Pirates honor late police Officer Brian Shaw in pregame tribute
Steffan Shaw stood on the mound as the sun set over PNC Park on Saturday night, honoring the memory of his brother by throwing out the ceremonial first pitch before the Pirates played the Cincinnati Reds.
"Honestly, it was breathtaking," Shaw said. "It was absolutely amazing."
What Shaw was wearing took his mother's breath away.
The Pirates had home white jerseys made with "Shaw" and No. 29 on the back for the family in tribute to the badge number of the late New Kensington police Officer Brian Shaw, a Lower Burrell native who was killed in the line of duty Nov. 17 during a traffic stop.
Not only did Steffan Shaw wear the number on his back, so did Shaw's parents, Stephan and Lisa; his cousin, Mary Shaw; Brian's girlfriend, Haylee Oliver; and Steffan's girlfriend, Jackie Nichols.
"I wear it every day," said Steffan Shaw, a Penn Hills police officer who keeps a replica of his brother's badge in the left breast pocket of his own uniform. "My mom broke down a little bit when she saw the jerseys."
The Pirates' tribute to Shaw didn't stop there. They pledged to donate a portion of proceeds of the 50/50 raffle to the Officer Brian Shaw Memorial Fund, with Pirates owner Bob Nutting promising to ensure an impactful donation that will help provide updated equipment for smaller police boroughs and establish a scholarship fund in Shaw's name.
If you're going to the Pirates-Reds game Sat. night - weather be damned - don't forget to buy a 50/50 ticket. Proceeds go toward the estate of slain New Kensington (PA) police officer Brian Shaw, killed in the line of duty last Nov. BTW fireworks after the game.— George Guido (@gguidobooks) April 6, 2018
Nutting said the Pirates wanted to "celebrate Officer Brian Shaw's life and to be able to honor his commitment as a first responder, someone who runs to danger but also someone who helps builds communities."
"We've all gotten good at honoring the military," Nutting said. "We need to get really good at honoring these local heroes who are impacting lives right here in Pittsburgh and, as we've seen with Officer Shaw, putting his own life at risk. I said, 'Thank you for being here. We honor and respect his life, and today we're here to celebrate his life and all that he's done.' "
Pirates president Frank Coonelly and manager Clint Hurdle also visited the Shaw family in the home dugout before the game, extending their thanks and sympathies.
Steffan Shaw thanked them back, saying the city's pro sports teams "don't have to do this, but they go out of their way to make contact with us and provide this opportunity."
"It's humbling for us, because we do have so much going on in our lives and (are) still going through the mourning process," Shaw said. "But, at the same time, the support from everyone that's out here — family, friends and complete strangers who have absolutely no idea who we are but knew that this might be happening today, that the Pirates have afforded me and my family this opportunity is just absolutely breathtaking."
Throwing out the first pitch, however, was nerve-wracking for Steffan Shaw.
Shaw admitted to having pre-throw jitters, "for fear of bouncing it." So he took practice throws to prevent a flub, as his fellow officers "were relentless" and "I would've never lived it down if I did."
By the time he talked with Hurdle, Shaw was joking he had "a heck of a knuckleball."
If you throw it well enough, Hurdle responded, we'll use you in the sixth inning.
After introducing the family and adding Officer Shaw "will always be remembered for his charismatic, outgoing personality and addictive smile," Pirates public address announcer Tim DeBacco asked for a moment of silence before the national anthem on a night the club recognized local first responders.
Four members of the New Kensington police department — Chief Robert Deringer, Sgt. Paul Manke and officers Marty Lepovsky and Matt Saxman — presented the colors in a ceremony that brought smiles and tears to fans' faces.
"It's our way and the community's way of keeping his memory alive," Steffan Shaw said. "My brother was an amazing person who touched thousands upon thousands of people, from high school to college to friends and family and police work.
"He was a likeable person, very easy to speak with, very easy to get along with. He wasn't anyone to make pre-judgments on anyone. He'd figure you out for himself.
"He was a very good person. And he was a goofball, too."
The goofball in Brian would have enjoyed Steffan's pre-game jitters and his ceremonial toss, right into the glove of Pirates pitcher Trevor Williams behind home plate.
"I know my brother was happy," Shaw said with a smile, "that I didn't bounce it."
Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @KGorman_Trib.