Shaw’s professional baseball future commenced on April 16, 1990, when he was less than a day old. His father Jeff Shaw—who would make his big league debut with the Indians later that month—received a call from his agent Joe Bick. Bick had a proposition.
“Joe called and said, ‘That is my 2008 draft pick,’” Jeff Shaw recalled with amusement at the agent’s friendly insistence that one day he would represent the newborn. “It came to fruition.” Bick’s prophesy came to pass. In 2008, the Red Sox drafted Travis Shaw in the 32nd round out of his Washington Court House, Ohio high school. But at the advice of his father and Bick, who became the son’s agent, he passed on a pro career in order to attend Kent State.
In 2011, three years later, Boston came calling again, this time drafting Shaw in the ninth round, out of Kent State. And he signed with scout Jon Adkins for a bonus of $110,000.
Shaw was raised in big league clubhouses. Travis was a constant presence as his father Jeff played for the Expos, White Sox, Reds, and Dodgers.
“On a daily basis, if I could not find him in the clubhouse, I knew where he was at,” said Jeff Shaw, whose career spanned parts of 12 big league seasons and included a pair of all-star berths as a closer. “He was down in the batting cages and in the tunnels, watching guys hit, waiting for one of the coaches to get done with the players so the kids could get in there.
“He was brought up around the game, wanted to be brought up around it and still does.”
"Even as an 11-year-old kid, I was working on things,” Shaw said. “My dad was definitely getting me to work on swing mechanics. He didn’t want me going down there, blindly working on stuff. So when I was down there, it was business for him and it rubbed off on me.”
That continues to be the case. Even now, the two collaborate on a near-nightly basis, talking by phone after every game to go through each of Travis’ at-bats. Jeff listens to or watches virtually every game online, save for those that he attends, and so the father and son break down the cat-and-mouse game as part of a postgame routine.
“We go through each at-bat on a pitch-by-pitch basis, and he takes me through what the pitcher is trying to do,” Travis said. “It allows me to look into the pitcher’s mind, figure out what he’s trying to do to get me out.”
When Travis' father played for the Expos, teammate Pedro Martinez would babysit for the youngster. Pedro said, "No, I did not change any diapers."
In 2012, Travis led the Carolina League in on-base-percentage (.411) and slugging (.545)
In 2013, Baseball America rated Shaw as the 23rd-best prospect in the Red Sox organization. They had him at #26 in the offseason before 2014 spring training. He was at #19 in the winter before 2015 spring camps opened.
- At 6-foot-4, 225 pounds, Travis is bigger than his dad. The younger Shaw was a versatile high school athlete, having played basketball, football and golf in addition to baseball in high school. After hitting .544 as a junior, he returned for his senior season to hit an even better .560. Shaw won countless honors as a top student-athlete during his high school career.
He had an outstanding career as a third baseman at Kent State, earning awards and accolades in the Mid American Conference.
Shaw said, "It's something that's driven me my whole career, that chip on your shoulder type of thing, being overlooked and kind of being pushed aside a lot. I like it. I like that drive it gives me. I like to prove people wrong. It's kind of a blessing, the underdog mentality. I'm kind of relishing that. Ninth-round. They don't get much hype. There's not a lot of money invested in ninth-rounders. For obvious reasons, the hype that follows guys, they deserve it. They're in a good position. But for me, I just tried to be as consistent as I could in the Minor Leagues. Power numbers, I was. There was a year or so that I didn't really, average-wise, hit very well, but I felt like my power numbers were consistent."
In 2015, Shaw smashed 13 homers in his first 226 Major League at-bats. The fact that Shaw had to put himself on the radar with his results has earned him a huge fan within his clubhouse.
"It seems like he's always been an underdog," said David Ortiz. "I know how it feels when you're an underdog, you know what I'm saying? People barely pay attention to you. I was an underdog and here I am today. What happened to me can happen to anyone."
In 2003, Ortiz was released by the Twins and came to the Red Sox as an unproven 27-year-old. Once he got his chance with Boston, though, Ortiz raked and the rest is history. This is why Ortiz drove the point home to Shaw to make sure he didn't let his opportunity pass him by.
"In 2015 at the end of the year, he told me to treat the offseason like it was the biggest offseason I would ever have," said Shaw. "He told me to make sure I was ready to go by Week One. I told him I'd be ready to go. I kind of took that to heart and tried to do it."
