw. He wanted that normalcy.”
That normalcy is something the Shubert family wasn't sure would ever come, certainly not in the immediate aftermath of the incident. But they've been able to move on quickly, while realizing how fortunate they are the outcome wasn't different.
“If you dwell on it, it's going to eat you up,” Mike Shubert said. “So, he made it through it, he's doing well at baseball. Be positive, move on, and don't sit there and worry about the kid that did the shooting and how much trauma he caused for the whole town and the whole school. You just move on. We were so worried for about an hour, we couldn't get a hold of him. We talked to a bunch of his friends, his girlfriend, but we couldn't get a hold of him. Once you find out he was at the hospital and OK, it all just went away. You can sit there and dwell on all of it, but it's not going to help you.”
One of the first things Rome thought about after the incident? How soon he'd be able to get back to playing baseball, something he called “very, very important” in giving him something to strive for while he healed.
“It's always been my dream since I was real young, and just the thought of not being able to play kind of scared me for a little while there,” Rome Shubert said. “But once I was told I was completely fine, I treat every day a little bit differently. I live it a little bit more.”
Rome Shubert lives for those who didn't make it that day.
Rome Shubert lives for his family.
Rome Shubert lives for baseball.
“It's been huge, that's all he's about,” Mike Shubert said. “Even the day after he got shot, his high school team was in the playoffs. The whole team decided to go play the next playoff game, and it helped the whole community. Everybody came out, supported the team. A week later, he was on Twitter saying he wishes he could throw a bullpen. He wanted to get back into the one thing he loves and the one normalcy he had.”
Shubert pitched at the New Balance Baseball Future Stars Series powered by Program 15 event with a custom “Pray For SF” sleeve on his left, non-pitching elbow. However, for as much as he wants to keep the memory of the incident will always be important, he also was grateful to just get back to pitching again, something the event provided him.
“It's been a great experience,” Rome Shubert said. “I like the mounds out here. The dirt is nice, the grass is nice, the batters box is nice. Everything is nice out here. It's been real nice to work with people who have gone through it already and know what you should be striving to do and what it should look like.”
Although he didn't wear them in Cypress, Rome has had two custom gloves made for him in Santa Fe colors. The date of the shooting is on the pinky, with “Santa Fe Strong” on the back” and a Texas flag on one of the fingers.
“That's his remembrance,” explained Mike Shubert. “He's going to use those for quite a while, always remember. I explained to him last night, ‘You know this is going to follow you forever.' If there's a chance he goes pro, it's going to be one of those things where anything you ever do, they're going to look back at it.”
About going pro? That's proven to be a realistic goal. Shubert pitched exceptionally well at the 2020 event — it was just his fourth time on the mound since the incident — and was asked if he was taken aback by just how well he was able to perform given everything he's bee through.
“I'm definitely surprised,” Rome Shubert said. “You'd think, getting shot in the head, like how do you live through that? Then, two weeks later, I was back on the mound throwing. It's all kind of surreal to me. How am I still out here playing, pitching, doing the thing I like to do?”
Rome, who got to throw out the first pitch at Dirk Nowitzki's 2018 Heroes Celebrity Baseball Game in Dallas and meet Nowitzki, Mark Cuban and other celebrities, will attend the University of Houston, where he says he wants to “get a good education and then try to go pro.”
U of H will not only provide good opportunities to achieve both of those goals, but keep him close to home.
“Coming to Houston really meant a lot because I'm really close to my family, and that meant a lot to me for them to be able to drive up the road and see me play every weekday or weekend,” Shubert said. “Now, everything is different. Being here, still even today, it's kind of crazy that I'm still here. It means a lot more that they get to see me play after high school.”
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