New Season, Same Approach

Mavs senior Chadwick brings football acumen to baseball diamond

by Aaron Garcia

Marvin Ridge senior Tyler Chadwick is ready to lead his young Mavs to another breakout season.

Tyler Chadwick knows firsthand it can work.

Last year, the Marvin Ridge baseball team finished the season 20-11, with an 8-2 Southern Carolina 3A/4A conference record, good for the Mavs’ fourth consecutive league title and a trip to the Class 3A Western Sectional final. It was the best season in the strong – though brief – history of the program. It was the kind of campaign that readjusts expectations and builds lasting momentum, and Chadwick thinks the Mavericks can capitalize on last spring’s progress.

Even with just three returning starters from last year’s club.

“We’re not going to rebuild,” said Chadwick.

For many, the rebuilding process is a cold, concrete reality – an ugly, necessary step when experiencing the kind of turnover the Mavericks have faced.

Perhaps no one is more familiar with the concept than Chadwick.

Last fall, as the football team’s third-year starting quarterback, Chadwick found himself lining up among scores of new faces after the Mavs graduated 28 seniors. Facing dulled expectations, the Mavs finished the season 10-2 and advanced to the second round of the Class 3A playoffs, recording the best season in school history.

So why start rebuilding now?

“That was the same mentality we had for football: We’re not going to rebuild,” Chadwick said. “We didn’t want to rebuild in football, so we’re not going to rebuild in baseball, either.

“The good thing is: The younger kids understand that, too, and they’re excited about this year.”

Obviously, Marvin Ridge baseball coach Mark Mennitt is lucky to have Chadwick’s leadership.

“To be honest with you, that leadership probably started when he played out here early,” said Mennitt.

He has a point. Though Chadwick’s father, Scott, is Marvin Ridge’s football coach, Chadwick didn’t begin playing football until he was in the seventh grade. His father had seen other players get burned out from overexposure to the sport and wanted to guard against that. Besides, being a football coach doesn’t leave a ton of time to shuttle kids to different practice fields.

But springtime brought with it a rare lull in the family’s schedule, so Chadwick played baseball and loved it. He remembers stories his parents told him about how the other parents in his T-ball league wanted him to move up a level to coach-pitch. He simply hit the ball too hard, and the other parents feared for their kids’ safety.

“I think around then my parents knew I was going to be all right at the game,” he said with a laugh.

From there, his baseball career progressed to all-star teams and travel-ball tournaments. By the time he reached Marvin Ridge as a freshman, not only was Chadwick ready to step in and earn innings, he batted .400 – an exceptional mark for a freshman.

Mennitt said he learned then what Chadwick would bring to the program for the next three years.

“He’s a guy that’s going to bring his lunch pail every day,” Mennitt said. “You know what you’re going to get, there’s no mystery. Some guys are a box of chocolates, but he’s a mint, every time.”

By the time he was a sophomore, Chadwick started for both teams – as the quarterback in football and a third baseman and pitcher in baseball. As a junior, Chadwick continued to excel in both sports and was a major spark for the baseball team and its magical postseason run by hitting .352 and recording a 1.62 ERA on the mound. He earned all-conference honors and accepted a scholarship to play baseball at Coastal Carolina.

With his future plans set and nothing left to prove, it would be understandable if Chadwick did his best while also accepting the lackluster fate that could accompany a lineup rife with new faces.

But that’s really not his style, as he showed in the fall. Besides, he said, having such success in football eliminated many of the excuses the baseball team could use this spring.

“If football wasn’t the way it was, I think some of that optimism (wouldn’t be here),” Chadwick explained. “I think we would’ve been a little hesitant to be playing some of the younger kids.

“We plugged kids in in football, and it seemed to work out really well and everybody worked so hard. I’m seeing the same level of work and energy in baseball that I saw in football.”

Having other examples of that never-say-rebuild approach on the baseball team – such as football players Jacob Henderson, Carter Harris and David Weidman – certainly helps.

“In football, we had so many question marks, but many of the question marks turned out to be some of our best players,” Chadwick said. “Hopefully, it will be the same way with baseball.”

But the football team didn’t simply succeed because the new players turned out to be solid replacements. Sure, that was part of it, but Scott Chadwick said his son spent loads of extra time coaching up his teammates and getting them ready for the varsity schedule.

“He really cares about these programs and wants them to continue to flourish after he’s gone,” Scott said.

And that means helping the guys who’ll still be wearing Mavs uniforms after he departs for Coastal Carolina. It seems that many seniors are successful, but Mennitt said few foster the improvement of those around him the way Chadwick has.

“He’s got the respect of the other kids, obviously, but he’s approachable,” said Mennitt. “I think that’s what makes him special in terms of that because kids aren’t afraid to ask him questions and lean on him for advice.

“That’s the very root of leadership, to be approachable.”

With so many early-season holes to fill, Chadwick will be called to play a multitude of positions, including third base, shortstop, second base, pitcher and catcher.

Mennitt believes Chadwick is ready for the challenge. No, Chadwick relishes it. And that, said the coach, might be the senior’s best quality.

“He’s a guy you know you can count on,” Mennitt said. “If you need something at the plate, he’s the guy you want at the plate. He’s the guy you want on the mound, and he’s the guy you want the ball hit to in the field.

“He relishes the pressure that comes with being that guy. I think that’s a testament to the kind of person he is. He wants to be the guy people look to.”

No matter what field he’s on.

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