By Devin Shaw
very young athlete has dreamed of playing professional sports. In almost all cases the dream fades with age. The realization is painful yet necessary for most, but for a select few, like Lexington’s own Chris Shaw, the dream becomes real.
Chris Shaw will remember June 8, 2015 for the rest of his life—that is the day that the San Francisco Giants selected him 31st overall in the first round of the Major League Baseball draft.
Chris played baseball at Lexington High School and was so good that the New York Mets drafted him directly out of high school with the 800th overall pick, but he chose instead to pursue his education and play ball at Boston College.
I recently spoke to Chris and he told me this time the draft was different, “out of high school I had no intentions of signing professionally; I wanted to go to college and honor my commitment to BC. So this time around it was pretty nerve-racking leading up to the draft because I knew I was signing and I wanted to go as high as possible and end up with the best organization I could. And when I was selected by San Francisco I was excited—because of their track record and the kind of organization they are top-to-bottom.”
Since 2010 the San Francisco Giants have been inarguably the best franchise in professional baseball. Not including this current season, the Giants have won three of the last five World Series. And most of the key-contributors for this baseball dynasty have been developed within the farm system that Chris is about to enter.
Chris possesses what is known in the scouting world as “plus-plus” power. Essentially, the hulking left-hander can hit the ball a mile. His batting practices regularly drew massive crowds of scouts prepared for a show. Power hitters have become increasingly scarce in professional baseball making someone with as much power as Shaw rare and valuable.
Chris has always been a standout athlete; he played both baseball and hockey at LHS. The Lexington baseball team helped shape who he is as a ballplayer. He says, “It taught me all my fundamentals obviously, both on and off field. I learned how to be a good teammate and what it takes to be successful with regards to hard work. It definitely played a huge role in my development in allowing me to get to the position I am in now.”
Chris’ Lexington baseball career was hugely successful; it included an undefeated regular season and the prodigious statistics that got scouts from both the college and professional ranks to give him a look. Chris knew he wanted to go to Boston College from the beginning, it provided him a unique opportunity to not only go to a school in what is considered a premiere conference for baseball but also to continue a family tradition of a attending the college—from his grandfather to his mother to most recently his little brother.
Boston College is in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) and for baseball it continually provides some of the best competition for budding Major Leaguers. Chris began his freshman season with incredibly high expectations from both himself and outsiders. He played in 50 games his freshman year at multiple positions including first base and right field and ended his season with a .165 batting average with 27 hits, including five doubles and six home runs (HRs), and ended the season with 27 runs batted in (RBIs).
Though he led the team in home runs, Chris wanted to improve. And during his sophomore year Chris exploded onto the national scene with a breakout season. He told me what helped him do that, “I was able to manage expectations far better going into my sophomore year, my freshman year allowed me to see what it takes to be successful at that level. I think my freshman year I went in there expecting to be a freshman All-American and all this stuff but I learned going from a Massachusetts public high school to the ACC is a pretty significant jump.”
“Every single day I am going to the field
with the short-term goal of getting better
today and don’t worry about tomorrow.”
The ACC features some of the best pitchers in the nation, making it more difficult to hit, especially while Chris was there. “You look at some of the guys I faced and they’re in the big leagues already. We faced some very, very good arms and going into my sophomore year I wanted to be a harder worker and not be as result oriented as much as just going out there and having fun and working hard.”
Well it worked.
Chris’ numbers during his sophomore year were absolutely ridiculous. All of his individual statistics went up exponentially. He finished the season with a .329 batting average 68 hits 18 doubles 9 HRs 45 RBIs and a .502 slugging percentage. All of this led to numerous accolades including being named to the First-Team All-ACC Team (essentially, he was the best player at his position in his conference).
Baseball is a game of whispered stories. Before the advent of video and the Internet,tales of unbelievable feats on the diamond traveled ear-to-ear across the country. Mostly exaggerated, these stories grew in proportion until they were deemed unbelievable or would go down as myth (who really hit the longest home run of all time?). During Chris’ summer on the Cape playing for the Chatham Anglers he built his own myths one massive home run after another. Stories of 450-foot home runs to dead center flooded the Internet and scouting circles.
Chris took it all in stride, and ended up leading the Cape Cod league in home runs which is a major accomplishment considering this is the summer league where all the nation’s best collegiate players go to show off their talent in front of major league scouts.
His performance during the summer raised his profile in the eyes of scouts, he said “I’ve had it described to me that after my sophomore year I was viewed as anywhere from a third to fourth round guy but then after my summer on the cape I was put in the discussion of a top-50 guy.”
It also put the pressure on Chris to perform during his junior season which he did—leading all NCAA players in home runs until an injury interrupted his torrid pace. Though inconvenient, it’s an injury that will not impact his future.
And most importantly it did not prevent the Giants from picking Chris in the first round.
Which brings us back to June 8—Chris was in Lexington to watch the draft at home with mom Karen, dad Doug brother Brendan and close friends and family. Everyone was glued to the TV waiting to hear Chris’ name called. Certainly a night filled with stress and excitement but when the moment finally happened Chris says it got very loud—“A lot of yelling, a lot of celebration. We knew at around the 23 pick that the Giants were gonna take me they called and said ‘Hey, if you’re available we’re gonna take you’ it was kind of anti-climatic because we knew they were going to select me. Nevertheless it was still an incredible moment.”
Now Chris is in Arizona practicing every day waiting to find out what the Giants have planned for him. As he says, “I’m ready to take it day-to-day, just go out there keep my head down and try to live in the moment.”
The minor leagues are set up to allow players to develop their skills to a professional level while playing competition of similar ability. There are multiple levels and various teams all over the United States—from Portland, Maine to Salem, Oregon. Some players skyrocket through their systems on their way to superstardom while others play in the minors their entire careers.
Chris wants to stay in the present and work hard as he moves up the ranks, when asked about his goals as a professional entering the minor leagues he says “I think they’re pretty short-term goals—get better every day. I think if I get caught up in thinking about progressing as quickly as possible or setting a date for when I get to the big leagues I may become a bit overwhelmed. Every single day I am going to the field with the short-term goal of getting better today and don’t worry about tomorrow.”
For Chris baseball isn’t just a job, it’s a passion. Becoming a professional athlete is not something that just happens, it requires a lot of love and dedication that usually starts at a very young age, “I’d go and hit whenever I could. I’d be bugging my dad to go and throw me batting practice. Growing up my neighbors and me were always outside playing, I was never a kid that played video games and stayed away from that stuff—I was just always outside. But I think it’s very important to play multiple sports. I played baseball and hockey in high school and once baseball season was over I hung them up and got on the ice.”
Unfortunately Chris won’t be allowed to play hockey anymore. Admittedly he will miss it “a lot” but I think he has more-than-enough baseball games ahead of him to keep busy!
Hopefully we will see Chris in San Francisco under the bright lights playing for the Giants as soon as possible. From what we knew he’ll work tirelessly day-to-day and game-to-game to improve until he’s ready for the big leagues.
Baseball is a game of repetition and one thing will never change for Chris Shaw, whether it’s dad tossing batting practice or facing the best pitcher in the world: “Try to find a good pitch to hit and hit it hard.”
I’m certain of one thing, stories will be told all over the country of Lexington’s Chris Shaw doing just that.