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Flying leap twice as nice for Brewers prospects

Shackelford, Cravy, Goforth celebrate AFL title year after winning Midwest League

MILWAUKEE -- Kevin Shackelford would love to make his swan dive an annual tradition. In September 2012, the Brewers pitching prospect dove on top of fellow right-handers Tyler Cravy, David Goforth and the rest of the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers to celebrate a Class A Midwest League Championship. On Saturday, Shackelford dove again, this time atop Cravy, Goforth and the Surprise Saguaros to celebrate winning the Arizona Fall League.

Talk about finishing a season on a high.

"I think that's his signature move now," Cravy said.

"That's rare that you can do that back-to-back years," Goforth said. "A lot of players go their whole career trying to win a ring, and we've done it two years in a row."

Yes, Midwest League champions get a ring. So do Fall Leaguers.

Shackelford also has other evidence of his teams' triumphs. Both times, a photographer captured his mound leap -- arms forward, legs dangling off the side of the pile.

"When you're in the bullpen, you're usually the last one there, so you can't get in the middle of the celebration," Shackelford said. "So I figured, if I can't get in the middle, I'll be on top. I try to jump as high as I can and dive on people. I never had a chance to celebrate like that [before the Timber Rattlers' title], so I figured I should take advantage of it.

"It's pure excitement. It's kind of neat to do a little body surfing on top for a few seconds."

Shackelford also won a championship with the Rookie level Arizona Brewers in 2010, the year the big league Brewers drafted him in the 21st round of the First-Year Player Draft out of Marshall University, where Shackelford mostly was a catcher.

Cravy, the Brewers' 17th-round pick in 2009 out of Napa Valley Junior College, was one level higher in 2010, pitching for a Helena Brewers team that won the Rookie level Pioneer League.

"Pretty lucky to have three in four years," Cravy said.

Goforth, a seventh-round pick in 2011 out of Ole Miss and ranked by as the Brewers' No. 17 prospect, had to wait until 2012 to take his title turn. He was teammates with Cravy and Shackelford that entire season in Appleton, Wis.

Was winning the five-week Arizona Fall League much different?

"Honestly, there were some similarities to it," Goforth said. "The best teams that I've been a part of have been teams that play well together and enjoy being around each other. You form this bond. That's what we had last year in Wisconsin, but coming into the Fall League you don't know what to expect because you've got guys from five different organizations, and mostly guys are there to develop and improve their stock. But this fall, we came together almost immediately."

Cravy said the same thing.

"I've never come together with a team so quick," he said.

Brewers farmhands played for the Saguaros along with prospects from the Indians, Orioles, Rangers and Red Sox. Cravy finished with a 2.76 ERA in 10 AFL appearances, with all five of the earned runs against him scoring in one Aug. 31 game. Shackelford had a 3.09 ERA in 11 games, never allowing more than one earned run in any of them. Goforth, who converted to a full-time reliever in 2013, posted a 3.75 ERA in 12 appearances during the AFL "regular season," then pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning in Saturday's championship win over Mesa.

So when Shackelford timed his leap, Goforth was right in the middle of the pile.

"Everyone clicked so well that it was fun coming to the park every day," Shackelford said. "At Wisconsin the year before, it was the same way. Both times, the unselfishness of everyone on the team made it so easy. Everyone just did their job, came to the field with the same attitude and had fun.

"Wisconsin was the best team I've ever played on as far as unity. Then the short run here in the AFL, it was honestly the same."

All three were eager for some time off after the longest year of their baseball careers. Cravy and Shackelford are Rule 5 Draft-eligible and will be checking their phones Wednesday to see if they are among the prospects protected on Milwaukee's 40-man roster. Goforth, meanwhile, will be relaxing at home in Mississippi after a season that spanned 9 1/2 months.

"It was a good challenge [in the AFL]," Cravy said. "Every outing, I felt challenged because these hitters are top of the line. I was just happy to have the opportunity to be there."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy.
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