By Phil Anastasia
Mike Shawaryn has thrown to countless catchers in an increasingly successful pitching career.
But just one of them was a 12-year-old Little Leaguer who would go on to become the most productive, creative and intriguing player in college ice hockey.
"It's kind of amazing," Shawaryn said of his brief partnership on the baseball diamond with Boston College hockey star Johnny Gaudreau.
On Thursday night, Gaudreau will lead Boston College against Union College in the Frozen Four in the Wells Fargo Center.
Gaudreau, a junior left wing, is the leading scorer (35 goals, 42 assists in 39 games) in college hockey and the odds-on favorite to win the Hobey Baker Award as the sport's top player.
Shawaryn, who helped Gloucester Catholic to four state titles in his four years at the school, is a freshman pitcher for the University of Maryland. He has a 5-2 record with a 2.70 ERA and 35 strikeouts with 10 walks in 43.1 innings.
But eight years ago, Shawaryn and Gaudreau were teammates on the Lapp's Dutch Market team in the PG-CP-PED (Penns Grove, Carneys Point, Pedricktown) Little League.
"Johnny was a good catcher," Shawaryn said. "He had a good arm."
Gaudreau's younger brother Matt, a freshman who also plays for Boston College, was a second baseman on the same Little League team, Shawaryn said.
Shawaryn said everybody back then knew Johnny Gaudreau's big sport was hockey.
"But we had no idea how good he was," Shawaryn said. "We knew he was a hockey player but we never got to see any of the games or anything.
"I remember one time he had a hockey game or hockey practice or something and he was late getting to a game and I had to catch. It was the first time I every caught."
Gaudreau said that Little League season was his last playing baseball.
"Mike is being a nice guy -- I wasn't very good," Gaudreau said. "I did have a lot of fun playing with those guys."
Gaudreau and Shawaryn were schoolmates for one year at Gloucester Catholic. Shawaryn was a freshman when Gaudreau was a junior.
Gaudreau skipped his senior year at GC to play for the Dubuque (Ia.) Fighting Saints of the United States Hockey League.
Gaudreau said he has followed Shawaryn's baseball career.
"It's great to see somebody from back home doing so well," Gaudreau said. 'He's a great pitcher. He was a great pitcher back then."
That Little League in those days featured another future top South Jersey athlete in Nick Elmer, who was The Inquirer's South Jersey Offensive Player of the Year in football in 2012 after leading Penns Grove to a 12-0 mark and a state record for points in a season with 621.
Now a freshman on a wrestling scholarship at Drexel, Elmer said he remembered playing baseball in the same league with Johnny and Matt Gaudreau.
"The only times I played with him (Johnny Gaudreau) were in all stars at the end of the season," Elmer said. "I actually went to the same babysitter as he and his brother for a few years growing up.
"He was always a guy who everybody respected because of how hard he played."
Elmer said several of his friends from the Penns Grove area will be attending Thursday night's game in support of Gaudreau.
"A lot of my friends grew up with him and we still follow his awesome career," Elmer said.
-- Contact Phil Anastasia at firstname.lastname@example.org