Mike Shaheen at home in Dominican Republic

By Tim Morse
Georgia Dugout Preview
Brian Krehmeyer thought it was a joke.
Then again, he thought his best friend Mike Shaheen was slightly crazy.
Krehmeyer, an assistant baseball coach at the Wesleyan School under Shaheen, thought his boss couldn’t possibly be serious when Shaheen said he was resigning as the varsity baseball coach to become a full-time missionary in the Dominican Republic.
Mike Shaheen and wife Jodi with
daughter Grace and son Wyman.
(Special Photo)
“He bounced crazy ideas off of me all the time, but I thought there was no way he could possibly be serious,” Krehmeyer recalled.
At the pinnacle of his high school coaching career, after guiding Wesleyan to a trio of consecutive Georgia High School Association state baseball titles, Shaheen was going to step aside and leave behind a powerhouse baseball program he had built.
Shaheen, 36 at the time, was going to work as a Fellowship of Christian Athletes Director in the Dominican Republic. But Krehmeyer and some of Shaheen’s closest colleagues couldn’t believe it.
“He had been flirting with FCA and I thought he might work as a small-group leader or something, but I never figured he’d jump into it with both feet,” Krehmeyer said.
God’s calling
Shaheen had taken four mission trips with Wesleyan students (two to the Dominican Republic), then he took a third to the Dominican with his wife Jodi and their two kids, Wyman and Grace, whom the Shaheens had adopted in 2008, with FCA in 2010. Shaheen said every time he went, he felt a peace that he said he couldn’t describe. He said he knew at some point he was supposed to be doing missionary work in some capacity there.
A buscon talks with a group of young
Dominican baseball players.
(Special Photo)
On his trips to the Caribbean nation, Shaheen witnessed many young boys who were growing up without fathers. The longtime baseball coach said he could relate.
Much of Shaheen’s childhood spent in the Boston suburbs was spent without a father in a secular culture. He said he wanted to help change that – and he used baseball to do it.
Shaheen said his job with FCA was “raising up a staff” to help spread God’s word and disciple coaches and athletes.
In the Dominican Republic, baseball is life to young boys. Shaheen said on most days a group of 60 or so young baseball players meet with a coach who is called a buscon. The buscon becomes their father-figure and often times, takes care of their daily needs until they turn 16 and can sign a contract.
“They latch on to the guy and he sort of becomes their dad,” Shaheen said. “They know he’s their ticket out of there. That coach is the only way they can get a tryout and hopefully get signed. The power and influence of these coaches is tremendous.”
                                                                                                                                           Mount Pisgah's JoJo Odachowski (white shirt)
                                                                                                                                           runs a 10,000 glove ministry and has visited
                                                                                                                                           three times. (Special Photo)
Shaheen and his FCA Dominican staff have become friends with most of the buscones in Boca
Chica and San Pedro de Macoris, all for an opportunity to minister to them and their athletes.
Shaheen's job is clear -- pour into the FCA leaders in order that they can make disciples of the most influential men in the Dominican Republic.
Not easy transition
Shaheen’s last year at Wesleyan was in 2011 when the Wolves were eliminated in the second round of the Class A playoffs by Darlington.
Before the season began, Shaheen would wake up each morning at 5 a.m., study Spanish (the native language in the Dominican Republic), coach baseball, then receive tutoring after practice. Shaheen said the transition may have been harder on his wife Jodi.
“She had built a little nest here, so moving was tough, but she was so obedient to God's call on my life and I am so thankful for that," he said.
In June, 2011, the Shaheens sold or gave away much of what they owned, packed a few bags and moved, taking little with them to start their new life. The move was tough at first but the Shaheens landed in Boca Chica, not too far from the capital city of Santo Domingo. Boca Chica is considered ground zero for Major League Baseball Latin America academies and for human trafficking.
Brent Slade and the Inner City Atlanta
FCA poses for a photo. The group has
done three mission trips. (Special Photo)
Former Wesleyan pitcher Grayson Garvin, one of Shaheen’s prized pitchers on the 2008 state championship team said for Shaheen to follow God’s direction at the height of his coaching career was a testament to his character.
