1. The ability to do something or act in a particular way, especially as a faculty or quality. “The power of speech”
2. The capacity or ability to direct or influence the behavior of others or the course of events. “She had me under her power”
1. Supply (a device) with mechanical or electrical energy. “The car is powered by a fuel-injected 3.0-liter engine”
2. Move or travel with great speed or force. “They powered past the dock toward the mouth of the creek”
Being a professional baseball player I hear the word power brought up all the time. Over the course of my career, I’ve had to re-learn what power is. When I mention power, you might think I’m referring to the verb sense of the word. That is understandable because in baseball we think of power as strength, force and speed. I feel as though that type of power has always been a big part of my game.
Nevertheless, the specific type power I learned about during my time playing in Korea is best expressed in the noun form: “The capacity or ability to direct or influence the behavior of others or the course of events.” Playing and living in Korea, I learned how to lead, influence and direct others. These “others” were most often people who didn’t speak the same language as me. I guess that is what made this an even tougher feat. However, I took on the challenge of knowing that every little move I made was going to be magnified and scrutinized. Being an American playing overseas, you are always held to a higher standard. You are lifted and put on a higher pedestal than all of your teammates. Some would even call it a “savior” of some sorts. A savior would describe my God, who allowed me to be in this position in the first place. But whether you like it or not, you are expected to play at an indescribably high level.
When we break down the definition of power, we arrive at the true reason God led me to play in Korea. Influencing the behaviors of others was a deciding factor on why I even chose to go play in a foreign country. I didn’t want to allow myself to be like most every other player who just goes over overseas to make some bread, cheese, cake and get the bag. Of course, financially that played a part in my decision-making process, but that wasn’t the priority. The priority was to dive into the culture and to create an environment of love and peace all around me. I wanted Koreans to sense that I was different than the majority of Americans/foreigners they had played with in the past.
I looked at this as a perfect opportunity to let my faith take over my season and provide others with a chance to witness how a strong faith can affect their outlook on life. I understood at a young age what influence looked like; I was prepared for this early on in my life. My parents taught me that there are both good and bad influences. Now today, I have a better idea of what that looks like. Good, influential people encourage positivity and bring out the best in others. These people don’t draw attention to themselves, but instead they put others’ needs before their own. In Korea, I constantly reminded myself I was there to be an example of what victory and success looked like without the wins or losses. A goal of mine was to illustrate that winning and losing doesn’t define you. In contrast, how you go about the process and your business is what ultimately changes the behaviors of others who are carefully watching you.
Most importantly I wanted to show them what a follower of Christ looks like. I wanted them to really see what His love represents. I wanted them to see the things that help me excel at a high level. Most of these things have nothing to do with baseball. They have more to do with focus, commitment, persistence and discipline — the same behaviors that were instilled in me by my parents while I was growing up. Many of these characteristics and traits I had to learn in an unfavorable fashion.
We all have lessons that have been learned and discovered the hard way, but through the process of learning them, we develop a new mind, a new spirit and a new way of living life. My second year in Korea was mostly about continuing to learn things the hard way. It was about learning how it takes a specific type of person to fight through a season of struggle or a season of downfalls. I’m not only referring to struggles within my sport, but the struggles that most people can relate to. I’m talking about everyday struggles that life throws at you like a nasty slider from Jacob deGrom or a dirty cutter from Marc Melancon.
Though, through all the downfalls, the question to ask yourself is: Do you allow trials and tribulations to defeat you, your character and all that you stand for? Through my experiences, I now know that most people remember how you respond when you go through tough times. That seems to stick with them. I’m not saying pleasing people should be on our minds. But I am saying if you are trying to influence people or groups of people, you can’t afford to allow the integrity of your character to waver. As a follower of Christ, I’m trying to influence every single person I come in contact with, especially my family. The person that is able to do this at an unceasing rate, I now know that person is powerful.
