Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

The Big Leagues beckon: Manitoba's Shaw decides to make baseball his career

Brewers' draft pick hoping for a pro contract

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Russ Ford, Mel Kerr, Bud Sketchley?

"No," answered 18-year-old Winnipegger Chris Shaw when asked if any of these names rang a bell. "Can you repeat them?"

One more time.

"Honestly, no," Shaw said from his Calgary residence in a recent phone interview.

Corey Koskie?

"Of course. He's the only Manitoban ever to play in the big leagues," Shaw said.

Swing and a miss.

In fact, all four names mentioned have two things in common: All have donned a Major League Baseball jersey and all have Manitoba on their birth certificate.

And now Shaw, picked in the 38th round by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 2012 MLB amateur draft in June, will look to add his name to that short list.

"My No. 1 goal is to be a professional baseball player," said Shaw, a catcher for the Okotoks Dawgs Baseball Academy in Calgary who has been a member of Canada's junior national team since 2010. "That's my dream. It's what I want to do for my career."

The Brewers have until July 15 to offer Shaw a contract.

So the question now becomes whether Shaw will start that professional career next season or somewhere down the road, and what the 6-foot-1, 180-pounder will have to give up if he chooses the former.

"I think I definitely could," Shaw said when asked if he could begin playing with the big boys next season. "I've seen what they can do and I've seen plenty of others, which is good, because you get the sense of what you're getting into in life and the grind of it all.

"It's exciting and nerve-racking and all emotions at the same time, so it's an interesting time, to say the least."

But the decision won't be only about whether Shaw will be able to hack it at his young age, but whether the choice to start his pro career should come at the expense of his education.

He has committed to play for Midland Junior College in Texas next season, but that agreement becomes null and void if he decides to sign with one of Milwaukee's affiliates.

"I think I am ready," Shaw said about signing if the right contract came his way. "I know it's what I want to do, so it would be exciting to start this year, for sure."

Greg Hamilton, head coach and director of the country's national teams, has coached Shaw since he joined the junior club in October 2010.

"He's got a lot of game to him, very hungry," Hamilton said. "He has a desire to get better and his work ethic is outstanding."

"He's a wonderful human being, great individual. He has a lot of desire to get better as a player, and a lot of desire to be part of a group that accomplishes things."

Shaw is no stranger to performing on the big stage. He was the 2010 Manitoba Player of the Year, top catcher at the 2011 Canada Cup and part of Canada's team that won silver in a world-championship qualification tournament in Colombia in November, 2011. The team just recently returned from training in the Dominican Republic. This summer, he'll compete in Italy before leaving for Seoul, South Korea, to play in the 2012 World Junior Baseball Championship Aug. 30-Sept. 8.

So even with a contract yet to be offered and a decision yet to be made, Shaw is content with where both paths lead.

"It's baseball all the time."

jeff.hamilton@freepress.mb.ca twitter: @jeffkhamilton

Manitobans in the big leagues

 

Corey Koskie: Born in Anola, Koskie played nine seasons -- seven with the Minnesota Twins and one each with Toronto and Milwaukee -- before retiring in 2006. He recorded 936 hits, 124 home runs, and 506 RBI in 989 games, making him the most successful Manitoban ever to play professional baseball.

 

Russ Ford: Born in Brandon, he was a major league pitcher during the dead-ball era in the early 1900s. He made his debut on April 28, 1909 for the New York Highlanders. He finished his career with a record of 99-71 over six seasons, playing his final season with the Buffalo Blues in 1915. Ford was the third pitcher in MLB history to win 20 games and strike out at least 200 batters in his rookie season.

 

Mel Kerr: Born in Souris, at 22, he pitched his first and only game in 1925 with the Chicago Cubs.

 

Harry (Bud) Sketchley: Born in Virden, Sketchley's stint in the big leagues comprised 13 games with the Chicago White Sox in 1942. In 36 at-bats, Sketchley recorded seven hits, three RBI and one run.

 

Other Manitobans drafted (last 20 Years):

Ben Dartnell, East St. Paul, drafted in 2011, 34th round by the Boston Red Sox

Brian Sabourin, Winnipeg, drafted in 2001, 19th round by the Seattle Mariners

David Parker, Lundar, drafted in 2001, 31st round by the L.A. Dodgers

Blaine Fortin, Winnipeg, drafted in 1995, sixth round by the Toronto Blue Jays

Troy Fortin, Lundar, drafted in 1993, 11th round by the Minnesota Twins

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 3, 2012 C4

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