And when Ortiz arrived at camp for Spring Training 2016, he beamed when he saw the type of shape Shaw was in and the fact his swing already looked like it was fine-tuned.
"I did a little bit more running," said Shaw. "I tried to trim down a little bit. I lost probably about eight or nine pounds, so that's good. I ramped up a little bit more, BP-wise, the last three weeks of the winter and tried to see a little more velo and come in with an idea of how my swing was looking. Normally I don't do a ton of high-velo BP, but this year I stepped that up a little."
Where it sometimes takes hitters a week or two to catch up to the pitchers during Grapefruit League action, Shaw came out of the gate and sustained it. Shaw has made an impression on the evaluators who matter most. Manager John Farrell said that Shaw, who came into camp projected as a reserve, is "competing for regular at-bats."
Shaw appreciates having the backing of his most prominent teammate. "He's been huge for me," Shaw said of Ortiz. "Obviously he's been a big supporter of me and I appreciate that. To have that guy in your corner is pretty special." (Browne - MLB.com - 3/20/16)
Shaw makes 2016 Opening Day roster: It's not often that a 9th-round pick who barely cracked his own organization's top prospect list beats out a player in the second year of a $95 million deal.
While Pablo Sandoval struggled in his first season in Boston, Shaw impressed many, hitting 13 home runs with an OPS higher than he had ever posted in Triple-A.
So when players reported in March, Sandoval was still ticketed for third base.
Instead, Shaw just kept hitting, knocking out two home runs to go with a .338 average, while also playing above-average defense. Red Sox manager John Farrell announced that Shaw would start at the hot corner in Boston's first game of the 2016 season.
If you want to challenge Julie Shaw's memory, see if you can get her to try to remember a time when her little boy Travis didn't have a bat or a ball in hand. "Literally since, I would say, 2 years old, this is what I've known he's wanted to do.," said Julie Shaw. "He had ball and bat in his hand since he was 2 years old."
While Travis was fortunate enough to have a father, Jeff Shaw, who was a successful closer in the Major Leagues, he had a mother whose impact was enormous for all those years that dad was on the road. "When it comes to anything outside of baseball, she's always the first go-to," said Shaw. "She always was, and still, to this day, always is. We still talk very frequently. If not every day, every two or three days."
Julie and Jeff Shaw don't miss an inning of Red Sox baseball from their home in Ohio. How could they? What is going on right now is too rewarding. "I can't even explain the feeling, honestly," said Julie. "This is his dream, which has also been his dad's dream and my dream right along with him, and just knowing that he was finally living out his dream is just amazing. Honestly, I can't explain it any more than that. It means so much, it really does."
There are two distinct portions of Travis Shaw's childhood. There is birth (1990) through the end of dad's baseball career (2001). And then there is the rest, when dad helped mold him into the baseball player he became, and mom was also around for all the other stuff. "She was huge," said Travis. "We were always with my mom, whether that was traveling to see my dad or wherever. He was gone a lot. It was always mom doing everything, kind of doing both duties while he wasn't there."
Travis and his two siblings (Molly and Griffin) were always in good hands. "Looking back on it now, it had to be hard—there were three of us," said Travis. "Especially the last couple of years of his career and all the way out in Los Angeles, which is pretty much as far away from Ohio as you can get. For her to do that all on her own, that takes a special person. I'm very grateful for what she's done for my brother and sister and myself, especially during that time, and still to this day, she's very involved in all three of us."
In the course of this interview, in fact, Julie Shaw was dropping Jeff off at a high school baseball game where Griffin was playing. "It never ends," Julie said with a laugh.
Travis is the oldest by five years, which gave him time to form that close bond with his mother. "We've always been really close," said Julie. "Travis has a relationship with his dad that's baseball. He would always talk to me about life and girls and all that other stuff. We've been close since Day One and still to this day, very close." Julie is prouder of who Travis is as a person than a player.
