Midland’s main man

Shaw's leadership key for Chaparrals all season

Chris Shaw’s presence behind the plate gives Midland College (Texas) another coach on the field. The sophomore catcher does whatever it takes to fire up his teammates.

Two outs and two runners on, Chris Shaw knew he had to go to the mound Tuesday.

With the tying run at the plate, Sebastian Palacios was expecting the visit.

Midland College (Texas) coach David Coleman didn’t even flinch. He knew the right guy was going to settle down the freshman reliever.

“I saw Chris going to the mound, and I said, ‘This guy’s better. What he can say out there is better than anything I can say,’ ” Coleman said.

The visit done, Shaw took his spot behind the plate, poked two fingers down, and Palacios nodded and rifled a breaking ball in the dirt — swing and a miss. Shaw threw to first and the Chaparrals are still alive at the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series.

Shaw is the sophomore catcher for the Chaps, and to a player, everyone says he’s the leader of the team. Even Coleman calls him Coach Shaw.

“He did what he always does,” Palacios said about Shaw’s visit. “He takes over, he’s the leader, and he does his thing, and he commands the whole game.”

He commands the game, and for the Chaps’ pitching staff he also calls the game. Shaw never looks to the dugout for help, and Coleman knows his catcher will make the right call. So do the pitchers.

“It’s pretty awesome, having a guy back there who studies scouting reports and players,” said pitcher Brandon Courville, who will likely get the start Thursday at Suplizio Field. “I think I’ve shaken him off like three times in my whole career with him behind the dish.”

Coleman calls Shaw his coach on the field, and every player will quickly nod in agreement.

“He’s so smart on and off the field, you just trust him with every pitch,” said Courville, who’s headed to Kansas State to play baseball next season.

But it’s not just being a leader to the pitchers, Courville said.

“He’s a leader for the entire team. He’s a good role model on and off the field. Honestly, everyone wants to be like him,” he said.

For Shaw, a Winnipeg, Manitoba native, he seems to command respect when he plays and speaks, but it’s the game he respects, and that’s what makes him a special leader. For the Chaps, Shaw used the experience he got at last year’s JUCO World Series to help the young players this year.

“I was here last year, so what I’m trying to pass along to the young guys is I’m trying to slow them down, because they speed up themselves,” he said. “That’s something I really take pride in. I try to take the pressure out of it for them and try to be a leader.”

He succeeds on every level Coleman says. The veteran coach, who’s been around for 23 years, doesn’t hold back praise when he talks about what Shaw means to the team.

“You’re always looking for leaders, and I’ve always tried to define what leadership is, and it’s hard to put words to it,” Coleman said after the Chaps’ 10-7 win over Columbia State Community College (Tennessee). “But Chris Shaw exemplifies it, and I’ve learned from him what it is. It’s the constant movement in the right direction. Just always doing what’s right when all around you is going bad, he does that. And he forces people around him to do it simply through actions and not words. But when he does speak, people listen.”

Shaw let his bat do most of the talking against Columbia State, going 4 for 4 with a pair of two-run home runs, a walk and four runs scored.

Thomas McIlraith, who had a strong outing to get the win Tuesday, just smiles when asked what Shaw means to the Chaps.

“It’s just a bonus having such a leader. Obviously he’s the leader of our team,” he said.

McIlraith and Shaw are both heading to the University of Oklahoma to play baseball for the Sooners next season.

McIlraith says he rarely shakes off his catcher, but admits sometimes he does.

“The inside fastball, sometimes I’m not that comfortable with that pitch, but usually I’m really comfortable with what he calls,” he said.

Shaw smiles about those pitchers shaking him off. He does allow his pitchers some leeway, but when he thinks he’s calling the correct pitch for the situation, he won’t be denied.

“If I know I’m calling the right pitch, I will call it again and again and again until they yield to me,” he said, smiling. “I think they have confidence in me to call a game.”

Shaw said it’s his role to mostly help and encourage, but sometimes pitchers need a more forceful trip to the mound.

“If a pitcher needs a little kick in the butt, I’m not afraid to do that,” he said.

Palacios struggles with his composure on the mound at times, and Shaw has helped him improve in that area.

“I can say, hands down, he’s the best catcher I’ve ever had. He just takes over the game as a captain. I can’t describe what he does, but he does a great job,” Palacios said.

Coleman uses only four words to sum up his catcher: “He’s a special one.”

After Shaw’s big day at the plate and behind the dish, the Chaps are one game closer to a special ending to their special season.


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