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July 21, 2011 at 12:00 PM

Q&A with Travis Shaw

Flying under the radar despite great success this season is Spinners first baseman/third baseman Travis Shaw. The Red Sox’ ninth-round selection in this year’s amateur draft, Shaw immediately signed with the same team that drafted him in the 32nd round out of Washington Court House High School in Ohio back in 2008. He is the son of former major league reliever Jeff Shaw, who compiled a 3.54 ERA with 203 saves over 12 major league seasons pitching for the Indians, Expos, White Sox, Reds and Dodgers. Travis begins his professional career after a stellar three seasons as a member of the Kent State Golden Flashes. Shaw hit over .300 and had an on base percentage over .400 each of his three seasons at Kent State. A left-handed hitter, Shaw started his professional career strong, hitting .287/.424/.535 with 6 home runs, 7 doubles and 17 RBI through July 20. Prior to a recent game, Shaw took some time to talk with me about his upbringing around the game, his approach at the plate and his stellar college career.

John Gray: You led Kent State in walks your last two seasons. Is being able to take a walk a major part of your game and how does it affect your approach at the plate?
Travis Shaw: I definitely feel like walks are a huge part of my game. My discipline at the plate is one of my strengths to my approach. I feel like I have always had a good eye and I have been able to recognize off-speed pitches from a young age. When you see pitches and can recognize them, it allows you to hold off and avoid chasing out of the strike zone. Having a solid eye has certainly helped me this far in Lowell. I’ve been able to put up some very solid numbers and having good pitch recognition has helped allow me to see pitches deeper into the zone and be selective.
I don’t go up to the plate looking for a certain pitch, I go up there looking for a certain part of the plate I want to eliminate. If the pitcher throws it to that side of the plate, I will hopefully be able to make him pay for it.

JG: You played alongside Andrew Chafin, who was selected by the Diamondbacks 43rd overall in this year’s draft. Can you tell us what it was like to play alongside one of the top pitchers in the country?
TS: It was special playing with Chafin, a power left-handed arm coming off Tommy John. We didn’t have him the prior two years, but he came back this year and showed how dominant he could be. He really pitched well against Texas in the regionals. Being a part of that experience was probably my favorite collegiate moment, knocking off Texas as the number one seed in that regional.

JG: Before your junior season, you were a member of the Cape Cod League’s Bourne Braves, helping the team capture the league’s Western Division title. What was your experience on the Cape like and how did it help you grow as a player?
TS: It was pretty fun and a definite eye-opener. It was the first time I had ever played against that level of talent night in and night out. It was a good test to see where I was at as a player. When you grow up in a small town and play high school ball, you really don’t get to play top talent. Having the opportunity to play in the Cape League and square off against the best amateurs in the country allowed me to make a name for myself. I had a decent summer and I think it really helped me grow as a hitter and know what to expect as a professional.

JG: You were originally drafted by the Red Sox in the 2008 draft out of high school. How did it feel to be drafted the first time around and what led to your decision not to sign?
TS: It was one of my goals to get drafted out of high school, so it was very special to be selected. I wasn’t looking to sign back in 2008. I really felt like I wasn’t ready to handle the mental grind that you have to undertake to play in the minors at that point in time. Being able to go to Fenway for the scout day after being drafted was an experience I will never forget. However, I was dead set on going to Kent State before I even got drafted.

JG: How did it feel to be drafted by the Red Sox again this year? Did you have any indications Boston would be the team selecting you prior to the draft?
TS: I had a pretty good idea Boston would take me. There were about four or five teams that showed a lot of interest in me late, Boston being one of them. Out of those teams, Boston was really where I wanted to end up. The Red Sox are a classy organization rooted in tradition and have a great player development program; it’s everything a player wants to be a part of. Draft day was a bit different for me than what most people would expect. I had just come off playing in the regionals, so I was driving home on the highway by myself when I got the phone call. I think finding out that way really helped, it wasn’t like I was sitting by the computer waiting and tensing up. I knew I was going to sign right after I was drafted and I was totally prepared to go out and begin playing professionally.

JG: You father is former major league All-Star Jeff Shaw. How was it to grow up around the game and how does your father’s experience help you in your own career?
TS: Without a doubt it has helped me immensely. He has been through the whole process I went through in being drafted and he knows what it is like to play in the minors. He experienced everything as a player, so he is able to tell me what to expect and what the daily grind will be like. He lets me know the hard work it will take and the adjustments you have to make in order to get better and put up solid numbers. I am lucky in that he was a pitcher; I get a different perspective on the game from him. We have a great staff of coaches here but when I go home, my dad and I talk every night about my at-bats. We go pitch-by-pitch on every at-bat and he will tell me why a pitcher threw me a certain pitch in a certain count. He will tell me what to look for and what the pitcher is thinking. It’s a great asset to have when you go up to the plate and can understand what is going through a pitcher’s mind.

JG: You have gotten off to a great start in Lowell this season, what has the adjustment from the college ranks to the pros been like? What has contributed to your early success at the plate?
TS: I came here with a clear head and that has really been the biggest thing that has helped me. I started off slow this season at Kent State and I thought it would hurt me come draft time. Luckily, it didn’t. When I arrived here, it was a clean start so I wanted to just relax and go out there and play. I have been able to avoid putting too much pressure on myself with the early success I have had. It’s always rewarding when you can contribute to a team and knock in runs.

JG: What have been your favorite moments on the baseball diamond as a son of a major league player?
TS: I went to the field with my dad every day and shagged balls during batting practice. I was a bat boy out in Los Angeles as well. My greatest memory was probably from 2001 when I got to be out on the field during the Home Run Derby. That whole week leading up to the All-Star game I got to be in the clubhouse and meet all the players. I got plenty of autographs and everlasting memories; it certainly was amazing beyond words.

JG: You have mostly played third base during your career, but find yourself playing a lot of first base this season. How do you feel about the position change?
TS: I don’t have any problems making the switch from third to first. This is the first time in my career that I have ever played first for more than a game or two at a time. It’s new to me, so I am still getting used to playing across the diamond. I still feel like third is my natural position; I think I can certainly play there, but I am willing to play wherever I am asked.

JG: I saw that you were an assistant coach for youth basketball teams. Did you play basketball growing up, and how is it coaching youngsters?
TS: In High School and also during the offseason, I have helped coach youth basketball teams back home. The teams primarily consist of fourth, fifth and sixth graders and I have helped out with that for quite a while now. I love basketball, it was my favorite sport in high school and I loved playing it. Being able to coach young kids and still have the connection to the game is a great way to give back to my community.