"He is, and he really has always truly been so humble," said Julie. "When I was trying to think of anything he ever did wrong, the only thing I could come up with was that he got a speeding ticket. He's just been a great kid. He really, truly has. And I don't know if that's being the first child and being Jeff Shaw's son, he felt like he had something to live up to. He's been a great kid his whole 26 years of life. He never gave us a problem." (Browne - MLB.com - 5/4/16)
June 17, 2017: Shaw had his newborn daughter in his thoughts as he donned one of the Brewers' special uniforms for Father's Day weekend. Baby Ryann remains at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin but is getting stronger by the day, Shaw said, following multiple surgeries last weekend for a congenital heart defect.
"This is obviously my first Father's Day," Shaw said, "so it means a little bit more."
Shaw said he and wife, Lindy, have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of well-wishes from Brewers fans since he shared the family's story. The Shaws learned in January -- a month after Travis was traded from Boston to the Brewers -- that their first child would be born with a condition called hypoplastic left heart syndrome. Ryann Shaw required two open heart surgeries on June 9 and 10. (Adam McCalvy - MLB.com)
The easy part was the three hits and three RBIs. The hard part was getting on that airplane. Yet that is what the job required of Travis, after his productive day at the plate fueled a 4-2 win over the Pirates at Miller Park.
Shaw had spent the early morning with newborn daughter Ryann and wife Lindy at the Children's Hospital of Wisconsin, where he's been every morning and night since Ryann was born earlier this month with a congenital heart defect.
She had multiple open-heart surgeries days after being born and has made slow but steady progress since then, Shaw said. Now, he will have to monitor that progress from afar. The Brewers departed for a weeklong road trip to Atlanta and Cincinnati.
"Going on the road, especially now, is hard," said Shaw as the Brewers packed their bags. "But you've got to do what you've got to do."
Chase Anderson, a new dad himself in the past year, teared up as he marveled at Shaw's focus of late. It was in January 2017, about a month after the Brewers acquired Shaw in a trade with the Red Sox, that the Shaws learned baby Ryann would require surgery soon after she was born.
Dad was away from the team during its June 9-11 series in Arizona but returned to action beginning June 13 in St. Louis. When the Brewers came home to host the Padres and Pirates, Shaw fell into a routine. He'd spend the morning at the hospital, go straight to Miller Park to play a game, then return to the hospital for another hour or so before going home to sleep. Wake, and repeat.
"I think all year, he's just been a rock for us," said Brewers manager Craig Counsell. "I think he's in a place where he keeps it really simple here at the park. He's in a good spot, playing-wise, and he's doing an outstanding job with everything going on. I really think the park is the easy place for him, a place he's able to come do his job, and he's doing it really well."
"I get the chills talking about it. I can't even imagine what he's going through right now," Anderson said. "But then he goes out on the baseball field and [takes] all of his anger out on the baseball, which is impressive."
How has Shaw done it? "Just, everything is put into perspective," he said. "[The ballpark] is kind of the getaway for a few hours. Like I've said, sometimes I don't know how I'm doing it or what I'm thinking about, but you just keep riding the wave." (McCalvy - mlb.com - 6/22/17)
At the All-Star game break in 2017, "Vanilla good" is how Brewers manager Craig Counsell described Travis, finding a fitting description for the way Shaw had steadily propelled Milwaukee's run production in 2017. It was certainly a departure from Shaw's other, flashier moniker.
At Yankee Stadium, the "Mayor of Ding Dong City" worked just as well. Shaw's mammoth three-run home run in the first inning accounted for the first of his four RBIs in a tense, 5-3 win over the Yankees on July 9, 2017.
"'Vanilla good?' That's good," Shaw said. "That's my personality, that's my temperament. That's a perfect description of what I am."
With 19 home runs, Shaw was already three beyond the career high he set in 67 more games with the Red Sox in 2016. He led the Brewers with 65 RBI, not surprising considering he's batted cleanup.
Simply put, Shaw was the Brewers' most valuable position player in the first half over Ryan Braun.
"It's been very consistent," Counsell said of Shaw. "No crazy hot streaks, but no prolonged [slumps]. You never ask questions about Travis Shaw." (McCalvy - mlb.com - 7/9/17)
July 14, 2017: One could argue that the Brewers made the Majors' best offseason deal when they acquired third baseman Travis Shaw as part of a five-player trade with the Red Sox on Dec. 6, 2016. Known as the Mayor of Ding Dong City, a nickname coined by Barstool Sports in Boston because of his hot start early in the 2016 season, Shaw is having a season to remember and is one of the reasons the Crew entered the second half of the season in first place in the NL Central.
