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College  | Story  | 9/29/2022

Shaw Conquers Cape, Wins Summer POY

Blake Dowson     
Photo: Matt Shaw (Joey Kurtz)
READ: Amsterdam Earns Summer Team of the Year

Maryland’s Matt Shaw grew up about two hours away from Cape Cod. He knew a few things about the Cape back then – that there was baseball played there during the summer, and that he was pretty sure they were minor league games. He could’ve been fooled by the level of play.

A few years down the road, when he got to campus in College Park, the Cape was no longer this mystical place a few hours away where the boys of summer are treated more like kings than student athletes. It was a goal of his, something to aim toward.

The Cape is a rite of passage for prospects of Shaw’s pedigree, somewhere to test your ability against the best college players across the country. It was also just an awesome experience, he said.

“It was way better than I could have really expected,” he said. “There’s so many little things about the Cape that are really different than other leagues…All the guys there are guys who absolutely love the game. So that was awesome. Sometimes you get to summer ball, mixed in are some guys who don’t really want to be there. But when we were up there, everybody loves talking about the game, being around the game.”

Of course, you’ll have a good experience when you play as well as Shaw did for the Bourne Braves. Over the 36-game summer, the middle infielder hit .360, scored 28 runs, drove in another 19, and collected 17 extra-base hits.

Those numbers earned him the Cape Cod Baseball League MVP award, as well as the Perfect Game Summer Player of the Year.

In a baseball kingdom like the Cape, he was basically royalty.

“People really respected the players up there,” Shaw said. “There was this one time, I was at a breakfast place, and the lady was like, ‘You play in the Cape Cod League?’ I was like, ‘Yeah.’ And she goes, ‘Alright you know what, breakfast is on us today.’ It’s just little things like that. It’s not even about the breakfast, it’s just about people really enjoying having the league in their backyard.”

Summer leagues are baseball bootcamp. You drill and drill things until, hopefully, they become second nature. No distractions, just batting practice and ground balls.

They are also baseball school, the Cape being an AP class, and Shaw took the opportunity all summer to pick the brains of some of the most astute scholars in his dugout.

“Approach, for me,” Shaw said about what he learned. “It’s sitting [on] pitches. It’s something that I’m always learning more about. I definitely learned some things this summer…That’s probably the coolest part about the Cape is being with guys from all over that have had different approaches, different styles, and being able to put that all into one team and talk baseball, it’s really unique.”

Shaw said he felt some pressure to perform this summer, which is natural for a player in his situation. And normal for him. But none of it came externally. Shaw puts pressure on himself each game, he said, basically to keep his foot on the gas at all times.

Maybe that’s why he stole 21 bases this summer, two more than he collected in his first two years at Maryland combined. Although who knows, now the pressure might come from Coach Rob Vaughn this spring to keep that pace on the basepaths.

“I definitely feel the same pressure for myself always,” Shaw said. “It’s pretty consistent game to game. I want to keep continuing to get better and have a good approach every day…Not really any outside pressure, but definitely some internal pressure that I feel a lot. And it comes from a positive place. For myself, I don’t think it’s necessarily something where I’m getting mad. It’s more that I just want to get the most out of all my experiences.”

He certainly did that for Bourne this summer, and heads back to campus to a Maryland team that rightly has plenty of momentum itself heading into the spring season.

For Shaw, the focus these days is a long toss program to strengthen his arm. He says it feels great, night and day better than it ever has before.

Soon, the focus will be a Big Ten championship and trip to Omaha, yet another mystical place he looks to conquer. Maryland has all that in front of it, with a roster ready to explode. The Terrapins return six regulars to the lineup, all of which produced at least a .929 OPS and batting average of .290.

“Offensively, we should have the same firepower,” Shaw said. “Which is kind of hard to do. I’m really glad that we got some guys coming in and some younger guys stepping up. I think our goal is absolutely to go to Omaha and win the College World Series.”