Inside Pitch Magazine, Summer 2013

Intentional Walk: "Swag" – What it Isn't

By Keith Madison

Swag NametagSeveral years ago there was a talented young shortstop – let’s call him Willy. He had just completed a successful season in the prestigious Cape Cod League and had returned to campus with a “double dose” of what he thought was "swag." However, he was missing the humility and work ethic that had made him so admired by his teammates, coaches and professional scouts. As a sophomore, he was almost the complete player possessing good speed, outstanding defensive skills and the ability to hit for both average and power. Willy also played with confidence and carried himself like a big league ball player…yes, he had the real "swag."

Eventually, the accolades from the media during a stellar sophomore campaign in a good conference combined with hanging out with a plethora of future first-round picks in the Cape during the summer took his swag and confidence to an unhealthy level. His teammates and coaches back on campus noticed that he had quickly become arrogant and lazy. By the middle of fall practice, Willy’s arrogance began to cause a rift with the team; and the coach was forced to address the situation informing him that he'd become "too big" for the program and suggesting that he transfer to a school that would be more fitting of a “super star.” The coach asked him, "Where did your talent come from? Did you give yourself the athletic ability you possess?"

Stunned, the player eventually looked at the coach and said, “Coach, I get it. I don’t need to transfer; I need to change my attitude.” Within a few days, the player impressed his coach and his teammates with his positive energy in practice and displayed his true colors by showing up early for hitting and staying after practice for extra ground balls. He also encouraged his teammates to join him in the “extra” work.

The following spring, he led his team to their most successful campaign is school history, was named to the All-America team and was drafted even earlier than originally projected. Had the college coach not challenged him, the player would have fallen short of his potential and would have most likely taken his team with him.

The book of James tells us: “every good and perfect gift is from above.” [1:17]  God gives each one of us gifts and passions. We should use those gifts to honor Him by honing our skills on the practice field and playing the game the way it’s supposed to be played.

Paul challenges us in Colossians 3:23: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord and not for men…” These words should keep us humble and focused without losing our competitiveness.

Swag is good. Arrogance and not giving your best isn’t. God gave His best on the cross over 2,000 years ago and there was nothing soft about it. Let’s make sure we honor Him and give our best with the gifts that has been given to each of us.

Inside Pitch Magazine is published six times per year by the American Baseball Coaches Association, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt association founded in 1945. Copyright American Baseball Coaches Association. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any way without prior written permission. While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained herein, it is impossible to make such a guarantee. The opinions expressed herein are those of the writers.