Going Deep: Blue Jays reminisce about first MLB spring training

Travis Shaw joins the Blue Jays after a tough campaign that sent him to the minors twice- and he's ready for the change of scenery.

Going Deep is a new feature that will run periodically through the 2020 baseball season on Sportsnet.ca, sharing thoughts from people around the game about a specific experience, issue or moment they’ve been a part of. In the inaugural instalment, Shi Davidi asks Toronto Blue Jays Matt Shoemaker, Joe Panik and Travis Shaw for memories of their first major-league spring training.

RHP Matt Shoemaker – “Two different words. Excitement, intimidation, all at the same time. Like, excitement was through the roof, ready to go, spring training, big-league camp. That was my first time being around Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, guys I grew up watching play, essentially. And then, intimidated, definitely, just, ‘Hey, how do I go in there? How do I act? I don’t want to make anybody mad at me.’

“In regards to actually playing the game, I found my footing pretty quick. It’s the same game, it’s going out there and playing baseball. Thankfully I had a lot of veteran guys at the time who taught me that. I still tell guys that today because it’s so true. And the clubhouse, wanting to do things the right way, be professional, not be an idiot and respect other guys and they respect me and all that – that happened pretty quick. Act mature and those things kind of come in place.

“Before my first big-league camp, I got called up as one of those extra pitchers for a spring training game. I pitched well, obviously being very intimidated, not knowing anybody, and (then Angels manager) Mike Scioscia came up to me after I came off the field and he’s like, ‘That’s some big-league pitching right there.’ I remember him distinctly saying, ‘That’s big-league stuff. That’s awesome. Great job.’ And that stuck with me because I’m like, ‘Oh, he’s right. Believe it.’ That was cool.”

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INF Joe Panik – “My first big-league camp was in 2012. I was 21 years old and there was no chance of me making the major-league club, so it was more about the experience of getting into the big-league clubhouse and mixing it up with those guys. At the time you had guys like Tim Lincecum, characters like Brian Wilson, someone like Buster Posey, all these guys that you’re like, ‘OK, these guys could be my teammates. You watched them on TV and now you’re in the same locker-room as them.’ You try to fit in, be seen and not heard, try to take in as much as you can from guys, how they worked, what they did and don’t stick out in a bad way.

“Buster Posey, now he’s a good friend of mine, but just watching how he went about his business, he was a true professional through and through, on and off the field. He just did everything right. He was always disciplined in his work, disciplined in everything he did. So he was the guy I really looked at.

“That first spring, we were playing the Dodgers at Camelback Ranch (L.A.’s spring home), and I hit a triple to right field and when I got to third base it was like, ‘All right. I can do this.’ This was early in camp, too, before I got sent down and for me that was a big moment. First time I’m playing the Dodgers, first time experiencing Giants-Dodgers, and even though it was only spring training, for me it meant something.”

Ben Nicholson-Smith is Sportsnet’s baseball editor. Arden Zwelling is a senior writer. Together, they bring you the most in-depth Blue Jays podcast in the league, covering off all the latest news with opinion and analysis, as well as interviews with other insiders and team members.

1B/3B Travis Shaw – “I was excited. It was 2014, I was a non-roster invite and the Red Sox still had Mike Napoli, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, all those guys. I watched a lot of them growing up and then getting to share a clubhouse and getting to know them personally was a pretty cool experience.

“That year, for me, was staying out of the way as a young guy. I knew I was just there for a couple of weeks, so I wanted to stay out of the way, watch how they did things, just pick up on the daily routines and how they did things and put that in the back of my head, and try to better myself. I learned a few things from Napoli and Pedroia that I’ve taken with me.

“I remember hitting a ball off the Monster at JetBlue (Park, the spring home of the Boston Red Sox). It was off a lefty – I want to say T.J. McFarland, but I’m not sure. That was the first real moment for me. My first homer was the next year in my second big-league camp.”

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