All eyes on the big guy
WILMINGTON – Spectators leaned against the chain-link fence behind home plate at Dick Scanlon Memorial Field, hoping that Lexington High senior Chris Shaw would get another opportunity to swing the bat.
Their friends, and classmates, were out in the field for host Wilmington High. But Shaw’s reputation, and prodigious power, had preceded him. And those in attendance were there to see the show.
In his previous plate appearance, the 6-foot-4, 235-pound Shaw gave onlookers a glimpse of his powerful left-handed swing when he swatted a fastball high over the trees behind the 370-foot marker in center field and into an adjacent parking lot.
The crowd hoped for an encore when he stepped up to the plate in the sixth inning. Shaw obliged.
He pounded the first pitch over the centerfield fence for his second home run of the game, spurring the Minutemen to a 10-0 nonleague win. It was a mammoth shot, another no-doubter, and the crowd howled with delight.
“Yeah, baby! I got my money’s worth!” shouted Wilmington senior Kyle Albanese , feeling no remorse as he and his friends whooped it up for the Lexington star.
“If you hit a blast like that, it’s OK to cheer” for the opposition.
Lately, Shaw has attracted crowds every time he steps between the chalked lines. Since last summer, when he competed all over the country with the elite travel team Baseball U. and then in the Area Code Games – an invitaton-only showcase in Long Beach, Calif. – he has drawn the attention of fans and Major League Baseball scouts alike.
Scouts are regulars at Lexington's games, and will show up early to see him take batting practice. They even stopped by the team’s preseason scrimmages to watch Shaw hack away at offerings from overwhelmed pitchers.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Lexington coach Tom O’Grady , who has had three of his former players drafted out of college. “I’d be a nervous wreck if I had to perform for all those guys like that. But he handles it so well. He’s so mature about it all.”
Shaw says he thrives on the scrutiny.
“I love it. I love it,” he said. “It brings an intensity to the game. It's what I've been playing for my whole life and it's just kind of coming to realization. All the hard work has paid off. Now I can have some fun. They're here to see what I can do.”
And they like what they have seen. As a junior, Shaw committed to Boston College, but he is expected to be drafted by a big-league team in June.
“That's a frame that you don't see on many high school kids, let alone kids in the Northeast,” one National League scout said of Shaw. “He has a very smooth swing with lefthanded raw power. That’s obviously a premium tool in the big leagues so that jumps out. . . You can see it on TV. Those guys with lefthanded power, they find a way to stay in the TV league.”
Before he is faced with choosing between pro ball and college, Shaw is focused on the remainder of his senior season, determined to lead the Minutemen into the MIAA Division 1 tournament.
The Minutemen started the season 2-2, but with four-year starting shortstop Nick Murray and senior pitcher Jason Tzannes , they are once again considered to be one of the favorites in the Middlesex League.
Shaw’s versatility in the field may be nearly as valuable to the Lexington cause as what he can do with aluminum in his hands. His natural position is at first base, but he has showcased his versatility, and added to his team’s depth, by also playing third. He’s also a presence on the mound, where he compiled a 5-0 mark as a junior.
“He's tremendously gifted and talented, but he's also an unbelievable team player,” O’Grady said. “He's playing out of position for us to make us a better team. He's willing to do anything to make us the best team we can be. I think that says everything about Chris that you need to know.”
But people want to know more. They want to know what happens when big-league muscle meets high school pitching. It’s why they line the fences and wait for the show.
When senior catcher Taylor Archer went down with a high ankle sprain in the first game of the season for the Milford High softball team, it was a blow to coach Brian Macchi’s lineup.
Still, even without one of their most important players, the Scarlet Hawks started the season 5-0 with wins over Hudson, Acton-Boxborough Regional, and two-time defending state champion King Philip Regional, which had not lost in over a year.
Freshman Taylor LeBrun, who knocked in the winning run in Milford’s 2-0 victory over King Philip, has stepped in for Archer behind the plate.
“To have such a young player playing so well and buying into everything is huge,” said Macchi.
“Coming in we knew she was going to be good. But she’s stepped up in a big way.”
Archer, who has committed to attend the University of Rhode Island in the fall, is expected to reenter the lineup in about two weeks, probably playing first base, and be back behind the plate in about a month, Macchi said.
“It’s almost like a major league team getting someone at the trade deadline,” Macchi said of Archer. “It’s going to be such a boost to have her back.”
Until then, the Hawks will continue to be led by junior ace pitcher Shannon Smith. Through five games, she had struck out 84 batters and not allowed a single earned run.
The Dexter School’s 6-foot-4 junior right-handed pitcher Troy Whitty is receiving interest from some of the top college baseball programs in the country, and has helped Dan Donato’s young team get off to a 3-2 start this season. Sophomore catcher John Mazza of Lexington, and sophomore twins Matt and Luke Cuneo from Ashland have also made significant contributions for the Brookline school’s squad. . . Hopkinton freshman Alissa Karjel has been rock solid for the Hillers, both in the circle and in the batter’s box. She threw a three-hit shutout in a 12-0 win over Norton last week. . . Lexington High’s baseball field is expected to be ready next weekend. The Minutemen will continue to play away from home until work on the field is finished.
Phil Perry can be reached at email@example.com.