AT&T PARK — Chris Shaw has only been to AT&T Park three times before today.
While playing for Boston College in 2014, the left-handed swinging outfielder and his team visited the Bay Area to play four February games against Santa Clara and Nevada at Stephen Schott Stadium. During that trip, the team took a tour of AT&T.
A year later, in late May, as Shaw was making the rounds for pre-draft workouts, he took batting practice in China Basin. In four rounds of five swings, he put “a few” balls out.
“I think that’s why they were more inclined to pick me,” said Shaw.
The Giants picked Shaw in the first round of the ensuing draft, 31st overall. After his first minor league season, he returned to AT&T for a mini-camp. After being tabbed San Francisco’s No. 4 prospect before this season, the power-hitting left fielder will make his major league debut there on Friday against the New York Mets.
“It’s something you dream about your entire life. To finally have that vision, that dream, come to fruition, I still don’t have words,” Shaw said.
Shaw was all set to head to Las Vegas with the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats on Friday morning. On Thursday night, Giants general manager Bobby Evans — who personally made the trip out to Sacramento to talk to several of his prospects on the eve of the final series of the season — told Shaw the organization liked him, but he didn’t know if the club would call him up for September. He was a bit discouraged.
Shaw had overheard Evans on his phone in the hallway, as the Giants worked to finalize a deal that would eventually send right fielder Andrew McCutchen. At that point, he figured something was afoot.
“I thought, ‘Maybe there’s a chance,'” Shaw said.
Friday morning, after he grabbed a breakfast burrito in the Sacramento clubhouse, his manager grabbed him, to make sure he understood the team was headed to Las Vegas. Shaw said, of course, he understood.
“Then, he’s like, ‘Yeah, we’re going, but you’re going to San Francisco,'” Shaw said.
Shaw, 24, broke down.
“I can’t really recall a lot of what happened right after,” he said. “It’s such an emotional whirlwind.”
Shaw has long been known for his power — he hit 81 home runs in four seasons in the minor leagues, including 24 in 101 games with Triple-A Sacramento this season. It’s his strikeout rate that’s a bit of a concern. In 404 minor league games, he’s struck out 442 times.
“I’m just going to approach it the same way I approach my everyday work in Sacramento,” Shaw said. “Still go out there, looking to get a good pitch to hit, trying to hit it hard, stick with my game. It’s what’s gotten me here.”
Shaw hit .259 this year with the River Cats, with a career-high 144 strikeouts.
“It was definitely a learning year for me, second time through the league,” Shaw said. “I wasn’t necessarily known in that league, but I think this year, I was pitched a little differently. I thought that if I came out and just tore it up, I’d be up here quicker, so I put a lot of pressure on myself. Ultimately, it kind of hurt my results.”
Shaw has since been working to shrink the zone, and shrink what he’s looking to hit. He said he’s made strides. Both Evans and manager Bruce Bochy said he’ll be the everyday left fielder for the remainder of the season.
“He’s a bat that we think is going to play here at some point on a regular basis, so he’s going to get a chance to show what he can do up here in September,” Bochy said. “This isn’t going to determine what happens to him by any means, but with Cutch now gone, it does give us a chance to take a look at him.”
“We hope he can just relax and play the game,” Evans said. “He’s got great teammates around him, veteran players that will keep him focus on not letting the moment get too big. We wouldn’t bring him here if we didn’t think he was ready for the next step.”
One of those veteran teammates is Gregor Blanco, who was called up two days ago, after top prospect Steven Duggar went down with a shoulder injury sliding headfirst back into second base. Blanco was teammates with Shaw for much of the year in Sacramento. Referring to the Splash Hits sign sitting in the right field corner, which currently displays a 78, Blanco smiled.
“He’s going to change those numbers out there,” Blanco said.