Spring 2014 Issue

Fielder's Choice

Willie Shaw '14 has his pick of music and baseball at W&M

By Kelley Freund and Meredith Randle ’16

Whenever Mike Piazza came to the plate, Tribe first baseman Willie Shaw, at the time 4 years old, would stand in the aisle at Dodger Stadium and mimic him. When Piazza was traded, Shaw’s parents had to sit him down and explain it to him as he cried.

For Shaw, whose first toy was a plastic baseball bat, baseball has always been a love of his since he was able to walk. His family has had a long relationship with the game, with many of the men in the Shaw family having played college ball.

But music also runs in his family, and it’s an unwritten rule that you have to play an instrument by a certain age. With his mom’s guitar lying around, it wasn’t too long before Shaw picked it up and taught himself to play.

Then during his freshman year of high school in California, Shaw needed extra credit in choir because he talked too much. His assignment? Sing in front of the entire 150-person class. “I had never performed in front of anyone,” Shaw said. “As a 14-year-old, I was terrified. I sang ‘You are the Sunshine of My Life’ by Stevie Wonder and by the end of the semester I was singing the finale in a choir concert.”

Shaw also enjoyed success on the diamond as a three-year letter winner during high school, earning first-team accolades and leading his team in hits and stolen bases. He was offered scholarships to colleges, including Oregon, the University of Southern California and the University of California-Los Angeles, but had to make sure his senior year went well. “Being an arrogant teenager, I thought I was the coolest kid in the world,” said Shaw. “Karma got the best of me. I had a horrible senior year on the field and my grades dropped. It was a huge wake up call.”

Shaw pursued a degree from a junior college, continuing to play baseball and extending his scouting period. He began contacting Division I baseball coaches and reached out to the Tribe program.

“Originally I skipped William & Mary because I only knew that it was really old, really smart and in Virginia,” Shaw said. But then he decided to take another look at the list of schools he had passed over. “I wanted to grow up. Coming across the country will force you to. And William & Mary allowed me to chase all of my hobbies such as music and baseball.”

Coming from Southern California, Virginia was a bit of a shock. “Where I’m from, we have hot sunshine and lukewarm sunshine,” said Shaw. “I never had to scrape ice off of my windshield.” He admits to being a little homesick when he first came to the College, but that baseball helped him adapt. “Being a transfer student is no easy transition. I was lucky when I got here because I play baseball. My team is my family and words can’t describe what they mean to me.”

Shaw started all 63 games for the Tribe last season, helping William & Mary win a record 39 games and their first at-large bid to the postseason. Along the way, Shaw compiled an average of .293 along with 37 RBIs, 42 runs and 67 hits, and was named to the CAA all-tournament team.

Last spring, Shaw had the opportunity to combine baseball and music when a Tribe teammate wanted to propose to his then-girlfriend and approached Shaw about playing a song for the proposal. Shaw responded with an enthusiastic yes. Outside the picturesque Wren building, in the same spot the couple had their first date, Shaw sang “Marry Me” by Train as his teammate popped the question.

Shaw claims his musical influences are Bruno Mars, John Mayer and Maroon 5, but he also likes Doo Wop, big band jazz and Motown. He tries to make fun music that connects with all age groups. And for Shaw, music is a way of meditating on the things that he finds important. “My songs are always about something or someone in my life,” he said. “There are a lot of songs about love, but I love to write about my friends, whether it be a story about one of them or something we did as a group. Ironically the best songs I have ever written have been during finals week.”

As for life after William & Mary, Shaw has options. He has some record-label auditions lined up, one of them in Nashville, Tenn. He also has a coaching opportunity in San Antonio, Texas, and an internship at an entertainment law firm in Los Angeles. Eventually he’ll have to pick, but for right now he’s trying to slow his senior year down and enjoy it.

“I had a lot of growing up to do and baseball showed me that,” said Shaw. “It has a way of teaching you life lessons. The biggest thing that baseball has taught me is that if you work hard and give everything you have, all the ups and downs eventually even out. Since I have come to William & Mary, I have been able to realize my potential and I credit that to the community on campus. I am truly grateful for the opportunities the College has given me.”