- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 0", Weight 187 lb.
- School University of San Francisco
While many people not born in Italy have represented that country in international baseball tourneys due to lenient citizenship laws, David Sheldon is one of the few naturalized Italian citizens to perform for the Italian national team. Sheldon played two seasons in the US minors before spending over two decades in Italy. He appeared in the Olympics.
After college, Sheldon was picked by the Chicago White Sox in the 14th round of the 1985 amateur draft. He hit .186/.272/.310 for the '85 Niagara Falls Sox with 5 homers in 145 at-bats to tie for second on the team in home runs. In 1986, he batted .215/.288/.313 with 20 doubles for the Appleton Foxes, second on the club to Randy Velarde. That ended his time in the majors; little did anyone know he would still be playing baseball 24 years later, years after even teammate Cornelio Garcia retired in 2007 at age 42.
Sheldon immediately made the transition from the minors to Italy. He hit .339/.385/.563 for Fiorentina in 1987, though he fielded only .880 at third base. He had 38 runs and 52 RBI in 42 games. He had pitched one scoreless inning in the minors and was used regularly as a hurler that season in Italy, going 6-7 with a 3.85 ERA despite a .313 opponent average.
In 1988, the Louisiana native hit .282/.409/.521 with 28 walks and 34 runs in 38 games while fielding .910 at shortstop. He had a 3-7, 5.89 record that year. During 1989, he fielded .917 at short, was 3-1 with a save and a 3.72 ERA on the mound with 29 K in 29 innings and had a batting line of .319/.441/.511 with 28 walks and 37 runs in 38 games. He also stole 10 bases in 11 tries.
Sheldon improved to .392/.526/.634 with Fiorentina in 1990. He had 19 doubles, 54 walks and a career-high 16 steals (in 22 tries) in 56 games while fielding .927 at short. He was 1-1 with four saves and a 1.82 ERA in 17 games in relief. He struck out 43 in 34 2/3 innings and allowed a .158/.205/.225 line only in his best year as a pitcher. Moving to Calze Verdi Casalecchio in 1991, David batted .259/.422/.545 with 41 RBI in 32 contests and fielded .943.
The San Francisco alumnus switched clubs again in 1992, now playing for Fortitudo Bologna and batting .314/.431/.679 with 14 homers, 44 runs and 55 RBI in 33 games while improving his fielding percentage at shortstop to .958. He led the Serie A1 in both home runs and RBI but did not come anywhere close to a Triple Crown as Giuseppe Carelli hit .442. It was the lowest home run total to lead Italy since 1978. He had edged Italy's all-time leader Roberto Bianchi by one.
Sheldon hit .341/.445/.643 with 36 runs, 34 RBI and 10 home runs in 33 games in 1993. He did not play in Italy in 1994 or 1995. He returned in '96 to bat .322/.477/.588 for BBC Grosseto with 12 home runs, 68 runs and 48 RBI in 54 games, while stealing 15 bases in 17 tries. He fielded .938 at shortstop and allowed seven runs in 7 1/3 innings.
David was back with Fiorentina in 1997, fielding .924 at short and hitting .276/.461/.459 with 55 walks and 48 runs in 52 games, with 15 steals in 19 games. At age 34/35 in '98, he had a career season, hitting .418/.569/.889 with 48 walks to 18 strikeouts, 19 doubles, 17 home runs, 64 runs, 62 RBI, 13 steals and 14 tries in 46 games for Milano. He was 2-0 with 3 saves and a 3.10 ERA, striking out 20 and walking 4 in 20 1/3 innings; it was his last season pitching more than four games. He fielded .919 at shortstop. Sheldon was 2 RBI behind leader Massimo Fochi but was .059 shy of the batting lead despite topping .400. He was one homer shy of co-leaders Fochi and Paul Gonzalez and tied Carlos Quintana for second.
