Bottom of the 9th - Someone To Look Up To
Someone To Look Up To
by Mark McNary
Valor Christian High School Baseball Coach
What you have learned and received and heard and seen in meâ€”practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:9
Coaching at Valor makes me reflect on my high school days and think about a team I played on that demonstrated the high level of skill and character that we are trying to achieve in the Valor program. It was a summer team when I was 16. The skill level was high. We won nearly every tournament we entered. In fact, of the 12 guys on the team, 10 went on to play college baseball. I would not credit any sort of God given talent as to why nearly everyone on the team went beyond high school baseball. Rather, it was the enthusiasm and work ethic each of us brought to the game. To us the â€œgameâ€ was more than the competition against other teams. It was a drive to do whatever it took to be more proficient. We had some long hard practices in humid weather that most Colorado players can't fathom. There was never a complaint about the difficulty of a workout. It was just understood that excellence required a full commitment. The other character trait I remember about my teammates was a dedication to being good that went beyond a full effort at practice. It was common for a pitcher to call me on an off day and ask if I'd catch a bullpen for him. Guys would regularly get in extra hitting on their own.
When I think about the one player on the team that season who best represented what a Valor player should be, the choice is clear. His name is Dave Watson. He was our first baseman and he was the best 16 year old athlete I've ever known. He was 6 feet 2 inches tall and built like a college football player. He hit towering home runs consistently. And he wasn't just good at baseball. He was the best tight end in the area and heavily recruited by every major university in the Midwest. It was great to play with someone who was such an outstanding athlete. But it wasn't his athletic ability that made him such a great role model.
Dave was someone I looked up to (and still do) not because of his athletic ability but because of his character. He never seemed to get rattled. He was always positive with himself and others. He was humble even though he was bigger, faster, stronger than any 16 year old in the area. He respected his teammates, the umpires, and our opponents.
Several players on the team, including Dave, worked for the county highway department as a summer job. Dave was quickly promoted to a supervisory position because of his unmatched work ethic. It was common knowledge that county workers took extended breaks and extra long lunch hours whenever possible. Dave wouldn't do that. Even if everyone else on the crew did.
The other character trait that always impressed me was how grateful Dave was toward his parents. I don't know exactly what went on when Dave was younger but I knew he was adopted as a fairly old child. There was something in his past that made him deeply appreciative to have a stable and supportive family.
After our baseball season ended, the media attention turned to football and what college Dave would attend. He finally announced his intentions: he would attend Missouri. But not to play football. He had decided to focus on his studies. At the time, we all thought he was crazy to pass up a football scholarship. But now, I admire how he was able to see through the hype and focus on what he thought was be best decision for his future. It reminds me of Pat Tillman who gave up a promising NFL career to fight for his country. Both athletes gave up money and fame to do something they believed in their hearts was more important. Both played humbly.
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