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Dream chaser

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Shelbyville graduate Ethan Larrison tosses a pitch towards home plate for the Hillsboro Hops.
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Submitted photoShelbyville graduate Ethan on the big screen at Ron Tonkin Field.
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Shelbyville graduate Ethan Larrison on the big screen at Ron Tonkin Field.
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Shelbyville graduate Ethan Larrison has found a home with the Hillsboro Hops.

By PATRICK MURPHY - For The Shelbyville News

Ever since he was a little kid watching the New York Yankees on television, Ethan Larrison dreamed of one day being just like them. He especially wanted to be like his favorite pitcher, Andy Pettitte.

That dream came true on June 6 of last year when the Shelbyville native was drafted in the 16th Round of the 2018 Major League Baseball Draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks, a team in the National League West Division. Larrison said this moment was surreal.

“When I saw it, I was just so happy,” Larrison said. “Being able to be with my family and my friends at my house, it was a great time. I think that was one of the best parts that I was able to share that with the people that I really care about.”

Larrison began playing baseball when he was five-years-old at the Waldron Little League. There he would find his love of baseball by playing tee ball with other tykes. After Gary Larrison, Ethan’s father, would get home from work, the father-and-son duo would practice hitting baseballs off of a tee in the backyard.

“He (Ethan) just grew up wanting to play baseball 24/7,” Gary Larrison said. “He always was practicing in the yard hitting balls.”

About nine years later, Larrison continued his passion for baseball at Shelbyville High school. There he would take more steps in reaching his dream of becoming a professional baseball player.

“Going into high school, I wasn’t the biggest guy,” Larrison said. “I wasn’t throwing the hardest. Even now, I’m still not the biggest guy.”

Larrison was smaller than his classmates, due to not hitting his growth spurt. But a year later as a sophomore, he would begin to grow. As a senior, Larrison struck out 50 batters in 17 games he played in. He would finish his high school career with 125 strikeouts, a 5-1 record and a 2.69 ERA.

During that season for SHS, Larrison helped the Golden Bears earn the school’s second Hoosier Heritage Conference title and a No. 33 ranking in the state of Indiana (381 high schools). Former Shelbyville head coach Scott Hughes said Larrison was an important cog to his team.

“He was definitely one of my top pitchers in my coaching career here,” Hughes said. “He has gone the farthest of anybody I have ever had. For me, he’s the first one drafted.”

One of the games that stood out that season was when Larrison pitched against Delta on April 12, 2014. Hughes said it was rainy and the field was soggy.

“I remembered they tried to bunt on him,” Hughes said. “He picked up the bunted ball and threw them out a first. He stayed calm, didn’t slip and fall in the mud puddles. They never bunted again once he fielded the first one.”

Larrison would graduate from SHS in 2014 and continue making strides towards his dream. He would continue and play college baseball at Indiana State. Larrison pitched in 19 appearances at ISU, including one start in his senior year. He finished with a record of 3-2, struck out 32 batters and allowed 11 earned runs as a senior. He would also lead the Sycamores in saves with 10, which placed him eighth in program history.

After finishing up his collegiate career, Larrison, as mentioned before, was drafted by the Diamondbacks. In 2018, Larrison would begin his ascent towards his original dream as he played for the Class A (Short Season) Hillsboro Hops. He said his first season was so much fun.

“Going into that season when I was down in Arizona right after I got drafted, the new draft picks went into the Arizona spring training facility, sat down with the coaches and kind of figured out where we were going to be placed,” Larrison said. “After we found out where we were going to go, we had a meeting with the coaches that were going to be coaching that team. They were all just preaching about how fun it is, how the fans get behind you and the winning atmosphere they have.”

In that first season, Larrison struckout 16 batters and pitched 20 1/3 innings. He finished with a 6-1 record, which was second on the team. That season, the Larrison family travelled to Hillsboro, Oregon to watch their son pitch two of the five games they saw.

“It was an awesome experience to see five or six thousand fans at each game and then to see him signing autographs after the game to all of these little kids,” Gary Larrison said. “Because I remember when he was that little kid wanting an autograph. Now, he’s signing baseballs, programs and stuff like that. That was really fun as a Dad to see that.”

Larrison is just the second Shelbyville native to play in the minor leagues. The last one was Bobby Knecht. Knecht played from 1987-89 in the Kansas City Royals organization as a shortstop. If he continues moving up and into the Majors, then Larrison would be the 34th active Hoosier playing baseball for a professional team. Gary Larrison said it would be an unbelievable accomplishment if he does.

“That’s an incredible achievement. That’s one of those one percenters, but it’s less than that,” Gary Larrison said. “If he ever got to that point, that would be every dad’s dream to see their kid do that.”

This season, Larrison has been continuing to make strides towards his dream of playing for a MLB team. He left for Spring Training in Phoenix on Feb. 13.

The Larrison family, to say the least, is very proud of Ethan and his accomplishments.

“He’s a very humble kid and has always been a good teammate: he encourages all of his other teammates whenever he can,” Gary Larrison said. “His brothers and sisters, grandfather and grandmas and aunts and uncles, he has a big family to cheer him on. They all have been to games. I don’t know if I have missed a game prior to college. We have all enjoyed it and it has been a fun ride.”

Patrick Murphy is a Sports intern for The Shelbyville News. Follow Patrick on Twitter @PMURPH505.