All-Star McLouth Inspired by Faith and Family

Post a Comment » Written on July 14th, 2008     
Filed under: News
CHICAGO, IL (July 14, 2008) – Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Nate McLouth has been called the best centerfielder in the National League by sportswriters. His fellow players are of the same opinion and recently voted him to the league’s All-Star squad for Tuesday night’s game.

McLouth is trying to keep all of the praise in perspective. “I just don’t read it,” he says, although he admits avoidance can be difficult. “The Internet makes it harder. Friends will email me stuff.”

The attention won’t force the All-Star to alter his game, he says. “I just do what I always do. There’s no sense in changing things now.”

What McLouth always does is exhibit an innate patience, perseverance, and work ethic that have been further inspired by his faith and family. McLouth, who grew up attending Whitehall Covenant Church in Whitehall, Michigan, also is making sure others benefit from his success.

McLouth discusses his playing career in a matter-of-fact fashion but his eyes brighten and he becomes animated when talking about his “Lucky 13” club, which is based on his uniform number. He has worked with the Pirates to host 13 kids from the Imani Christian Academy one game every home stand. The students attend the game and meet the players.

McLouth has been impressed with the school, which educates K-12 students, many who are from at-risk homes. “They teach them the Word,” he says.

Attending church can be difficult on the road during the season, but McLouth tries to have a Bible study each week with third-base coach Tony Beasley. The team has a chapel service when it is playing home games.

Scripture is a constant companion for McLouth. When asked about how he avoids temptation while on the road, McLouth gets up from the table and walks over to his locker and returns with his wallet. He pulls out a sheet of paper on which is typed Hebrews 4:13—“Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”

McLouth often goes straight to his hotel room after games. “I like being on the road,” he says. “It gives me a lot of time to be in my room by myself. It gives me the opportunity to reflect.”

“I want to represent my family well,” McLouth says. “People see everything you do. I never want to embarrass them.”

That sense of obligation also contributes to a work ethic that players and coaches admire. His high-school coach, Warren Zeigle, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that, “The thing that struck you about Nate wasn’t just his talent. It was the way he applied himself, how hard he worked to learn and get better at everything.”

McLouth knows how hard success is to come by, and how rare it is in the game that is filled with life lessons. “I’m really blessed to be in the position I’m in,” McLouth says. “I owe it to everyone else who hasn’t been blessed to do what I do.”

He echoes the words of a former Pittsburgh Pirates great third baseman and outfielder Bobby Bonilla, who once said, “We play a game of failure. When you fail 70 percent of the time [at the plate], failure doesn’t really enter in your mind. To be successful in our game, you can’t think about failing.”

“In baseball, there’s so much failure involved,” McLouth says. “Every day it is a part of your life. All that failure can make it tough.” He adds, “Without faith, it would be impossible.”

Despite a season that has made people around the league take notice of his talent, McLouth has had his struggles. He began the season batting .391. He then went into a slump before returning to form. When the tough times come, McLouth says, “I just try to remember how long the season is,” referring to the 162-game schedule. He adds, however, “It’s not as easy as it sounds.”

He is entering the game with All-Star performances. He has not committed an error all season. In the eight games preceding the break, McLouth has gone 11-for-36 with four home runs, five doubles, and 12 RBIs.

He has 19 home runs, the fourth highest of any centerfielder in the majors. His 65 RBIs is second only to Texas Rangers Josh Hamilton at that position. McLouth has knocked 33 doubles— three more than any player in the National League.

A little-considered stat, however, is indicative of McLouth’s character. He ranks seventh among National League hitters in pitches forced. It is testament to his patience at the plate, which also has been necessary in his journey from high school to the major leagues, when he sometimes was overlooked despite success.

McLouth was a high-school standout. He batted .514 as a senior and went 51 for 51 in steals but had to share the Mr. Baseball honors as Michigan’s top amateur, and USA Today gave him only an honorable mention on its All-America list.

McLouth actually made his way up from the minors in a relatively quick three years, but riding all those buses and less than first-rate hotels “seemed like an eternity,” he says.
When he did get called up to the majors, the team’s manager and coaches at the time still had doubts about him, despite his excellent play. That changed when management changed coaches, who gave him a legitimate shot at the position in spring training.

The kid from the small town of Whitehall says he tries not to be star-struck when playing on the same field as legends he has watched while growing up. There are moments he will remember, however.  “Playing against Ken Griffey Jr.—that was special.”

Having a sense of one’s own talent is key to a player’s success, especially when facing the league’s top talent. “You have to tell yourself you’re as good as them,” McLouth says. Coming from McLouth, that isn’t arrogance. It’s just the way the game must be approached.

It’s always about perspective for McLouth, who emphasizes more than hard work and a determined attitude that has brought him his current success. “God gave me this game as a gift.”

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