Sunday, December 8, 2013
PORTLAND — He was an All-Star, one of the best relief pitchers in baseball, making millions with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Travis Shaw makes an underhand toss Thursday during the Sea Dogs’ 2-0 win over Erie.
Derek Davis / Staff Photographer
Travis Shaw: Appreciates dad's help
It was not enough to keep Jeff Shaw in the game.
After the 2001 season, a year in which he pitched in his second Major League All-Star Game, Shaw retired.
His decision was not based on health (he was fine) or age (only 35). He quit because of another reason.
He was a dad.
"Very easy decision," Shaw said. "I retired when Travis started middle school. He was starting sixth grade, and I didn't want to father over the phone."
Travis Shaw is now 23 and playing first base for the Portland Sea Dogs. His game benefited from having a big-leaguer for a dad. His character and confidence developed from the love of a man committed to being his father.
"He made me realize family is the most important thing you can have in life," Travis Shaw said.
JEFF MODELED HIS OWN DAD
Jeff Shaw grew up in the small rural town of Washington Court House, Ohio, between Columbus and Cincinnati. He acquired a work ethic and family values from his father.
"He worked hard his whole life," Shaw said. "We didn't have a whole lot, but he was home every night and didn't miss any of my games."
Shaw went on to pitch in college, then was a first-round draft pick of the Cleveland Indians in 1986. He made his major league debut on April 30, 1990, two weeks after Travis was born.
Shaw had married his high school sweetheart, Julie, and Travis would be the oldest of their three children.
The lifestyle of a professional baseball player is not always family friendly, but Shaw made his family a priority. Where he went -- whether it be spring training, or in one of the five cities Shaw called home as a major leaguer, his wife and children were there.
"We always found ways to be together," Julie said.
When it was time for Shaw to go to spring training, his family followed. Julie secured tutors for their children to finish their lessons.
Travis got an extra bonus. He joined dad at the ballpark in the afternoon.
"Every day," Travis said, beaming at the memory. "I would shag during batting practice. Then he'd take me down to the cage and flip me balls for about 10-15 minutes. I was around baseball every day for about three or four years."
Sounds like a fantasy come true for a 9-year-old.
"I didn't realize it at the time," Travis said. "But looking back I see how rare it was, and how important it was to me.
"Now I realize how important family was to my dad. He was willing to do that every day, especially with me at such a young age."
FAMILY MORE PRECIOUS THAN MONEY
Jeff Shaw pitched for Cleveland, Montreal, the Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati and the Dodgers. He led the National League in saves (42) in 1997, and was named to his first All-Star Game the next season.
In 2001, Shaw recorded 43 saves for the Dodgers and was making $6.4 million. A free agent in 2002, Shaw might have made even more.
But Travis was in middle school. Jeff and Julie decided that they would no longer pull him out of school. So Jeff walked away from baseball and a multi-million dollar salary.
"He can afford to make this decision," Shaw's agent, Joe Bick, said at the time. "Staying and raising his family is more important to him than being away from home as much as a professional athlete is."
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Jeff Shaw: Put his family first