FORMER BREWERS FARMHAND CONTINUES TO SHOWCASE VERSATITLITY
by: Brad Krause / Miller Park Prospects
The opportunity to play seven seasons of professional baseball is something many kids dream of, but few actually achieve. For former Milwaukee Brewers infield prospect Nick Shaw, that dream came true, when he was selected in the 25th round of the 2010 Draft following his senior season at Barry University in Miami Shores, Florida.
“Going into the draft, I was a senior so obviously I knew I wasn’t going day one” Shaw recalled. “Even day two I was like, ‘ah I’m probably not going to go that day’ so I was just kind of hanging out in my back yard, swimming in the pool, and my mom was watching the draft. Like play-by-play, she was watching most of the day, and all of a sudden she comes running out of the door that led out to the pool and she jumps into the pool in full clothing. I was like ‘what the heck is going on?’ and she said ‘You just got drafted! 25th round by the Brewers’. I was shocked. So my mom ended up jumping into the pool in all of her clothes and my step-dad did the same thing, and that’s kind of what clued me in that I got picked up. I jumped out of the pool, went over and checked the computer and saw it and I was obviously happy as heck.”
After signing with Milwaukee, Shaw moved quickly through the lower levels, seeing time in Maryvale and Helena in 2010 and hitting a combined .330 over 53 games. He moved up to Low-A Wisconsin in 2011 and High-A Brevard County in 2012 before reaching Double-A Huntsville in 2013. Many people say that the jump from Single-A to Double-A is one of the toughest for players to make and Shaw noticed some definite differences in the pitching he faced after moving up.
“I noticed that in High-A a lot of guys were fastball dominant” he said, “so they threw hard and their offspeed wasn’t really developed to the point where it should be. It was a lot of very good fastballs, but very fringy offspeed pitches. Jumping to Double-A, you had the guys that have got their fastball but they’ve also got a great changeup. They can locate, or they have a strikeout slider that they can throw at any time, or they had three offspeed pitches that they could locate and command at will. I felt like that was the biggest difference there.”
Shaw handled the jump fairly well, hitting .253 with a pair of home runs in 2013 and raising his average to .270 a year later. Milwaukee moved their affiliate from Huntsville to Biloxi in 2015 and Shaw went with them, spending a memorable season with the Shuckers, who embarked on a 54 game road trip to open the year, as construction on their new stadium was completed. Despite the adversity, the team thrived on the field, rolling through the Southern League and easily clinching a playoff spot.
“That was a talented bunch there” Shaw recalled. “An incredibly talented bunch with (Orlando) Arcia, (Yadiel) Rivera, that whole bunch. But as talented as we were on the field, we were even closer off the field. With most teams there’s obviously clicks, but with that team, and being on the road trip, it kind of helped us bond as a team and obviously that translated on the field. It blew my mind that we were able to be that successful on the road. Living in hotels, living out of a suitcase and able to put up those numbers, it was kind of ridiculous.”
A patient hitter who was willing to work counts and take a walk, Shaw always posted a high on base percentage during his career and proved to be a sparkplug at the top of the order. Defensively he showed an ability to play multiple positions on the diamond, with most of his time coming up the middle at second base and shortstop. That versatility is something that Shaw says helped extend his career with the Brewers.
“In my opinion, if you’re a super talent like Arcia for example, focusing on one position is totally fine, maxing out your potential there because you’re exceptional. For guys like myself, I was never a big strong guy that put up crazy numbers. I kind of had to grind, so being versatile kept me in the game for a few more years in my opinion. Being able to fill in at short or play second base and even third base, just going out there and being able to make it work helped me extend my career longer than some guys do. I played seven years. I never imagined I would, and I probably would have played two or three years if I had one position. So being able to move around the field and make it work and help the team out definitely helped me extend my career.”
Since retiring in June of 2016, Shaw has displayed similar versatility off the field, working in a variety of areas while staying close to the game of baseball.
“As soon as I retired I got back in school” said Shaw. “I still had an internship to do and one other class, so I finished that up in December, and at that time I was also coaching at my high school and giving lessons kind of on my own.”
He also put in to practice a plan for a new product he dreamed up while still playing, and he recently launched The Batter’s Box, a subscription service aimed at providing baseball related products and education to youth baseball players everywhere.
“Last year while I was still playing in Biloxi I’m thinking, I’m getting old, I need to find the next step” said Shaw. I started thinking a lot and I saw this box for tennis called Tennis Trunk and I thought, why can’t I do this for baseball? Make it exciting for youth baseball players for a box that arrives every month at their door with random stuff that they don’t know what’s going to be in it. And why can’t I use what I’ve learned, like the workout programs and drills I did in pro ball, all the knowledge I’ve learned, and incorporate that in these boxes as well? I talked to a bunch of people and they were like, ‘I think that’s a great idea, you should pursue it’. To actually think about it and actually invest in it was completely different for me, but after I graduated, I said, you know what, let me give this a shot.”
The Batter’s Box can be purchased on either a recurring monthly subscription basis or as a one-time buy and includes nutritional & hydration aids, baseball necessities and accessories, instructional tips and pro-style workout plans, as well as random giveaways including autographs, jerseys, tickets and Amazon gift cards. “Every month it’s different” said Shaw. “There’s sunflower seeds, baseball cards, a brand new baseball, bat grips, eye black, you name it. Stuff that I felt that I needed on the field. I’m trying to give that to these youth baseball players, as well as a pamphlet with drills and a workout routine that are kind of going to rotate every month to help get their game better, giving them products that they can actually use in the field to maximize their potential.”
“I’ve made it so it covers a broad age group” Shaw added. “They make a profile when they order and they tell me their sizes and their colors. Based on that, I’ll cater the box to them so I’m not going to send eight-year-old Johnny a large arm sleeve or an extra large shirt to a kid that’s seven years old. It’s everything you need on the field, the knowledge, and some surprises to keep people excited about it.”
In addition to his work on The Batter’s Box, Shaw is also taking on an expanded role with Power Alley Performance, a non-profit facility for youth baseball players in Pinellas Park, Florida in need of some significant upgrades. Shaw’s efforts there range from instructor to fund raiser as he hopes to help make some much needed improvements to the facility.
“It’s a very average non-profit facility that doesn’t allow players to fully work on their game” said Shaw. “It needs a lot of upgrading and most of that needs to come in the form of donations. I’ve reached out to a couple local contacts but I wanted to reach out to the Brewers family, as well. If anybody has the desire to help a washed up ex-Brewer outfit a facility to help maximize youth potential it would be greatly appreciated and would influence these kids’ lives forever.”
While his pro playing career may have ended, Shaw remains very involved with the game of baseball and is grateful for everything the Brewers organization has provided him.
“I was given a great opportunity the entire time I was there” he said. “From the front office, to the coaching staff, to everybody, I couldn’t have appreciated what they gave me more. I was no superstar. I never have been. Little League, high school, college, (I) was never a superstar guy, but to be able to be treated like anybody else by the staff and by the front office was out of this world. Every spring training I would go over for a good amount of games to the big league side, and for them to put a 25th round senior sign, five foot whatever I was, in that situation with confidence, kind of floored me. So I’m just thankful for what they did for me and how they treated me.”