Valdosta Daily Times

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March 12, 2012

COLUMN: VSU’s Bagwell is ultimate teammate

VALDOSTA — Don’t look now, Chaz Bagwell is playing a different position for the Valdosta State baseball team.

At least that is what you find yourself thinking every time you go out to a Blazer baseball game at Billy Grant Field.

Not like it is a bad thing the Blazers possess a verstatile player like Bagwell; it is a good thing — a weapon to be used on any given day.

“If you watch him play, he always gives his best effort,”his coach Greg Guilliams says. “He will play any position you ask him to.”

For Bagwell, playing any position that is asked by Guilliams is an easy thing to do. After all, putting a different glove on his left hand to go from second base to the outfield back to the infield, say first base, is a pretty easy task to accomplish when you consider the senior from Woodstock has recovered from four, yes I said four, seperate hip surgeries.

The first of the grand slam surgeries — I doubt the surgeries were as fun as jacking a grand slam over the outfield fence— came just weeks into the 2010 season. The injury sidelined the speedy Bagwell, who Guilliams considered one of the fastest players in Division II baseball prior to the 2011 season, for the entire season. The toughest part of missing the 2010 season was having to listen to his team win a Gulf South Conference championship on the radio, while he was sitting back in Valdosta injured and unable to contribute.

Following another hip surgery that summer, Bagwell returned to the Blazers in 2011, filling in at multiple positions, mainly the left side of the outfield and infield. But still, Bagwell was hampered by his hips, hitting just .298 on the season — he spent most of the year in the low .200’s — forcing him to endure two more surgeries last summer.

So, two years and four hip surgeries. Ouch! That would make me consider how much I truly love the sport.

But for Bagwell, all the surgeries were for one thing: get back to playing baseball at a high-level.

Bagwell is back with the Blazers this season, and he says he ‘feels good’, and you can tell by watching him play – remember I served as the radio announcer for VSU baseball in 2011, so I saw him play a lot.

“The second surgery really helped me a lot,” Bagwell said last week.

But still, for cautionary reasons, Bagwell ices both hips following each game, filling his pants with giant bags of ice that make him look, well to put it a nice way, larger than normal.

Despite the surgeries, Bagwell remained positive, something that would be hard for most of us to do — like I said, I would have already thrown in the towel. I guess that is what seperates us ‘normal people’ from the athletes that are determined to make it in their given sport. Bagwell is just one of those guys that is determined to make it.

Throughout the entire recovery process, Guilliams said Bagwell was there, supporting his teammates throughout all the adversity.

Now as a senior, and in his final year of eligibility, Bagwell is much more than a cheerleader and motivator for the team. He is contributing, and leading the team, both on and off the field.

On the field, he is hitting .327, as he is the only Blazer to appear in every game this season. He also leads the team in runs scored. Oh yeah, and he has already appeared in both the outfield and infield, most recently making a debut at first base, bringing his total number of positions played at Valdosta State to seven. Yes, seven different positions.

“If that is what is best for the team then I am going to do it,” Bagwell said about playing the different positions. “It is tough, but I have been a utility guy pretty much my whole life, so I am kind of used to it now.”

With him having appeared at seven positions in his career, it is probably safe to say he won’t be pitching or catching this season  — especially catching, as Christian Glisson is playing out of his mind this season.

Off the field, Bagwell is one of the strongest of Christian’s, carrying a large role in the Valdosta State Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

Did I mention he is a solid student too? So much in fact, that on a road trip to Flagler College in 2011, I caught Bagwell going over material for his accounting test by using his finger on the soda machine at Arby’s.

“He is really one of the leaders on our ball club,” Gulliams said. “He is just such a strong Christian and the players on the team have the upmost respect for him.”

Bagwell is the kind of teammate anyone in athletics would want to have. A guy that will do anything — four surgeries proves his drive — to get on the field, while doing everything right off the field.

And at the end of the day, you know Bagwell isn’t going home to get into trouble, and he is going to do ‘it the right way.’

Talk about letting your coach rest easy.

“think it says that good guys can finish first and he is definitely a good guy,” Guilliams said. “He is a special person.”

This column is the first of Ed’s new weekly column, which will print on Monday’s. Ed can be reached on Twitter at Ed_Hooper.

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