Since he was six years old, Sam Shaw has always dreamed of playing professional baseball.
It was one of the many sports he played at a high level while growing up in Victoria, including lacrosse, soccer and hockey.
He even played against emerging B.C. hockey stars such as Connor Bedard and Matthew Wood, who were recently selected first and 15th, respectively, in the first round of the NHL draft.
But for Shaw, it was baseball that stuck.
“There aren’t a lot of Canadian kids that want to be professional baseball players,” the 18-year-old said. “Usually it’s hockey or basketball, but I’ve always wanted to play baseball.”
After watching his former hockey competitors make it big, Shaw will now get his chance to do the same. His name will be on the list of eligible players for the MLB draft, taking place from July 9 to 11.
He recently gained important visibility in front of major league scouts as one of 300 high school and college prospects selected to take part in the MLB draft combine from June 19 to 24 in Phoenix, participating in performance assessments and tournament-style games.
“I thought I had a good showing and I tried my best, and we’ll see what happens,” he said.
His father Craig Shaw said he has been “wired for sports more or less from birth.”
“When he was six or eight months old, we would take him for walks to Beacon Hill Park, and we’d be holding him and he’d be watching the softball games and he would be so locked in,” he said. “We would try to leave and he’d start crying.”
Shaw started playing T-Ball with Beacon Hill Little League at the age of four. Despite his small size, he would always play up a few levels with kids who were older — and significantly bigger — than he was.
“He was eight, and he would be pitching against 12-year-olds in little league,” his father recounted. “These guys were close to six feet, and he was about four-foot-nothing, and he would get these guys, which is kind of incredible.”
Shaw is a utility player, meaning he doesn’t have one single specialty position and moves around the diamond depending on where his team needs him defensively.
Mitch Davidoff, Lambrick’s director of baseball operations and Shaw’s senior head coach with the Victoria Eagles, said he is a “chameleon,” both in his ability to fit into any group and his versatility on the diamond.
“We’ve had discussions before where we see where he fits week by week,” Davidoff said. “He says, ‘It doesn’t matter. Just put me where the team needs me.’”
Shaw recently graduated from Lambrick Park Secondary School, where he participated in the baseball program. Davidoff called Shaw a “generational talent.”
“He’s the complete package,” Davidoff said. “You always see guys who have the skills, but they might not have the work ethic, the drive, the heart, the attitude or the professionalism. But it’s hard to pick (Shaw) apart and find anything that you don’t like about him.”
When Shaw was in Grade 9, a scout told him if he could run a 60-yard dash in 6.7 seconds, he would get drafted out of high school. At the time, he was more than a full second slower than where he needed to be.
For the next few years, Shaw trained tirelessly with the help of Adrian Kinney to shave those important milliseconds off his time. Now, he’s running the dash at 6.6 seconds.
“That’s the kind of work ethic he has, turning himself from an average runner into an elite runner,” his father said.
Shaw has also committed to play Division 1 baseball at Xavier University in Cincinnati. If the draft doesn’t work out, he will go down to play for the Musketeers in the fall.
Even with intense training, playing baseball in a Canadian climate comes with its challenges. Unlike in many parts of the U.S., Canadian weather prevents athletes from playing baseball outside year-round.
“I’m not going to be as polished as an American player,” Shaw said. “We don’t get the same number of reps or games because we’re not playing baseball for 12 months a year.”
But Shaw said his upbringing is a proud part of his identity, and looks forward to having the entire country behind him as he looks ahead to the upcoming draft.
“It’s been different, but I wouldn’t change my experience for the world,” he said. “I feel like it’s part of who I am, coming from Victoria.”