Shaw leads the team's regulars in almost every offensive category, including RBIs and WAR (3.1), according to Baseball Reference. The Red Sox could sure use him right now after designating Pablo Sandoval for assignment, but Shaw declined to give this reporter an "I told you so" attitude. "Boston is in the past," Shaw said in the Newsmakers podcast. "I came over to a team that wanted me and gave me a chance to play. The rest is history. I just want to get back on the good side of things. [I didn't like the way] last season 2016 finished off."
Shaw said he is more relaxed this year because his wife, Lindy, recently gave birth to their daughter, Ryann. "It puts a lot of things in perspective," Shaw said. "Baseball has become secondary to me now. It helped me relax. It's kind of a getaway at times."
On the field, Shaw has he brought balance to a Brewers lineup that was unbalanced in 2016. "The reason Travis was attractive from the beginning was because he was a lefthanded, middle-of-the-lineup bat, something we have been lacking for a while," said Craig Counsell. "With Domingo Santana and Ryan Braun, getting a lefthander in the middle of the lineup was huge, creating balance against certain pitchers. That's what really happened. He has provided great balance so we could compete every day."
How much has Shaw improved? During the second half of 2016, Shaw had a .194 batting average and lost some playing time. He had that slump on his mind for most of the offseason. He noticed opposing teams were shifting to the right side of the diamond every time he came to the plate. Things have changed now, and Shaw is hitting the ball all over the place.
"I can tell [opposing teams] have noticed [I'm not a dead-pull hitter], because I'm not getting shifted," Shaw said. "Last year 2016, I got shifted a lot. This year 2017, they are not shifting me. If they do, I've been making them pay by hitting to the left side of the field."
Shaw comes from a baseball family. His father, Jeff, recorded 203 career saves as a Major League reliever in the 1990s and early 2000s. Travis' biggest memory was going to the 2001 All-Star Game in Seattle with his dad. As a little kid, he ran around the clubhouse and met players such as Ken Griffey Jr., Ichiro Suzuki and Alex Rodriguez. That was a pretty impressive group of guys. But Jeff is Travis' biggest hero.
"He means the world to me," Travis said. "He shaped me in the way I am in a baseball way. He guided me to this point of my career. He has been through everything. He guided me through the ups and downs that all baseball players go through." (B Ladson - MLB.com - July 15, 2017)
NEWBORN IN THE HOSPITAL
It's not easy playing a game that often can create stress when every moment away from the field is thick with it. That is the challenge Travis has confronted during a sleep-deprived debut season with the Brewers, splitting time between a newborn daughter in the hospital and anchoring the lineup for a team that finds itself in a pennant race.
"Travis has just been a rock through this whole thing," Counsell said. "We don't talk about it a lot to respect what he's going through, but he's been able to put together a wonderful season under very difficult circumstances."
Shaw's trade from Boston to Milwaukee was fortuitous, because Children's Hospital of Wisconsin happened to be a leader in caring for the condition—hypoplastic left heart syndrome—that required multiple open-heart surgeries immediately after Ryann was born in June 2017. In August, he was briefly away from the team again for a follow-up procedure.
Each day the Brewers are home, Shaw rises and visits Ryann in the hospital. He makes the short drive to Miller Park, plays the game, then returns to the hospital until it is time for bed. Then home, rest a bit, and repeat.
"I don't know how he's been able to keep his head on straight and stay focused with everything he's been dealing with at home," said Ryan Braun, a father of two. "It's pretty remarkable, the success he's had. And beyond that, he has been far better on the field than we could have possibly hoped for. To know what he's dealing with personally, it's pretty amazing."
These days, Ryann remains hospitalized, but connected to far fewer devices, allowing dad to hold her. A handful of times this summer, he was able to take her outside into the sunshine. She remains stable, Shaw said, but there is no timetable for her release from the hospital.
Shaw is proud of the way he has found a work-life balance.
