Tournaments | Story | 6/29/2019

Robinson, SWA standing out

Jack Nelson        
Photo: Ethan Robinson (Perfect Game)

HOOVER, Ala. – Instead of using traditional batting gloves, Ethan Robinson uses a pair of yellow construction gloves when he hits. This is just one of the many ways that Robinson stands out on a baseball field. Scouts and fans alike got a glimpse of his impressive talent on Saturday, as the Tennessee native is playing with the SWA Storm in this week’s WWBA 14u National Championship.

“When I was in Miami for the Power Showcase last year, one of my friends was using them,” Robinson said of his choice of batting gloves. “I thought it would be cool to try them out and I’ve really liked them ever since.”

The gloves are unique, but you don’t realize how different Robinson truly is until he steps on the mound. The 6-foot-3, 180-pound righty sat in the high 80s against Banditos Scout team, tossing six innings and allowing just one unearned run. He was aggressive in the strike zone, as his first inning was just four pitches. Robinson attacks when he’s in that circle, but that should come as no surprise considering who his role model is.

“Max Scherzer,” he said. “He’s out there dominating and shows no emotion while doing it. He’s a monster.”

Robinson was the star of the show at the Hoover Met on Saturday, as numerous Power 5 colleges came out to field 5 see what all the hype was about. Last month at the Perfect Game North Atlanta Open, Robinson was up to 90 mph. Perfect Game does not rank at the 14u level, but even at this early stage Robinson has firmly established himself in the upper echelon of the class.

It is hard to remember he is just 14 years old.

“My parents started me in baseball when I was three,” he said. “By the time I was about six I’ve fallen in love with the game. It’s been all I want to do.”

Robinson’s parents had him join a couple teams outside the family’s Antioch, TN-area home. But as their son got older, they craved more continuity in his playing career. They wanted him to make meaningful friendships with his teammates, and develop a bond with his coaches. They wanted this all while playing for the pride of middle Tennessee. That is when Ethan came to SWA.

“We’ve been around for six years,” said SWA coach Brad Phillips. “We’re not one of these teams that flies in a bunch of guys for a tournament. We are essentially an all star team around the Nashville area. We are actually the oldest age group in the SWA program. We won in Cooperstown with this group two years ago, and right after that Ethan came and joined us. He’s given us quite a bit of notoriety, and that has kind of catapulted us.”

As pleased as the Robinson’s were to find a program like SWA, Phillips and the others instructors are just as happy to have such a dynamic talent.

“First of all, he’s a great kid,” said Phillips. “We usually interview the families before a kid comes and enters the program, so we’ve gotten to know his parents pretty well. When Ethan joined us, his parents wanted him to have somewhere local to practice and build camaraderie with his teammates. He’s obviously electric on the mound, but he also fits in so well with us. It’s been awesome to have him.”

For players like Robinson, Perfect Game tournaments can be a coming out party. And while that has become undoubtedly true, Phillips brings a very talented roster down to Hoover and wants to expose all of his boys to the best talent in the country. The more they can see what is out there, the harder they are going to work in the future to prove themselves and win at the highest level.

“I like to bring these kids out to a tournament like this and see how we stack up against these top teams,” said Phillips. “It’s about getting them exposure. I also want them to see what it’s like to be on a big stage. It only serves them well in the future. I want them to be leaders on their high school teams. This is a good first step.”

Most travel ball organizations place an emphasis academic achievement and developing moral character. SWA is no different. But they take it one step further. SWA is more than just a team. It is one unit of coaches, players, and families. It is a singular, cohesive group. And it is this philosophy that coach Phillips believes sets them a part from most programs, and in the future, will translate to more success.

“It’s more than just about wins with us,” said Phillips. “We have a spiritual aspect that brings the boys closer. And after the games we all go to dinner together, so this all puts things into perspective. We talk and we laugh. We have fun. I think all this can only help on the baseball field.”

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