“When I was a freshman at Wesleyan, we were not considered one of the better teams of Class AA,” said Garvin, who went to Vanderbilt and was a first round selection in the 2011 Major League Draft by Tampa Bay.
“So if he hadn’t been successful and he decided he wanted to do something else, I would have understood. But for him to be at the height of his coaching career and to follow the Lord’s calling, that makes his story that much more powerful.”
Garvin benefited from Shaheen’s mentoring at Wesleyan. Last year when Garvin got married, it was Shaheen that performed the wedding ceremony. Shaheen said it was "one of the proudest moments in my life."
Taking notice
Shaheen’s humility and drive to minister has caught his peers’ attention. Former Calvary Day coach Jonathan Davis spent a month with Shaheen during the summer of 2014. Davis coached Athletes in Action, a summer league baseball team compiled of college players.
The team traveled to the Dominican Republic to minister as well as to compete against some of the country’s top players.
Davis, now the head baseball coach at Deerfield-Windsor School in Albany, also got ministered to.
“I’m a big X’s and O’s guy, but he showed me there is so much more in coaching,” Davis said. “You see that in him and his guys. He’s a master at building relationships.”
It’s common for Shaheen to invite high school teams from Georgia to travel to the island during summer and spring breaks. Brookstone, Wesleyan and Benedictine are three schools that have done missionary work with FCA and Shaheen. 
Brookstone and FCA Dominican Republic helped build
a house last spring. (Special Photo)
Last spring, Brookstone’s Walker Cottrell helped raise funds to bring bats, gloves and balls to the island. Cottrell and his teammates also helped build a home and ministered to the athletes, using baseball as a way to build relationships.
“We take too many things for granted in the United States,” he said.
Brookstone infielder Drew Webb has been on multiple trips. Like Shaheen, he’s grateful to use baseball as an avenue to minister.
“Baseball is all they know over there … it’s their life,” Webb said. “And coach Shaheen has used baseball to reach those kids. I have that same calling to reach people.”
Webb recalled playing against a team of Dominicans in a friendly game.
“There were some guys on that team that were already draft material,” he said. “I remember stepping into the box and this guy was throwing 97 miles an hour. I still remember that. Then after we played, we’d have a devotion ceremony.
“A lot of those guys gave their testimonies in Spanish. I remember five or six guys gave their hearts to the Lord. It was awesome.”
Shaheen’s ministry has affected countless lives in the United State and the Dominican Republic. David De La Cruz, a 29-year old FCA staff member, has been working with Shaheen for three years.
“It is amazing how one person can influence both the lives of others even if that person isn't aware of it,” De La Cruz said through a translator. “I never had the right priorities in regards to home and family, nor did I even grow up in a family-centered home. My mother died when I was 2 years old and since then, my father began living with many women, and it closed my opportunity to know the true meaning of home and family.
“But when I met Mike, I could see how important family was to him and that aroused my interest and desire to create my own family. I thank God today that I have a beautiful home for which I struggled to lead every day. Also Mike has served as great support in the call that God made me, and that awakened in me the passion and joy of fulfilling the sharinge of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and encouraging me to go further to match the need for others to know God's plan for their lives."
Opening the door
Shaheen is passionate about his ministry, his staff and the things he said God has used him to do. He still misses coaching baseball at Wesleyan but said if he hadn’t obeyed God’s calling, it may have never opened the door for Krehmeyer, who succeeded him and guided the Wolves to the Class AA title last year.
“Brian being there made it easier to leave,” Shaheen said. “With his influence and attitude, he was a guy who needed to be coaching the program.”
And Krehmeyer said Shaheen’s influence helped him as well.
“He gave me something (coaching-wise) that I probably wouldn’t have known otherwise which was grit and toughness, probably from his Boston upbringing,” Krehmeyer said. “He pushed me and challenged me to think of baseball differently than the way it is usually done in the south.
“He was somebody to brainstorm ideas with. We were the same age and we shared a lot of the same things from our faith and spirit and along the roads that led us to teaching and coaching. He’s my brother and I enjoyed coaching with him more than anything.”
After almost five years removed from coaching at Wesleyan, Krehmeyer doesn’t think Shaheen is too crazy these days.