The new lunchroom manager at Wekiva Elementary is... a professional baseball player? Yep, and he couldn’t be happier.
There was a bit of excitement buzzing among the kids at Wekiva Elementary earlier this school year about someone new in the lunchroom. Students were bringing home autographed lunchboxes, shirts, and even penned signatures on their hands, telling their parents that a former professional baseball player was in their dining room during lunch. As it turns out, the students were right.
Derrick Shaw is a Lake Brantley High School graduate who grew up in Altamonte Springs. In 2010, he was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers and played in the Brewers’ minor-league system. After baseball, Derrick came back to his hometown to pursue a career in the corporate world, and luckily for the kids at Wekiva Elementary School, Derrick chose a slightly unconventional place to start. He is the school’s new cafeteria manager: But if you’re inclined to think Derrick has found a surprising rung on the corporate ladder, think again. There’s a lot more to this story.
Derrick attended Spring Lake Elementary, Teague Middle, and Lake Brantley High. During his senior year in 2008, Derrick was a quarterback for the Patriots football team and captain of the baseball team, which went on to win the 6A State Baseball Championship. Derrick looked up to his three older brothers for inspiration on and off the field, but he says it all started with his wonderful parents, Matthew and Pamela Shaw, senior and co-pastors of a church in Apopka, who have been married for almost 43 years.
“My dad played running back and pursued the NFL in his prime days, so we were led by example and followed the game of football,” says Derrick, who, along with his brothers Jeff, Dominick, and Jonathan, received full football scholarships. Derrick, however, was the only one to receive a full scholarship for football and baseball, from Florida A&M University.
At FAMU, Derrick played both sports for two years and was named an All-American before being drafted by the Brewers as a utility player. Derrick was a versatile athlete used in multiple positions because of his speed, but he mostly played center field for the AZL Brewers of the Arizona League, a newly drafted rookie’s first stop on his road to the majors.
“I had a great experience playing with the Brewers,” says Derrick. “During my first year, we won the Arizona League Championship.”
In the off season, Derrick returned to Central Florida and stayed busy offering private baseball lessons. He felt motivated to not only help youth improve athletically, but to become a mentor to those kids who needed guidance. Derrick eventually started his own nonprofit organization called Youth of Dynamic Distinction. The organization’s motto was “Taking the Next Generation to a Higher Destination” with the purpose of mentoring and encouraging young athletes and students to never give up on their dreams. At churches and school camps across Central Florida, Derrick would speak to mostly at-risk kids. He shared his own stories of perseverance during his baseball career and encouraged the kids to reach their full potential regardless of any obstacles in their path.
“I wanted kids to have a purpose for their lives and never be moved or strayed off track from their destiny,” says Derrick.
After several years in baseball, Derrick says he chose to “hang up his cleats and pursue the game of life in corporate America,” using the business management degree he earned at FAMU.
“When I came to the realization that I was satisfied with my accomplishment of playing professional baseball, I was inspired to pursue other gifts and abilities, and I turned in the direction of wanting to make a difference and impact lives on a daily basis,” says Derrick, who has always been inspired by his faith.
When searching for his next professional endeavor, Derrick was as much in the market for a mission as he was for a job, and he found what he sought in a most unlikely place. He discovered an opening for a new dining services manager at Wekiva Elementary. Derrick researched the SCPS Dining Services department and read the department’s mission statement: To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one guest, one meal, and one community at a time.
“When I heard the mission and purpose of what I would be doing on a daily basis, it was exactly what I had said I wanted to do,” says Derrick. “It was confirmation. I am very thankful and blessed to be a part of this company and to currently be impacting and making a difference in our children at Wekiva Elementary.”
Isn’t it odd, though? A former pro baseball player is now a lunchroom manager? From Derrick’s point of view, the vocations are more alike than they are different precisely because they allow him to develop his own talents while nurturing the bodies and minds of others.
“We are here for a purpose,” Derrick says. “Each and every individual has different talents and abilities. These abilities were shaped and crafted by God, which makes us all very special. Choose this day to step out on faith and know that whatever you put your mind to do, you will accomplish – no excuses! Walk with your head held high no matter the situation, knowing that you are victorious and the best is yet to come for you.”
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