After the 2013 season, Travis Shaw just had to get away from baseball.
The first baseman needed a break, to clear the way for a new start. It didn't take long.
Soon, he realized that the Red Sox still had his back. They sent him to Arizona Fall League, where the competition is solid. You're there because the big club has a lot of faith in you. It was there that he dusted off from the fall and found himself again. His fall league success and how he felt restored his confidence further. Winter brought more reassurance, when he was given a big league invite, making him one of eight the Red Sox extended one to.
Shaw not only got all the boost he needed to continue forward, he'd gained something from the experience. He remembered who he was and how to not loose sight of that.
"My approach has always been to hit the ball the other way. My power numbers were down, so I got pull happy," Shaw said Thursday. "I became a very pitchable hitter."
The Sox selected him in the ninth round of the 2011 MLB Draft out of Kent State, assigning him to the Class-A short season New York Penn League. He played in 57 games, hitting .262 with 37 RBI, 8 home runs, 14 doubles, and 35 walks. He split 2012 between the Carolina and Eastern Leagues, with a combined 133 hits, 44 doubles, and 85 RBI in 130 games. He was the Carolina League All-Star Game MVP, and finished the season named an MiLB.com Organizational All Star. He was also ranked eighth on MLB.com's Top 10 First Baseman Prospects list.
To further understand the Red Sox commitment to Shaw, it's important to note that they drafted him twice. Shaw was Boston's 32nd round pick in 2008, but he opted to attend college and not sign.
"I felt I was physically and mentally ready, but I thought if I went to college and did well, I could be drafted in a higher round. I wanted to have another opportunity. And I was fortunate that the Red Sox drafted me again."
While he seemed to cruise successfully through his first two seasons of pro ball, he found himself facing opponents he wasn't quite ready for in his first full season of Double-A competition.
"The pitching is more consistent. They'll do things in 2-0 3-1 counts that you won't see at the lower levels. You know what to look for there."
The difficult experience brought him back to basics, though. He simplified when he headed to Arizona, returning to the fundamentals.
"The early success there helped me remain calm. That helped me relax. It was big for me [for the Red Sox to send me] there. It helped me prove myself. They were still willing to give me plenty of chances to prove that  wasn't who I was."
Shaw call his father, Jeff, a former major league pitcher from 1990-2001, his "mentor", and says that having him in his corner has impact when he's struggling.
"He's been there. So he guides my path to success, because he understands everything I'm going through. If I can mold myself into the kind of player he was, I'll have a lot of success."
With renewed confidence and a chance to show the big club more of what he's made of, he looks ahead to Spring Training with a fire inside.
"My mindset is to make the most of this opportunity. I hope to not go back to Portland. I went to Arizona to get that invite. And now, I want to maybe push [the Red Sox] hand, to give me a chance to at starting the season in Triple-A."
You can follow him @travisshaw_21