Lexington (Mass.) senior Chris Shaw has been answering plenty of questions over the last half-hour or so of our interview, but there’s one he can’t quite wrap his head around.
Baseball or hockey?
“Right now it’s baseball,” he said. “I’m getting ready to go down to Jupiter (Fla.) for the next two weeks, and I’m pretty excited about it.”
So baseball, then.
“But when I come back I’ve got to start getting ready for hockey. I’m a captain this year.
So it’s hockey?
“I’m more a baseball boy than a hockey player.”
Well, which is it?
“It really depends.”
Two-sport athletes aren’t uncommon, especially in New England, where the weather dictates what sport you play every bit as much as the athletic calendar. But Shaw’s made a name for himself in both. He’s a stellar first baseman on the diamond, one of the nation’s top sluggers, was a league co-MVP and also pitched when needed. He hit .484 with eight home runs last year and had a 5-0 record on the mound.
But at 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, Shaw also makes for an outstanding hockey player. He is a lock-down defenseman for the Lexington hockey team and was playing well last winter until an ankle injury cut short his season.
Shaw is headed to Boston College for baseball next season, so while hockey is a clear passion, it’s not his future. He considered giving hockey in college a shot, but he’s not just going to any school — BC is perennially a nationally ranked powerhouse, having won two of the last four national titles.
“The hockey schedule is way too crazy,” he says. “If I can, I’ll try to play club hockey in college. But we start baseball season in February so I’ll be pretty busy.”
That just makes Shaw all the more excited for this winter. This is his last hockey season, and it’s a chance for him to play competitively perhaps for the final time.
“I’ve thought about it a lot,” he says. “Obviously it’s kind of tough to realize that after playing my whole life, this is the last time I’m playing for something that really matters. But I’m trying to make it worth it and enjoy every moment.”
The two sports are as different as can be, and for Shaw, that’s a good thing. Baseball is a mental game where the drag of a long season, playing every game, can get in your head. The old adage rings true: the best hitters fail seventy percent of the time.
“You’ve got to be mentally tough for baseball,” Shaw says. “If you don’t have that mental toughness to move on from an at-bat, you won’t succeed.”
So Shaw uses hockey as an escape from the rigors of the baseball grind.
“It’s a good break,” he says. “It clears my mind.”
But the physical toll of hockey can take over, and Shaw experienced firsthand the difficulties of the punishing season last winter. He missed part of hockey season after crashing into the boards at a practice in January. He played in only six games, but extensive rehab helped him return to form just in time for baseball season.
“I only had eight days to get ready for high school season,” he says. “I wasn’t even able to swing a bat the entire time. It was tough getting ready but I was able to work through it.”
It’ll be a much different transition getting ready for hockey season again this winter. But when his season is over he’ll have just one more high school baseball campaign before he is prepping for college.
It’s a good thing the sports aren’t played in the same season. He certainly wouldn’t want to choose which one he’d rather play.