Before I begin, I want to extend a thank you to two people. First, to Shannon Donohue of Berk Communications for setting all of this up. Without her help, this could not have happened. Secondly, to the man himself, Mike Shawaryn, for taking time out of his day to speak to me at the crack of dawn. Thank you to both of you, if you happen to be reading this, I appreciate the effort taken to make this possible.
The below is a transcribed conversation held between myself and Mike Shawaryn, newest member of the Boston Red Sox, and Thursday’s possible starting pitcher, if twitter sources are to be believed. Enjoy.
Jake Kostik - So Mike, first off, you’ve been in the major league clubhouse a couple days now, right? So how has being in a major league clubhouse been different from being in a minor league clubhouse?
Mike Shawaryn - I don’t think it’s too much different. I think at the end of the day, we’re all just trying to get our work in, and get ready to play a baseball game. At the end of the day, there is a small difference, you know, wins and losses up here mean a lot more. When you get ready for a game, there’s a little bit of a difference, a little bit more focus, a little bit more detail oriented, when you are trying to get your work in.
JK - I imagine, at the major league level, you are watching a lot more video, and doing more game prep for specific batters, than in the minor leagues. What would you be focusing more on in the minor leagues?
MS - Part of the focus in the minor leagues is more on developing yourself, and getting your pitches better. Once you get up here, it’s kind of what you have, and what works, and you learn to pitch with that.
JK - When you were in the minor leagues, and you were focusing on development, was there a specific point in your own development that you wanted to focus on or work on so you could make it to the major leagues easier?
MS - Yes and no, it kind of changed. At the end of the day, I just wanted to focus on trying to get better, whether it was on a specific pitch, my mental approach, or in general being a better pitcher, you know, with the way I attack guys. Every day I try to get a little bit better, by focusing on something small and trying to get better on that on that day.
JK - As far as development goes, since we’re still on that topic, what do you think is the biggest thing you still have to work on to continue to be successful at the major league level?
MS - Probably just to not be complacent. Once you’re up here, you want to stay up here, not just get up to the major leagues, and that’s it. You have to stay up here. I think the biggest thing is to just continue to work on things and evolve as a pitcher, while retaining that same mentality that you had in the minor leagues, and continue to get better each day.
JK - It sounds like a lot of that work ethic came from your college days from when you were at Maryland, right?
MS - Yeah, for sure. For sure. All of our coaching staff, with (John) Szefc and (Jim) Belanger, (Matt) Swope, (Rob) Vaughn, and (Corey) Haines, those guys didn’t really let you guys take a day off. They required the best of you every single day, whether it was a game or a practice. Having that mentality, it even goes back to high school, we’d practice every day, multiple times a day, and just building that foundation. Every day you get on the field, baseball is just a short period of time in your life, so you have got to make it worth it.
JK - Do you find you have a hobby of sorts outside of baseball that helps keep you grounded?
MS - Yeah, I find that I like to play video games, watch shows, movies, anything that kind of lets you escape to a different world, so you aren’t constantly thinking about baseball. You aren’t really stepping away, but having an outlet like that is very important over a long season.
JK - As far as video games go, you are going to fit right into that Red Sox clubhouse, they were all about Fortnite last season, and were a pretty crazy bunch. Anything in particular you are playing that you think you can get the rest of the guys into?
MS - I dunno, man, I usually go with whatever my buddies are playing at the time. Whatever they choose to do really, I’m not huge into video games, I know it’s fun and all, but whatever my buddies say, I kind of end up just following them, and play with all the boys back home.
JK - Did you have a favorite minor league teammate, someone who kept you company throughout the minor leagues?
MS - To be honest with you, I can’t narrow it down to just one. A lot of the pitchers I moved through the minor leagues with, going back to my days in Lowell, Greenville, Salem, Portland, Pawtucket, I feel like a lot of the pitchers, and even some of the position players, it all kind of trickles down from Boston, in the end we’re all just a huge family. It’s a very close-knit organization from the lower levels, all the way up to the big leagues. I can’t narrow it down to just one guy, but a lot of my teammates that I came up with, they’re a big part of the reason why I’m here too.
