COLUMBIA, S.C. — Former Clemson baseball great Shane Monahan comes from a very successful hockey family. His father is former National Hockey League player Hartland Monahan, and both his grandfather, Bernie Geoffrion, and great-grandfather, Howie Morenz, are in the NHL Hall of Fame.
Looking back on his career, Shane Monahan admits that he played baseball a little too much like a hockey player. But at the same time, it was his intense, aggressive and angry playing style that helped propel him to a historic career at Clemson — one that saw him become the first player in ACC history to be named league MVP, MVP of the ACC Tournament, MVP of an NCAA Regional, and a first-team All-American over his career. He still holds Tiger season records for hits (137), multiple-hit games (46), singles (94), and runs (97). He also holds the career record for triples (21), is second in hits (337) and total bases (535), and third in career batting average (.394) and runs (235).
On Monday, Monahan was formally inducted into the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame in Columbia, and he made sure to credit former longtime Clemson head baseball coach Jack Leggett for letting him play like his hair was on fire and helping him get to where he is today.
“He gave me my opportunity. He believed in me,” Monahan told The Clemson Insider. “He never tried to take credit for anything. He never tried to put the handcuffs on me – it was always, ‘You’re our leadoff guy, set the tone, go play.’ He was intense.
“I’m from a hockey family. I may have played baseball like a hockey player, and looking back, well, I probably should have toned down a little bit. But he let me play that way, and I’m forever grateful for Jack Leggett.”
To this day, Monahan keeps in touch and has a close relationship with Leggett, who led the Tigers to 955 victories, six College World Series appearances, nine super regionals, 11 regional titles, three ACC regular season championships, two ACC tournament titles and one ACC Atlantic Division title.
“He was a coach, and then he’s a friend now as I’m a grown man,” Monahan said. “We talk all the time. I love him to death. I think he’s an incredible human being, and I’m so thankful I got to play for him.”
Monahan was a part of Leggett’s first recruiting class in 1994, and a key part of Leggett’s first College World Series team in 1995.
Leggett faced the tough task of replacing legendary Clemson coach Bill Wilhelm following the 1993 season and did so seamlessly. In 1994, his first season as head coach, Leggett earned ACC Coach of the Year honors after guiding Clemson to the ACC Tournament Championship and a No. 4 final national ranking. A year later, Leggett led the Tigers to the first of their six trips to the College World Series during his tenure.
“He put Omaha on the hat the first day, and that really set the tone for his players – of this is what we expect and this is how we’re going to go about it,” Monahan said. “Every year we shot to be at Omaha, and getting there within his first two years is an amazing accomplishment.”
In his first year at Clemson in 1993, Monahan produced one of the most successful freshman seasons in history as he was chosen as a first-team freshman All-American after establishing six Tiger rookie records. His hit total led the ACC and his .372 batting average was third-best in the league.
As a sophomore, Monahan was named a first-team All-American, an All-ACC selection, and MVP of the ACC Tournament after totaling 173 hits, the most in the nation and just five shy of the all-time national record. In his final season at Clemson in 1995, Monahan was selected ACC Player of the Year after batting .394 with 12 home runs and 51 RBI. He went on to be drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the second round (33rd overall pick) of the 1995 MLB Draft and enjoyed a two-year (1998 and 1999) major league career.
Despite all of the accolades and accomplishments, Monahan does not get caught up in the stats, nor does he want to be remembered by the numbers. Instead, the SC Athletic Hall of Famer hopes people view him in a different light.
“I want to be remembered as just somebody who wanted to win, who never took a play off,” he said. “I think in today’s game, it’s a little bit different. But I just wanted to play hard. I just wanted to represent Clemson the right way, and I hope I did that. It was also very easy playing for a coach like Coach Leggett, who was intense himself, and he just let me play. So, if anybody would remember anything, hopefully it’s that I won.”