Swilley, a 10-year-old playing up in a 12-and-under league, was starting behind the plate for the East Marietta White Sox in a Little League baseball game against Team Sub-Zero from Smyrna.
Sub-Zero’s Gabriel Mathis hit a ball down the right field line, and ended up on third base. But nobody was paying attention to Mathis, as Swilley was knocked out on the ground. Mathis accidentally hit Swilley in the face mask with the back swing of his bat on the play.
“I was in the dugout,” recalled Smith Swilley, Braeden’s father. “I’m an assistant coach on the team. Usually, I watch the ball, but I saw what happened (to Braeden) and went to tend to him before the play even ended. I didn’t care about whether or not the kid scored.
“He was kind of bent over at the waist when it happened. He started rubbing the side of his said. He said, ‘Dad, he got me good’. We actually requested for him to come out of the game, but he wouldn’t do it.”
Indeed, Braeden stayed in.
After umpires conferred with White Sox coach Mike Beltrami and with Sub-Zero coach Bobby Young, Mathis was ruled out on the play. In Little League rules, players aren’t allowed to toss bats, and are ruled out for safety reasons.
Mathis returned to the dugout, clearly distraught, either from hitting Swilley, being called out or a
combination of the two. Regardless, before the next pitch even after umpires called for play to resume, Braeden got out of his crouch and walked over to Team Sub-Zero’s dugout.
When the crowd noticed Braeden’s initial reaction, the crowd went silent, anticipating a potential confrontation. Instead, Braeden spoke with Gabriel through the fence separating the field and the dugout, and touched gloves in a gesture that confirmed everything was OK.
Afterwards, everyone applauded — the crowd, the two teams and even the umpires.
“Actually, I’ve been coaching in Smyrna for about six years,” Young said. “You will see small gestures of sportsmanship, but nothing of that magnitude. We were just out here playing baseball. (The incident) wasn’t intentional. We’re just going to play baseball. I’d never seen anything like that before, but it was a little bit different.”
Little League Baseball thought it was a little different, too. As a result of Braeden’s good sportsmanship, the organization selected Braeden Swilley as the 2012 Little League Good Sport of the Year. Braeden and his family will be recognized at a breakfast and an on-field ceremony during this year’s Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa. from Aug. 16-26.
“(Braeden) is a great kid with a big heart, and he was a great teammate to all of the other kids on the team,” White Sox coach Mike Beltrami said. “It was good to see a great kid get recognized for doing the right thing.”