This post was written by Kyle Dupic. 

In the last issue of Sports Illustrated, MLB pitcher Trevor Bauer was featured due to his lightning rod of a personality. Bauer is a perfect example of the way social media has expanded and highlighted our love/hate relationship with nearly everything.

He is on the cutting edge of mastering how to become the best pitcher possible, researching everything he can to gain an edge. He proclaims that he is an ordinary, average athlete who has engineered himself into being one of the top baseball pitchers in the game today. In so many ways, he is the world’s perfect example of a self-made man.

As a pitching coach myself, I see two continuums that coaches/players navigate when they begin to master their craft. On one end, they 1) become incredibly humble because the more they know, the more they realize they don’t know and thus, are more open to learning from others or 2) become incredibly dogmatic about what they believe, refusing to learn or listen to others. Bauer has strongly swung towards number two his entire life and therefore has burned a great deal of bridges.

Littered within the article are numerous exchanges and opinions he has on a variety of topics. His dating rules include: 1) no feelings allowed; 2) no social media posts while together; and 3) he will continue to sleep with other people. He has strong political views on numerous issues, including pushing back on the reality of climate change. He seems to enjoy foul language and pushing inappropriate references into anything he can (he had a 69 days of giving where he gifted $420.69 to charities everyday for 68 days, then on the 69th day gave $69,420.69; he often throws 3 sets of 23 pitches, which adds up to 69). He seems to have little-to-no remorse over the negative interactions he has with people. He responded harshly to a relatively benign social media post a woman sent him; he and his followers harassed her for the next three days. In response to this, Bauer explains that being a role model for him means it is okay to stand up for yourself (even, I wonder, if that means running a truck over the other person?). He has gotten in regular arguments with coaches, teammates and organizations because he refuses to do their programs, only sticks to his own. Some of those in his current organization have said that their current clubhouse consists of “24 plus Trevor” (an MLB roster has 25 players on it). The article sums it up by titling the story aptly: “The Hate Magnet”.

Have I succeeded in helping you feel as negative about him as I do? He is an easy person to hate. Even before this story, I was vaguely aware of his time training at an organization I have the utmost respect for — which ended poorly. I had heard that it had quite a bit to do with his personality not meshing with this organization’s, which falls towards the more humble learning side. When I saw a few videos and tweets outlining the main points of the article, my mind was even more set. What a terrible human being. It made so much sense why he left the organization I love and currently attends another baseball training organization I don’t have a great deal of respect for. I’ve heard this organization’s founder speak about how any press is good press, even bad press. He believes one should be aggressive towards people who are wrong (in his opinion) on Twitter because it is good press for the organization.

Opinion cemented…right? But then I read the article…

In a lot of ways, Bauer’s story mirrors my own story in baseball. I wasn’t a great athlete either. He struggles with body image, an inability to gain muscle and lose fat. I was a skinny kid who struggled to put on the necessary weight to compete at the levels I wanted. He was bullied in elementary school. In the article his parents said he is an “expert in bullying” because it happened to him so often. When I read that, I was immediately transported back into my own middle and high school days. I hated those years. I became an angry recluse, driven by that anger to prove the world wrong and become a great athlete. By all accounts I did, albeit not to the degree that Bauer did. I wasn’t ever supposed to really play in high school. I did. And became one of the better players on our baseball team. I wasn’t supposed to play in college, be an All-League player, set any school records. But…check, check and check. And his insistence to do things his own way? I did this too. My brother was my pitching coach in college and was often asked by the trainers why I refused to do their warm-up. Because they were wrong of course! I had total belief in what had gotten me there and I didn’t want someone getting me off that path.

The person I hated so easily had become a bit too human for me in that article, because ultimately, I saw myself in Bauer. I too was the hurt child who responded in the only way he knew how: by putting up walls, barriers, and protecting oneself from any and all vulnerability.

There is a key difference between Trevor Bauer and me now, though. This comes not because I found a way out, but because Someone else found me. Grace found me exactly as I was: broken, hurt, vengeful and self-righteous. And it tore through those walls and showed me a God who delighted in me. Not only did God find me after I achieved everything I wanted my freshman year of college and the accolades seemed empty and meaningless, but He showed up again 7 years later, and gently showed me He still loved me. This, despite all of my continued faults and despite all the ways I was so sure I would have improved by then. And God continues to show me He feels the same way about me today, right now, progress or not.

It sounds like Bauer had a horrible childhood and that honestly, he did the best he possibly could, given the circumstances. I wish the toll it took on him hadn’t created a response that allows him to justify lashing out on others. I can only hope that one day, he finds the God who was lashed upon for his sake. Or rather, that God finds him.