There’s a new home run king in College Park.
With a two-run blast in the third inning of Maryland baseball’s game against Georgetown on Wednesday night, Matt Shaw set the record for most home runs in program history.
“It’s good,” the junior stopper said days before the achievement. “Hopefully I can hit more than one and make it a little harder to crack, but it’s definitely cool.”
The home run was the 44th of Shaw’s career. He surpassed former first baseman Paul Schager, who hit 43 from 1984 to 1987, and applauded Shaw’s leap over him.
“I’m happy for him,” said Schager, the current associate executive director of athletics at Michigan State. “Maryland baseball has gotten better. They’re competitive now in the Big Ten and it’s exciting to see that, and that comes down to when you have a program that’s successful, you’re going to get better players, and Matt is definitely a talented player. I hope he does well and becomes someone I can watch as his career progresses.”
By his own admission, Shaw was more of a contact hitter through Little League and Worcester Academy in Worcester, Massachusetts. Slightly undersized at 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds, he found a role model in former first baseman Dustin Pedroia, a 5-9, 170-pound member of the Boston Red Sox who hit 140 home runs in 14 seasons in Major League Baseball and won the Silver Slugger and American League Most Valuable Player Awards in 2008.
“Just a smaller guy, but he did it on both sides of the ball and he was able to hit home runs, too,” Shaw said. “I think there’s a lot of smaller guys that get overlooked sometimes, but they can still hit pretty well, they’ve got the ability to do it and they can hit for power.”
After hitting seven home runs as a freshman in 2021, Shaw exploded for 22 as a sophomore last spring. That total ranked third in a season in Terps history.
Shaw benefited from a training regimen that helped him add 15 to 20 pounds to his frame, and trainer Rob Vaughn attributed Shaw’s development to the natural evolution of his body, noting that his forearms are “huge.” He also called Shaw more mature than any player he coached.
“She cares about everything – how she sleeps, what she eats,” he said. “Every ounce of it is geared towards him being the most elite version he can be, and that’s tough. Most people aren’t willing to sacrifice the kinds of things and make the decisions that he made, but it means so much to him, and that’s why you see all these things in him.”
Vaughn described Shaw as a patient right-handed hitter who waits on pitches, and Shaw admitted that he tends to use a certain analytical approach during at-bats.
“When I’m here, a lot of guys like to throw,” he said. “So I’m looking for a fastball outside because that’s where I’m pitched and that’s why a lot of my runs are to the opposite field. It’s just one of those things where I learn how they attack me and use that to my advantage.”
As Shaw crept closer to Schager’s record, the latter received regular updates from Brent Flynn, the University of Maryland’s associate director of recreation and wellness and a former teammate. When former Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis introduced him at a recent meeting in Detroit to support the NFL franchise as the leader of the program, Schager joked, “Not for long.”
Schager, an Emporium, Pa., native and Pittsburgh Pirates fan, said he grew up looking up to Willie Stargell, who hit the most home runs (296) of any player in the 1970s. He said that he was surprised his record lasted as long as it did.
“The people I idolized in professional baseball were home run hitters, and I thought that was kind of the idea,” he said. “Hit yourself as far as you can – that was my mentality. I wasn’t trying to hit a home run every time, but you kind of start there and work backwards.”
Shaw said he appreciated Schager’s blessing for breaking his record.
“I would feel the same way if it worked in the future,” he said. “Obviously, you want to see good things come for your school and the university. It’s all good stuff.”
Shaw appears destined for the majors later this summer. He is classified as prospectus no. 20 in the 2023 MLB draft by MLB.comand said reaching this stage is a childhood ambition.
“That would be great,” he said. “It’s all part of the process, but something that’s obviously an important part.”
With a 26-15 record and an 8-4 mark in the Big Ten entering Wednesday, the Terps are projected to be seeded in the NCAA Regionals, though they are unlikely to host as they did last spring. Vaughn didn’t shy away from the idea that the team needs Shaw — who has contributed to the offense, leading the Big Ten in home runs with 83 and ranking sixth nationally — to continue its skill on the set.
“If he gets the record, it means we’re playing baseball for a while, and that’s what we need,” he said. “We say it here all the time, “Sometimes, you need your best players to be your best players,” and he and [junior catcher Luke] Shliger and [senior infielder Nick] LoRusso is going to have to be really good for us.”
As for the record-breaking home run, Shaw said he hopes to get the baseball and give it to his father James. The title of “home run king” can take some getting used to.
“It doesn’t sound very appropriate,” Shaw said. “I’ll think of another term maybe for that.”