Like most local athletes, Harlem baseball player Rodney Scruggs has been working on his game all year long. The senior Bulldog knew before the season started he'd be heavily relied on this year in both pitching and hitting.
However, unlike most other ball players, Scruggs said neither was his main focus.
"I knew I had the ability to pitch and hit, but I struggled being a team player," he said. "That's what I've been working on."
In a world of statistics, college scholarships and professional scouts, a high school baseball player can find plenty of reasons to put himself first when he hits the diamond. Scruggs has the opposite goal.
"It's all about the team," he said. "I'm a senior so I try not to put too much pressure on young guys, but let them know when it's time to get down to business."
That's the kind of talk coming out of the senior starter. He could have mentioned his 2-for-3, 3 RBI day at the plate last week to lead Harlem to an 8-1 spanking of Thomson. Then there's the scoreless three innings he pitched in relief against Lakeside in the season opener to ensure a 10-5 win over the in-county rival. He also went 2-for-4 with two RBI in that game.
Instead, he brought up another pitching outing this season when he made a statement some high school coaches have never heard.
"I threw the first four innings, and I was done after that one," Scruggs said. "I told coach to take me out."
The decision wasn't an easy one for Scruggs to make, but Harlem went on to win the game.
"A lot of pitchers would stay out there and try to battle through it and possibly cost us a win," Harlem baseball coach Jimmie Lewis said. "That shows me team comes first with these guys."
Scruggs' attitude, which seems to have spread to the rest of the team, is the reason Harlem boasts the best baseball record in Columbia County. The Bulldogs also sit atop the Region 3N-AAA standings with a 2-0 subregion record and 8-2 overall record.
Scruggs credited three days per week of work in the weight room as the reason he's found more success in just about every facet of the game this year. He's hoping the extra work might pay off in the form of a spot on a college squad next year.
He's already visited LaGrange College but has yet to make a decision about his future.
"It's been my goal since middle school to play college baseball," he said. "I would love it."
Lewis said if Scruggs continues the strong pace he's set so far this year it just might happen.
"He's a team player - the kind of kid you want to coach," Lewis said. "He's a super hard worker, and he's reaping the fruits of that hard work."
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