First baseman Travis Shaw and John Farrell are residing in the same big league clubhouse for the second time. (Salem Red Sox)
FORT MYERS, Fla. — For most of the Red Sox prospects who are non-roster invitees to big league spring training for the first time, the experience of being in a major league camp is foreign. But not for all of them.
Corner infielder Travis Shaw has spent much of his life in that setting. His first trip to big league camp? That would have been 1991, a bit before his first birthday, when his father, Jeff Shaw, was teammates with Farrell in Cleveland. By the spring of 1991, Farrell was amidst a long struggle with injuries that rendered him unable to pitch in both 1991 and 1992. Jeff Shaw, meanwhile, had struggled through a rookie season in 1990 in which he posted a 6.66 ERA in 12 games (nine starts).
“He had good stuff, and like all of us he was trying to find his way in Cleveland,” recalled Farrell. “He really found it after he left. … He reinvented himself and had an unbelievable career — unbelievable career.”
Indeed, Shaw took some time to find his stride, but starting in 1996 with the Reds, he emerged as a dominant closer. Over six years from 1996-2001, he had a 2.82 ERA while saving 198 games, getting named to a pair of All-Star teams. It was during that period that his son, Travis Shaw, started forming memories of being around the game in spring training, both with the Reds (1996-98) and Dodgers (1998-2001).
“First one I remember was ’97 with the Reds in Sarasota. That was the first time I actually got dressed and was able to go out on the field,” recalled Shaw. “And then in L.A., in Vero Beach, in Dodger Town I used to mess around and shoot the basketball there. I got home-schooled at that facility, so Vero Beach was pretty cool.”
Shaw recalled being in some awe of Barry Larkin and Eric Davis with the Reds, and then gravitating towards Gary Sheffield and eventual Red Sox utility infielder Alex Cora in Dodgers camp.
“I always watched [Cora]. He was fascinating to watch,” said Shaw. “He always treated me really, really well. He would grab me and hit me ground balls.”
That upbringing has afforded Shaw (1-for-10 with a double, three walks and four strikeouts to date) a sense of clubhouse comfort in his first big league spring training. For the 23-year-old (who is coming off a 2013 season in which he struggled in Double-A Portland, hitting .221/.342/.394 with 16 homers, but then used offseason work with his father to excel in the Arizona Fall League, where he hit .361/.452/.705 with five homers in 17 games), the idea of being in a big league clubhouse is familiar rather than foreign.
By the same token, because Farrell has now spent his entire adult life in and around baseball, the idea of being in the same uniform as the son of a former teammate is hardly jarring. Shaw, Farrell said, is his first second-generation teammate, but by virtue of Farrell’s own experience of the game — which includes three sons who are involved in pro ball, two (Jeremy Farrell and Luke Farrell) as players and one (Shane Farrell) as a Cubs front office member — the development is natural.
“Being in the same uniform,” said Farrell, “is kind of cool.”