Colleen and Jim Panzini stand proudly behind their son, Shane, and Kansas City Royals’ Casey Fahy. Courtesy photo
Colleen and Jim Panzini stand proudly behind their son, Shane, and Kansas City Royals’ Casey Fahy. Courtesy photo
Shane Panzini has come a long way since he first fell in love with baseball while playing tee-ball at age five.

The 19-year-old recent graduate of Red Bank Catholic High School, Red Bank, is now among the ranks of professional baseball players.

Panzini was selected by the Kansas City Royals in the fourth round – and as the 108th overall pick – in the recent Major League Baseball draft. He has since signed with the team and traveled to Arizona, where he is preparing to start his career with the organization.

“It felt really cool,” Panzini said of getting the call that he had been drafted. “It was a good family moment.”

In the weeks leading up to the draft, Panzini had been ranked highly on various draft prospect lists and charts, and the right-handed pitcher drew more than his share of major league scouts to his games as a Casey. There was also interest from high-level staff from teams like the Chicago Cubs and the Baltimore Orioles, but he didn’t realize how invested the Royals were in the Red Bank standout.

“I didn’t know they were in that heavy, but I am just happy to be part of such a great organization and with some great teammates,” he said. “Things are going really well.”

In his senior year, Panzini chalked up a 0.91 ERA while setting a single-season record 115 strikeouts. But despite his own success, he always made sure his teammates were included in his accomplishments.

“He talked about them and not about himself. When we won the shore conference tournament, he helped make sure the whole team was included, and same with his going away party after he signed,” said his RBC coach, Buddy Hausmann. “All his current teammates were invited because those were the guys he wanted there. They all feel a part of the process he experienced this spring.”

His success demonstrates how hard work can pay off, but the coach says he will stand out more “for the person he is.”

“The stories I will tell about him will have nothing to do with his performances on the mound. It will be more about the type of person he was,” he said. “He led by example, treated others with so much respect, and never made any of this about him. He enjoyed his teammates and playing the game of baseball. He was a true leader on and off the field.”

Hausmann believes Panzini has what it takes to be one of the greats.

“He has the make up as a player and person to be successful,” he said. “He will continue to develop and get better.”

In an interview with The Monitor shortly after he arrived in Arizona, Panzini said he looks forward to focusing on the game of baseball without distractions.

“Playing baseball every day – that’s my dream,” he said. “It’s pretty awesome.”

He reflected on his time at Red Bank Catholic, and encouraged his fellow Caseys to trust the system and keep the school’s tradition of winning going.

“I met a lot of great people there, and the coaching staff there was amazing,” he said.

His mother, Colleen, echoed those thoughts.

“All four of my boys have gone to Catholic high schools, so that was a big part of how he ended up at Red Bank Catholic,” she said, adding that his older brother, Blaise, also played baseball during his time there. “His coach … really develops players. He develops tremendous team unity, and it’s all part of the faith-based education that they are getting every day in school. It was a fabulous four years.”

She said the entire family has been excited to see Panzini’s trajectory.

“It has been such a goal for him for a long time,” she said. “I think he realized that going into professional baseball has really become a lifetime goal.”

Meanwhile, the Red Bank Catholic community has a new record for the highest MLB draft pick, and another role model for younger Caseys to look up to.

“We are all excited for Shane,” said RBC principal Karen Falco. “He has worked very hard to achieve his goals. I hope Shane continues to believe in himself and work for his dreams.”