On June 4, 1984, Shawn Abner was on top of the baseball world.
The Mechanicsburg Area High School senior had been chosen number-one overall in the major league draft by the New York Mets. "It's a great honor and I'm going to do everything I can to show the (Mets') people they didn't make a mistake on me," he told CBS 21 News that day.
"I think Shawn Abner has a little bit of everything," added Wildcats head coach Don Shirley. "He does everything well."
The Mets' reportedly preferred Mark McGwire from USC, instead; but McGwire and the Mets could not reach an agreement and New York selected Abner. Still, the Mets were happy with the pick, according to Joe McIlvaine, who spoke with Bob Nightengale of The Los Angeles Times in 1991.
"He had everything you'd ever want," said Joe McIlvaine, Padre general manager, who scouted him while with the New York Mets. "He had all the tools and that great makeup. Who wouldn't want him?"
The Mets, who had the No. 1 pick in the free-agent draft of June 1984, decided to take him. They picked him over Mark McGwire . . . and over Cory Snyder . . . and over Oddibe McDowell . . . and over Scott Bankhead.
"I remember sitting in his house that day," McIlvaine said. "He didn't have an agent, so I thought I'd have to be dealing with his father. But it was his mother, she was the force. And, let me tell you, she was stubborn.
"I finally said, 'Mrs. Abner, why don't you please call an agent, because it should sure would be easier dealing with an agent than you.'
"We signed him 10 minutes later."
Abner received a $150,500 signing bonus, at the time the largest in the history of the game.
Abner never played a game for the Mets and didn't have the success that so many predicted; hitting .227 with 11 homers and 71 RBI in 392 major league games. He played for the Padres, White Sox, and Angels.
His brother Ben, an outfielder from Georgia Southern, was also selected in the 1984 draft by the Montreal Expos in the fifth round.
Shirley passed away on October 17, 2005. His battle with cancer inspired the Penn State football team's "Lift For Life" organization, which raises money and awareness for rare diseases such as kidney cancer. He started the first high school chapter of "Lift For Life" at Mechanicsburg Senior High School.