Stephen recently completed his junior season as a relief pitcher. The crafty lefty used an assortment of pitches to trick opposing batters.
Matt red-shirted as a true freshman and should contend for playing time in the infield next season.
Recently, I interviewed both brothers. Today in part two, you'll hear what younger brother Matt has to say.
Matt Shao followed his brother Stephen to Vanderbilt in 2005 after earning All-District and All-Region honors as a senior at Mt. Juliet High School. The 5-9, 155-pound middle infielder was red shirted by Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin this past season, but he is getting a chance to play this summer in the KIT or Kitty League* as the starting shortstop for the Fulton (KY) Railroaders. As the leadoff hitter, he is averaging .267 with a team high six RBI through the team's first eight games. Matt lists David Eckstein as his favorite player. The St. Louis Cardinals' all-star shortstop is only 5-06 and 170 pounds. Hall of Famer Joe Morgan played at 5-07 and 160 pounds, so Matt's size should never be an issue in his collegiate playing career. He more than makes up for it with hard work and intelligence.
VandyMania.com: This red shirt season: describe how it felt having to work hard every
day and not getting a chance to play in the games.
Matt Shao: I try to be honest when I evaluate myself. I knew coming in that I would have to bust my butt in the weight room and on the field to get on the level I need to be on. I understand my situation, and if it takes a year or two, so be it. Obviously I don't enjoy not playing, no one does, but I've utilized this season effectively getting better with my strength and ability.
VM: How did it feel getting to finally play for real earlier this week in the Kitty League?
MS: Great. It was a breath of fresh air. After sitting out an entire season, I really appreciated suiting up and stepping on the field. I try to use it as motivation.
VM: After playing in an excellent program at Mt. Juliet, once you started
practice at Vanderbilt, what did you experience as the big differences in
players' abilities from a shortstops' view of the game?
MS: Obviously the players are bigger, stronger, and faster. I had to make an adjustment in order to keep up with the speed of the game. As a shortstop, I needed to get to the ball quicker, release it faster, and throw it harder.
VM: Describe the adjustment in hitting with a wooden bat as opposed to an aluminum bat. If you had the deciding vote, which would you rather have as
the NCAA approved bat? While Aluminum may hit the ball farther, wood would
give you the opportunity to field more grounders (balls would not be hit as hard and fast).
MS: Well I'm not the biggest guy, so I'll take all I can get. That's why I shy toward aluminum at the collegiate level. I do like how wood forces contact on the barrel and doesn't forgive miss-hits like metal does. As far as the amount of chances I get, the infield will always see plenty of action regardless of what we are swinging.
VM: Since you don't play a game every day in the Kitty League, how do you spend all the off time in Fulton, KY?
MS: Ha ha, good question. There's not much to do here in Fulton...at all. I've been lifting a lot at one of the local high schools, but aside from that we kind of sit around and watch TV. Some nights we'll go to surrounding towns like Martin and Union City. It's not too bad; I'm making the most of it.
VM: How much did your brother's going to Vandy affect your decision to go there as well?
MS: A lot. I had decided on UT before Coach Corbin called me in the summer. I loved playing with Stephen at Mt. Juliet, and I had always wanted to continue doing so. Vandy was the perfect opportunity. Obviously there were other deciding factors, such as location and the level of education, but Stephen definitely helped me choose Vanderbilt.
VM: What type of pressure did it create when you found out you were part of the nation's top collegiate recruiting class? What type of added
expectations did that create? Would you say those ratings were accurate?
MS: I didn't really feel pressured when I heard it. I'm not a big fan of that word anyway; it's all perceived. I just knew I would have to work that much harder to compete for a position. I expected more from myself, because I want to be considered worthy enough to be among this group of guys. As far as the rating goes, I would say it's fairly accurate. We had a lot of new guys contribute this year and do some great things.
Matt Shao (VM/Whitney D.)