JK - Now, Michael Chavis, as you are aware has been killing it. I imagine he’s given you some good advice, being the first rookie on the team to really make it in such a big way. Has he given you any really good advice?
MS - Yeah, it’s just a lot of looking out for each other. The “Dos and Don’ts”. Just helping you navigate through the day to day type of stuff. But yeah, he’s definitely helped, same with (Marcus) Walden, and Taylor, Josh Taylor, (Ryan) Brasier, (Matt) Barnes, Brandon Workman, like I said, it’s a tight-knit group. At the end of the day, we’re there to help the big league team win, and everybody understands that. We’re just trying to help each other out.
JK - Yeah, trying to get to the end of the season, win the World Series, you know, all that fun stuff.
MS - Correct (laughs).
JK - Do you have a favorite memory that goes along with playing baseball?
MS - Yeah, it was way back in the day, I’ve only had one home run in my entire life, and that was in Little League, in Fall ball. This is big for me, because I’ve never been a great hitter (laughs) or anything. I only hit one, so that’s one that stands out. I’ve had some great times at Maryland, winning those two Regionals and getting to go to the Super Regionals and playing some really good teams. Winning state championships and stuff in high school. I’ve also had some really great times in the minor leagues, like winning that championship in Greenville, just every day life. As much as they say it’s a grind in the minor leagues, I’ve been lucky enough to have really good teammates, that have made it enjoyable on the way up.
JK - When you came up to the major leagues, what was that call like?
MS - I just kind of had to take a step back and take a deep breath. It was kind of surreal. I just wanted to kind of soak it in. I just wanted to soak it in and not let the moment pass, and regret that. Thousands of things started running through my mind, so I took that step back and took a deep breath. Alright, so this is what it is, I worked my whole life to get the call, and now I need to continue to work to stay up here.
JK - It’s also draft season, as I’m sure you are probably keeping up on, Red Sox drafted a couple of guys last night (June 3rd). How does getting called up compare to getting drafted?
MS - I think first and foremost it’s pretty wild, to think that 3-4 years ago, I was in the position of getting drafted, and now I’ve made it here, it’s almost like it’s come full circle to the big leagues. My buddy asked the same question, it’s definitely a huge honor to get drafted at the time. It’s what you worked for, so you could have the opportunity to get to the big leagues. At the end of the day, getting the call to go up to the big leagues. You worked your whole life to get to the big leagues, not just to get drafted. Getting drafted is just part of the story, and even getting called up is part of the story. They are a little bit different. Getting drafted, you have the opportunity to get to the big leagues, and when you get to the big leagues, you know, you’re here, this is what you worked for. I think they are both equally special. They are special in different ways.
JK - I believe you had a nickname in college, “the unicorn”. Tell me all about that.
MS - Yeah, so basically, I was in high school, I committed super late, February, March or something. I had told the coaching staff at Maryland that I was going to be ready to make a decision in December, and I kept pushing it back. I was thinking “Ah, I’m not ready to make a decision” so they kind of had weekly meetings, and the report every time was “what’s Shawaryn doing? Has he made a decision?”. Belanger would say “no he’s not ready to make the decision yet.” Finally in February or March I made the decision, from that, in the meetings, they’d say “is this guy even real?”, then it kind of evolved into being a mythical creature, so they labeled me as a unicorn, and over my freshman and sophomore seasons at Maryland, it kind of just built up.
JK - Well if it’s any consolation, you seem plenty real to me, only unicorn I’ve ever met. Last thing, soapbox here is yours, anything you want to tell Red Sox Nation, the members of OverTheMonster, anyone else?
MS - I’m just incredibly thankful, for all those who’ve helped me along the way going back to my little league days, from my first coaches, to the major league coaching staff now, and everybody, friends and family that have been there since the beginning. I’m super thankful. One thing I’m not gonna do is be complacent. I’m going to continue to work. At the end of the day, the goal is to win multiple World Series.
Again, I want to thank both Shannon Donohue (for helping to make this interview even possible) as well as Mike Shawaryn (for agreeing to an interview at such an early hour) for their co-operation. I also think I can speak for much of OTM when I wish him well in his future as a member of the Boston Red Sox.
You can follow Shawaryn on Twitter here!