I want everyone reading this to understand that while I was in Korea, I learned precisely “where” power comes from. Power doesn’t just come from within. I believe it comes from multiple sources. I learned that power is understanding how to lean on someone else for strength during tough times. As a matter of fact, now I try to take sources of power and strength wherever I can get them. Being in Korea, I quickly learned that I wasn’t going to be in control most of the time. I had to adapt to a new environment and completely new circumstances than what I was used to. Often, I would get frustrated because things on or off the field didn’t go my way. I learned to derive strength from my translators, my family, English speaking staff and teammates.
There is power in patience. I specifically learned this from my wife, who was brave enough to give birth to our first son in Korea. I asked my wife to uproot her life, leaving behind her family, her friends, her amazing job, her church, her lifestyle, her Bravo channel, her favorite foods, her gym, her shops, and her home — all to journey to South Korea for my profession. When I repeat that last sentence in my head, I now comprehend how crazy she thought I was at the time! She turned down the opportunity of being comfortable for a chance to experience a new country and culture with me. Then in year two, she gave me the greatest gift she could ever give a man: She birthed a son. Maybe that’s why his name is Ezekiel, which means God will strengthen (in Hebrew). Our son represents the strength and power passed down from the Lord to our family, which we don’t even deserve.
My wife taught me how to understand how to take things one day at a time, one hour at a time, and one minute at a time. She showed me power through making friends who don’t speak her language, traveling by any means of transportation to see me play in multiple Korean cities, and giving birth in a foreign hospital. Throughout the whole pregnancy in Korea, she was pretty calm, level headed and excited about what was to come on June 5, 2018. And when that day came, I learned what true power was. I learned through watching her what it was like to use breathing to control your thoughts and turn your emotions into energy. I watched her control her own behavior through pain and struggle. She bravely demonstrated a sense of desire through the most unpleasant circumstances. When our son arrived and she held him for the first time, she displayed a perfect love in her eyes that I will never forget.
My reason for mentioning these things is because my wife painted a very real picture to me on how to navigate through my own fears, struggles and tough times. She showed me how there is a blessing waiting at the end of those trials. How could I ever give up on something I started? How could I not “power through it”? My wife showed me how to get it done. She influenced me and my future behaviors concerning anything I do. Yes, baseball is tough, but when I look at my wife’s perseverance, I’m encouraged to do everything I can for my family and myself. She is also my reason for wanting to come back to Major League Baseball. She sacrificed for our family, now it’s time for us to be home. Thanks to her, I am where I am today and have everything I have ever needed because she is so powerful.
Lastly, I learned how to give up power. I learned that ultimate power is not mine. Yes, I could use power for the first part of the definition, “influencing the behaviors of others.” But I can’t use power for the second part, “influencing a course of events.” As much as I sometimes wish everything could work according to my plan, it doesn’t. Sometimes I feel like I can take all the right steps and do all the right things, and stuff still won’t turn out my way. I confess I learned that I have not and never will be in control of the events that happen in my life. I had planned to play better my second year in Korea than I did my first. How could I not when I missed almost two months in the first year due to an oblique injury? How could I not do better when I had continuously improved year after year?
I learned how. I tried to tell God how things were going to go. I may not have vocalized these things to Him, but I expressed them to Him through my thoughts and actions. I was humbled very quickly and learned the power wasn’t in my hands. I had to learn the hard way there is only one being truly worthy of power and it’s not me. I learned through failure how to give up power to the only being who can influence a course of events in my life.
We make plans and God laughs. Proverbs 19:21 reminds us, “You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail” (NLT). As people on this earth, the moment we learn to give all the power and the glory to Him is the moment we learn how to live. It is God who has taught me through my experiences in Korea how to live. Through His power, He has given me life. I believe that someone who provides life is powerful. God is true Power.
— Xavier Scruggs, professional baseball player
The Increase, part of the Sports Spectrum Network, is a community of Christian pro athletes sharing their personal stories of the decrease of self and the increase of Christ (John 3:30). Visit TheIncrease.com for more stories and videos.