By JACK LeGWIN
Sometimes you only need one opportunity, and Travis Swaggerty wasn’t going to let his slip through his grasp.
“When I was recruited out of high school, I wasn’t recruited as an outfielder,” Swaggerty told BTS Sports. “Most schools in the area wanted me as a pitcher only. South Alabama and Southeastern Louisiana were the only schools that offered me as a two-way player. So, I visited South Alabama, once I met with the coaches, I got the offer that I wanted. I saw there were some outfielders leaving so I saw that there’d the opportunity to come in and play as a freshman. Those factors are what are what got me here.”
Well, Swaggerty came in and set Mobile on fire. His freshman year, he was named a Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American by Collegiate Baseball, finishing the year hitting .303. His sophomore year, he was named a Second-Team All American by the American Baseball Coaches Association/Rawlings and finished off the season hitting .356 with 11 homers and 60 RBI. This year, he’s started off the season hitting .340, and is projected as a mid first round pick by multiple publications.
Yet, after achieving the above accomplishments, Swaggerty is just taking things one day at a time and trying to represent his school the best way he can.
“I try to block a lot of that outside noise out,” Swaggerty said. “It’s really humbling though to be in the position to put South Alabama on the map. It’s a really cool opportunity for me and it’s a really cool opportunity for the school. I try not to be on social media as much, and I’m sure there’s some articles out there about me, but I’m just trying to help my team win games and polish up my skills the best that I can.”
When he was asked about whether he had a specific moment that stood out to him in his career, Swaggerty pointed to wearing the Stars and Stripes.
“Playing for Team USA for sure,” Swaggerty said. “It was really amazing. To be one of the only small school guys there. It was a super humbling experience for me to be able to showcase my abilities, and be able to talk out some of the mental parts of the game with some of the best players in the country. It was a really cool experience.”
Swaggerty provided a specific example of where he felt he had markedly shown improvement playing for Team USA and head coach John Savage.
“I went out there and struggled a little bit against Japan and I asked the guys ‘What does it look like I’m doing?’ They told me, ‘your swing looks fine, you look like you’re on it, maybe your approach just isn’t right.'”
“In a sense I matured my approach and simplified things. I wanted things to be as simple as possible. I told myself less is more, less is more. When I was able to do that, things got easier.”
Swaggerty said he took pride in being selected to the Team USA out of a small school, and that he has looked to take every ounce of opportunity from it.
“Absolutely, one hundred percent,” Swaggerty said. “Out of high school, I always said it doesn’t matter where you go to school, it’s all about what you do when you’re there. I think I’ve taken full advantage of that.”
In terms of where his greatest development occurred during the transition from his junior season into his senior, Swaggerty points to one thing.
“Maturity,” Swaggerty said. “Having that year under your belt really helps you to mature as a hitter and a player and teaches you how to cope with failure. I haven’t struggled that much this year, but I know how to keep a level head when things go well and when they go badly. For me, having the at-bats and having the struggles have helped me to cope with those bad times.”
Swaggerty says he has a routine on game days that he stands by.
“I get to the field and get into the cages,” Swaggerty said. “I usually get there pretty early so I can be there by myself, so I can lock in on what I’m doing and I’m not just going out there swinging. Before batting practice is really when I get it going.”
With trust in his swing mechanics in place , Swaggerty says that he is free to focus more on the mental part of the game.
“I work on my swing so much that when I struggle, I know it’s not a physical issue. Being mentally strong and level-headed what keeps me going.”
If he were to be picked in the first round, Swaggerty said that it would be validation for all of the hard work he has put in.
“It would be a dream come true,” Swaggerty said. “I’ve always dreamed of being in that position my entire life but I never thought it would come into light or even be a possibility, so again it’s super humbling to be in this position and I credit my hard work and the support system around me.”
Delving deeper into where that work ethic comes from, Swaggerty pointed to a very important figure in his life.
“I guess my dad,” Swaggerty said with a laugh. “My dad has always been so determined at what he does and he’s preached that to me. That goes for me in the weight room too. He got me really disciplined doing that, and I just try to do the same in every aspect of life, work that hard. He’s a big reason as focused and have the work ethic that I do. All of the stuff he’s paid for all of the stuff he’s come to. He’s the reason I’m still playing this game.”
Was he ever thinking about quitting?
“Maybe when I was a sophomore (in high school) I thought about it,” Swaggerty said. “I was super small, hadn’t had my growth spurt yet. Right then, I had plans to go LSU just to go to school, I didn’t think I’d be able to play college baseball, but the more I wanted it, I started growing stronger, started working out. I wanted it badly. Quitting wasn’t an option.”
Swaggerty said that where he ends up getting drafted doesn’t matter to him, and he just wants to play ball.
“I don’t care where I go as long as I have a major league uniform on,” Swaggerty said. “That would be the coolest experience in the world for me. I don’t have a preference, I just want to go and play.”
Yes, Swaggerty has a very bright future ahead of him in the game of baseball, but he’s trying to prove his worth in the present.
“I’m trying to prove myself right that I can compete with anyone in the nation,” Swaggerty said. “Everyone that doubted me in high school, that didn’t think I could hit at this level, I try to prove to them wrong too, and I think I’ve already done a pretty good job of that. I want to represent myself, my school and my family the best way that I can.”
“Swag” is doing a pretty good job of that indeed.