Former MLB player and current ESPN/SiriusXM/MLB.com Analyst with his own business, Extraordinary Athletes, Xavier Scruggs, joins Heaven to the Yeah grace ambassador, Jordan Gray as he shares his journey, not only through baseball, but also through his faith and the impact faith has had on his career.
Scruggs, originally from San Diego, grew up playing three sports: football, basketball, and baseball. Upon entering high school, he narrowed his sports down to his first love—baseball. In his senior year of high school, he had the opportunity to be drafted by the Seattle Mariners, but he declined the offer and decided to attend college at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. Here, he played baseball for the UNLV Rebels for three years before he was again drafted by the Cardinals, to which he accepted at this point in his career, feeling more confident in his abilities.
Scruggs went on to play in the Minor Leagues for six years before entering the Major Leagues where he played for the St. Louis Cardinals, then the Miami Marlins, before going on to play for the NC Dinos of the KBO League (the highest-level league of baseball in South Korea). Scruggs retired from his baseball career in 2019 and officially ended his time in the Major Leagues in 2020 after the hit of the COVID-19 pandemic, but not before finding his way on his faith journey over his athletic career.
Ever since day one, Scruggs has always been raised in a church home. This foundation laid before him helped Scruggs come to understand what it meant to have faith, to be a Christ follower, and the meaning of morals and values. With such a foundation, Scruggs came to find that his faith impacted his athletics, and life, journey as he wanted all watching him to see this light of faith shining through him and to be that light for those he encountered along the way. Scruggs’ goal has also been not just to be an athlete, but to impact as many people as he can through everything he does. While Scruggs grew up having a loving family instilling in him the values of faith, he still had to navigate through his own path, which led him down some dark alleys until he saw the light shine as he carried his faith with athletic journey.
When Scruggs went to college, he was thrown into an unfamiliar world in the heart of Vegas, AKA “sin city,” but he was still excited to experience life and find his own way. Eventually, one dark path led to another, and Scruggs found himself in a position where he was pretending to be someone he wasn’t. One day, Scruggs’ coach called him into the office, saying that he wanted Scruggs to hear something. To this, the Coach Buddy then proceeded to play a recording of someone calling in that they had seen Scruggs, an underage player at the time, out drinking and partying, pretending to be a major league player.
It was in this moment that everything began to crash back into reality for Scruggs as he realized baseball could have been taken away from him in any moment, as the man on the recording noted that Scruggs should be removed from the team and expelled from the school, and that he not only let himself down, but his teammates as well who also heard the message. Scruggs was supposed to be an exemplary person for his team, but not while leading a dual life between leadership and sinning. “If you say you are a Christ follower, then show you are going to walk that walk; this situation helped me lean into my faith and understand the influence I had on my team, family, and people around me.
This discovery helped Scruggs come to understand the platform he has in the world and how big his influence truly is within society, leading to his passion of being a leader within his family and community. He found that he can show you do not have to be one dimensional but can do a multitude of things with the variety of gifts given to you. However, it was made clearer, as the light grew brighter, that he did not get to this point on his own—he had help from someone bigger than himself. “I had to dive deeper into prayer and spend more time with the Lord.” The more time spent with the Lord, the more Scruggs came to see that he had to hold himself accountable and that he was not first a baseball player, nor an athlete, but there are bigger things that come before him. “Once I understood this, my journey grew. I was able to speak with people and grow closer to the Lord [as I came to see that my] faith life is always going to be bigger than what I do.” In knowing his faith life is bigger than anything, Scruggs has had something to lean on, especially when balancing the worlds of humility and pride.
“It’s tough,” was Scruggs’ reply when asked how he balanced his own humility versus pride amongst all his successes, “especially in baseball, a very one-on-one sport where you need to have confidence, or even an ego.” However, Scruggs was able to overcome his ego and find that balance when he fully understood that there is going to be failure, no matter the sport, but the true test would be how someone responds to their own failures, or even their own successes. “Once I started to understand that failure is how you learn, that is when my game evolved; even in life, this is where I found my faith grew.” No matter who someone is, or how successful they are, God will always place you in situations to help you learn and grow within yourself and the world around you. God will always be on your side as he bestows his Grace upon the world.
“God’s Grace is an everlasting love that I could never earn, could never try to deserve, and definitely don’t deserve it.” Scruggs comments on how God’s Grace, leading him to where he is, is a whole different level of love that cannot really be explained, but has begun to become clearer now that he has children of his own. Scruggs explains that his favorite Bible verse, John 3:16, has obtained a whole new level of meaning in his life as God sacrificed his only begotten son for the salvation of his children here on earth. “[This understanding helps me know] that no matter what I do, I’ve already won with God’s Grace [in my life]. It gives me solace and the opportunity to go out and live the life God wants me to live.” However, even with God’s love and Grace, there will always be challenges to face as faith is lived in the daily lives.
“It is difficult to live out my faith every day. That is why we need to put our arms around God.” Scruggs continues as he highlights the need to remind ourselves of the Word and find time to spend with the Lord each day, especially when living in a secular world. He then goes on to discuss the concept of discipleship and the need to surround ourselves with the right people and feed them as they feed us. “My family is going to watch my actions, not necessarily listen to what I do, so my example comes from my actions.” And through these actions, God’s light will continue to shine, especially when He has to real in the reins a bit and slow you down, which is what was called to light in Scruggs’ eyes when battling the labyrinth that was the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are always planning for the future. In 2020, I still wanted to play baseball; I was still training and working out, until I tore my Achilles tendon.” With COVID shutting everything down, and facing such an injury as an Achilles tear, Scruggs saw this challenge in faith as God’s way of slowing him down and telling him to simply live day-by-day without knowing what is going to come next. “[This was all a] reminder that God controls everything. We don’t control our lives; we simply need to walk accordingly to God’s plan.” God’s plan may just be about slowing down enough to recognize and appreciate the little things that come into view.
When asked if Heaven to the Yeah resonated with him, Scruggs replied by saying, “Sometimes it’s just the little things we don’t notice throughout the day, and have to think, ‘would that be God’s thinking?’” When saying ‘Heaven Yeah,’ or ‘Heaven to the Yeah,’ it reminds us to stay away from the negative and brings positivity into daily life. Such positivity helps Scruggs live with Heaven in view as he deems this to be the ultimate goal. “Just being with Jesus, our Lord and Savior, it is perfection. [Heaven] is a place where all the bad does not go on. Knowing a place like Heaven exists is unreal and it excites me and motivates me to be a better person.”
Before ending his time with Gray, Scruggs was asked for some words of encouragement for all the readers, listeners, and viewers, to which he replied, “think of some of the weaknesses you have and turn them into strengths. You need to be able to work on the things you struggle at to see the progress and strides in life.”
The Heaven to the Yeah team thanks Xavier Scruggs for taking the time to share his story and wisdom with us and will be praying for all the best upon him and his family.