Sheldon returned to third base, the position he had last played regularly over a decade ago, in 1999 with Rimini, fielding .915. He hit .359/.450/.565 with 13 steals in 16 attempts, 40 runs and 51 RBI In 48 games. He led the league in RBI for the second and last time. In the finals, he went 12 for 29 with a double, homer and 10 RBI in 7 games to give Rimini the pennant, the first he had won since coming to Italy 12 years earlier. He was retroactively named the season's MVP in 2015 (from 1983-1999, no MVP was picked).
By now a naturalized citizen, David represented Italy in the 1999 European Championship. He went 4 for 19 with two doubles and 3 walks while playing error-free ball at the hot corner. In the Gold Medal game, he was 0 for 3 against Orlando Stewart as the Dutch national team topped Italy.
Sheldon batted .302/.407/.488 for Rimini in 2000, driving in 39 in 38 games. In the finals, he was 6 for 15 with 3 homers and 11 RBI in four games to again power the team to the title. In the 2000 Olympics, Sheldon hit .259/.290/.296 as Italy's third baseman and made two errors. He came through when it mattered, driving in eight runs. That tied him with Ernie Young, Doug Mientkiewicz and Norihiro Nakamura (all major leaguers at some point) for second in RBI, behind Cuban legend Orestes Kindelan.
The New Orleans native fell to .282/.361/.454 for Rimini in 2001 but still scored 39 times in 45 games. He made his last appearance with Italy in the 2001 European Championship, putting on one heck of a show. He hit .520/.625/.800 with 8 runs, 2 homers, 9 RBI and 7 walks in eight games. He led the event in average, slugging (.096 ahead of Jiří Víšek), was second in OBP behind Tarek Shaer, tied Víšek, Lahcene Benhamida and Remy Maduro for fifth in runs, tied for first in hits (with Javier Zabalza, José Arza, Klaus Hopfensperger, Tomáš Ovesný, Jurjan Koenen and Henry Yap), tied for 5th in RBI, tied for first in total bases and tied for second in homers behind Víšek. Italy failed to take a Medal for the first time in decades though with a stunning semifinal loss to Russia's Rinat Makhmoutov. Sheldon was 1 for 4 in that defeat. He somehow failed to take the All-Star team as Koenen was picked at third base.
The veteran infielder's batting line in 2002 was .271/.394/.364, now back with Bologna. He followed with a .253/.328/.380 campaign, going 5 for 17 in the finals, which they won. He faded to .247/.299/.370 in 2004 and was 2 for 18 in the finals. In '05, he moved to T&A San Marino and eked out a .235/.335/.321 line, then went 4 for 29 with 10 whiffs in the championship as they fell to his old Bologna mates.
Sheldon kept going, hitting .247/.307/.309 in 2006 and winning Best Hitter during the 2006 European Cup when his numbers were presumably better, at age 42/43 and .233/.364/.331 in 2007. He hit .262/.376/.338 during the 2008 season. He was 5 for 19 with a walk in the 2008 European Cup in Grosseto. In the 2008 European Cup Final Four, the old-timer was 2 for 7 with two walks. In '09, he batted .246/.336/.317 for San Marino but was just 2 for 17 in the Italian Series. Despite his age and unimpressive numbers, he was named the league's All-Star third baseman. He was 2 for 11 with two walks and a double in the 2009 European Cup.
Through 2009, Sheldon had a career batting line of .295/.405/.486 in Italy with 798 runs, 839 RBI, 638 walks and 150 steals (in 193 tries) in 1,025 games. He had fielded .927. On the mound, he had gone 21-20 with 16 saves and a 4.00 ERA in 104 games. He ranked among Italy's all-time leaders in games played (6th), home runs (142, 8th), RBI (5th behind Bianchi, Carelli, Guglielmo Trinci and Ruggero Bagialemani) and was 8th in runs (between Gianmario Costa and Giorgio Castelli). Among foreign-born players, he leads in almost every category.
David remains active into 2010.