Right now there are nine Canadians playing Division I baseball. But only one, catcher Chris Shaw, plays for Oklahoma. Known for filling the box score and having an incomparable ability to scramble for the ball in the dirt, Shaw is creating a lot of noise in the league as he makes his first appearance at the highest level of collegiate ball.
A huge edition for the Sooners, Shaw is only the seventh Canadian to play for OU and the first Big 12 player from Manitoba in the league’s 19-year history.
While many might believe that Canada is known best for its hockey, a rising popularity in baseball is leading to a new talent pool for American baseball leagues on all levels. Shaw, who started at five years old, has already been drafted twice and played for Team Canada.
“I knew from a really young age that this is what I wanted to do,” Shaw said. “There is no better feeling than being on the baseball field to be honest.”
In his hometown of Winnipeg, Shaw’s talents as a catcher caught the eye of many. Shaw said that originally he wanted to be an outfielder because as a kid he liked being able to run around, but when coaches needed a solid backstop, Shaw stepped up to the plate and has never left.
Shaw’s passion and talent led to him playing for The Canadian Junior National Team from 2010-2012 where he got to travel to places like South Korea and Cuba. In addition to stamps in his passport, Shaw helped the team win silver in the World Cup.
During this time, Shaw left home to study and play at one of the leading baseball academies in Canada, Okotoks Dawgs Academy. Moving away from his family, while difficult was the best decision says Shaw.
“At the end of the day my family and friends know that I am trying to pursue something that I really want. It has been my dream ever since I was a small child too, so that makes it easier being away.”
Rather than taking the offer, Shaw made the difficult decision to enhance his skills by playing at Midland College in Texas. While there, Midland College saw its most successful baseball seasons.
“In school history we have never made it to Grand Junction for the World Series before. Being apart of the first team to ever do that was phenomenal,” Shaw reminisces. “Seeing our coaches faces and stuff like that, seeing all the hard work and motivation put towards a team and seeing the pay off at the end of it, there are no words that can describe it.”
While the 2013 World Series did not end in their favor, Shaw helped his team the following season persevere through the worst start to a Midland College season, 2-14, to gain their second trip to the NJCAA World Series. Shaw says that after all the bumps in the road, to make it back a second year straight and finish third was something he will always be proud of.
Shaw led the team both years to the NJCCA World Series and ended his career at Midland College with 25 homers and 127 RBI.
At the end of the 2014 season, Shaw was offered a big opportunity when he was drafted by St. Louis Cardinals in the 14th round. Not only an honor for Shaw, this is the highest draft pick for any Manitoba player.
Shaw again declined the offer.
“I played through some wrist injuries all through the season. I knew I needed a little bit of time off at the end of the season to get recuperated and everything set.”
Shaw says the Cardinals handled his situation very well, but in the end the opportunity to play at OU was something he could not pass up.
“There is a lot more outside influence and everything is a little bit bigger here at Oklahoma, which is good for me because everything has been quite small growing up. You learn more about yourself and more about what it takes to play at the next level,” Shaw explained. “These are the stepping-stones that ultimately lead to where you want to go. I think this is really vital to me.”
Continuing to have big dreams at OU, Shaw says the main goal of the team is to make it to Omaha, and ultimately win a National Championship ring. Knowing they will face a challenging Big 12 slate this spring, Shaw believes the most important aspect of winning is having good teamwork.
As a catcher, Shaw understands the importance of knowing players both on and off the field.
“Each pitcher is unique in himself. I think getting to know someone and creating a personal relationship is really important. You have to know if the guy on the mound needs maybe a joke to lighten the mood or a kick in the butt to get him going, focused and to spark that competitive edge in him,” Shaw explains.
Already having success in the draft, Shaw believes his ultimate goal of getting into the major leagues will soon be attainable. With a year left at Oklahoma Shaw wants to continue to improve on his game but also himself, on and off the field.
Right now though, Shaw is just enjoying getting to know new teammates, a new, energetic fan base and the home plate at L. Dale Mitchell Park.
“I know I am supposed to here. There is a reason I am supposed to be here,” Shaw said. “I am happy at the end of the day.”