"Yeah, I am," he said. "There's a lot going on, still, outside the field. It's a nice getaway coming here." (McCalvy - mlb.com - 9/24/17)
Dec 22, 2017: No Brewers player had more packed into 2017 than third baseman Travis Shaw, who navigated challenges on and off the field in what became the best year of his life. Shaw was still adjusting to the idea of playing for the Brewers, who acquired him in a trade with the Red Sox during the 2016 Winter Meetings, when he and his wife, Lindy, learned that their unborn child had a congenital heart defect that would require immediate surgery when she was born in June. Baby Ryann had two procedures at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin and lived there for the remainder of the baseball season, with Dad by her side the whole way.
On the field, Shaw had a career year, winning Brewers MVP honors while tying Eric Thames for the team lead with 31 home runs. Shaw checked in with MLB.com this month to recap his whirlwind year.
MLB.com: Fans were so taken by your family's story. Can you update us on how your daughter is doing?
Shaw: Ryann is doing really well. She's been home since the second week of October and making a lot of progress. It started on twice-a-week doctor visits, and now it's down to maybe once every 2-3 weeks. It's really nice to be out of the hospital and get to spend some time with her.
Her long-term prognosis is the same as it's always been. She'll have another surgery in a couple of years; we're not really sure exactly of the timetable. But as of right now, she really hasn't had too many setbacks since she got out of the hospital. It's as normal as the situation can be right now.
MLB.com: "Home" this winter is Milwaukee, right?
Shaw: Yeah, I rented a house up here because there are too many doctor visits this offseason to think about going anywhere else. It didn't feel like the right decision to try to find a doctor down in Florida when I have so much trust in all of the doctors there at Children's Hospital.
I have to say, the city of Milwaukee has been great to us through all of this. I've had multiple people reach out with letters, and even a couple of emails where somehow they have reached me that way. There's just been a ton of stories and a ton of people telling us they are praying for Ryann and her well-being. It tells you about the kind of people who are up around here. They genuinely care. It's more than looking for wins and losses -- they've shown that they truly care about what I've gone through this year.
MLB.com: The Brewers have always extended the offer for players to stay over the winter and use the athletic training facilities and batting cages at Miller Park. I think you are one of the first players to take them up on that.
Shaw: Josh [Seligman], our strength coach, is working me out four times a week, a couple of hours per day. We've been getting after it pretty good now for a couple of months. I took about three weeks off before getting back at the end of October, and we've been doing running and lifting. I'll be getting into baseball activities pretty soon here. Before you know it, I'll be leaving for Arizona.
MLB.com: What was Christmas like in the Shaw household when you were a kid?
Shaw: Absolute pandemonium on Christmas Day. I have a younger sister and a younger brother, and my brother was nine years younger than me, so that joy of Christmas Day with kids running down the stairs first thing in the morning, that lasted a lot longer in my family. It was always my favorite holiday. My mom splurged on us to no end.
Our only real tradition was that we would always get to open up one present on Christmas Eve. It was always a puzzle to decide which one. Was it the big box or the small box? We always had fun with that.
MLB.com: When the holidays come and pass, what will you reflect on about 2017?
Shaw: There's a lot. I've been doing that a lot since we brought Ryann home, about everything that has gone on over the last 6-7 months. I think about where I was at Christmastime last year, and so much has changed on and off the field. I kind of got a perspective about what's really important. It opened my eyes up a little bit about what "tough" really is. Slumps are nothing compared to what I went through this year. (A McCalvy - MLB.com - Dec 22, 2017)
Feb 7, 2018: Travis 'The Mayor of Ding Dong City' Shaw made sure Ding Dongs were on the Brewers truck. When Travis was elected "The Mayor of Ding Dong City" during a season that saw him smash 31, well, ding dongs, it was an unspoken agreement that he would continue to supply them for the 2018 season.
Months before he'll actually need to step into the box and make good on his campaign promises, the Brewers third baseman made sure that the Brewers' trucks were loaded with the saccharine sweet dessert for the trip down to Phoenix, Ariz. Only the essentials, after all. (M Clair - MLB.com - Feb 7, 2018)
June 2011: The Red Sox chose Travis in the 9th round, out of Kent State University in Ohio.
Dec 6, 2016: The Red Sox traded Shaw, RHP Josh Pennington, SS Mauricio Dubon, and a PTBNL to the Brewers; receiving in return RHP Tyler Thornburg.
- Jan 11, 2019: Travis and the Brewers avoided arbitration, signing a one-year deal for $4.7 million.