by Blake Stewart
In 1970, it was the Baltimore Orioles who took home the World Series title, defeating the Cincinnati Reds in five games. The series—the last in which all games were played in the afternoon—featured future Hall of Famers Johnny Bench and Brooks Robinson. Umpire Emmett Ashford made history, too, becoming the first African American to umpire a game in the Fall Classic.
In the 1970s, Major League Baseball was changing. New rules had recently established a smaller strike zone and lowered the pitcher’s mound. The game now favored speed and defense over home-run hitting power with fewer pitchers throwing a complete game. It was the era of Pete Rose, Lou Brock and Reggie Jackson.
And it was at this moment in history that Trevecca made a little baseball history of its own by starting the University’s first intercollegiate baseball program. The program, now in its 50th season, will be honored during this year’s Homecoming Weekend events, which include an alumni baseball game and reunion.
While the program continues to grow and change, the legacies of Trevecca coaches and players live on. Their achievements highlight what it means to be a Christian-Scholar-Athlete, the guiding principle of Trevecca Athletics.
Get to know a few of the defining players and coaches throughout the past five decades of Trevecca baseball history.
1970s: Coach Bill Green
The journey to Trevecca baseball wouldn’t exist without the efforts of Bill Green, Trevecca’s first baseball coach. The events leading up to Green’s hiring play out as a tale of God’s timing, putting into place God’s crafted plan of bringing Green and Trevecca’s then president, Mark R. Moore, together.
Green was a high school principal in Kansas when his pastor, a good friend of Moore’s, asked Green if he was interested in coaching at the collegiate level. Trevecca needed someone to establish a health and physical education program and coach basketball, the pastor said. Intrigued, Green contacted Moore about the job and moved to Nashville in 1969.
In 1970, Green asked Moore about starting a baseball team. By the spring of ’71, Trevecca had fielded the University’s first baseball team. Over the years, Trevecca baseball has grown into a championship-caliber program, with a storied 15 conference championship titles spanning NAIA and NCAA Division II.
Green spent nine years (1970-1979) at the helm of Trevecca’s baseball program, during which he coached four 20-win teams and garnered a number of conference and division Coach of the Year titles. He went on to lead Union University to two conference championships before returning to high school coaching and administration. Green was inducted into the Trevecca Athletics Hall of Fame in 2007.
1980s: Clay Boone
Clay Boone always had hopes of playing collegiate baseball, and the opportunity arose at Trevecca. Boone says Elliot Johnson, who coached the team from 1980-1990, was instrumental not only in Boone’s success on the ball field but also in his life.
“I didn’t have a father growing up, and Coach Johnson was genuinely sincere with me,” Boone recalls. “I really looked up to him, and he sold me on Trevecca.”
The East Nashville native arrived on the Hill in 1986, playing centerfield for the Trojans. During his collegiate career (1987-1990), Boone was named an NAIA Honorable Mention All-American. In his junior year, Boone achieved a career high .361 batting average, played error free, scored 49 runs, and successfully completed 31 of 32 stolen
His career stolen base record stood for 15 years before Brad Coon topped it in 2004. Boone finished his career second in runs scored, third in triples, fourth in doubles, and sixth in RBI. He was inducted into the Trevecca Athletics Hall of Fame in 2005.
After graduating in 1990 with a degree in political science and history, Boone earned a law degree, then went into business with a friend, starting Franklin American Mortgage Company, where he has worked since 1994.
1990s: Chris Collins
Chris Collins, from Tucson, Ariz., came to Trevecca his freshman year and played one season under Coach Jeff Forehand.
Collins played for the University of New Mexico and South Mountain Community College in Phoenix, Ariz., before returning to the Hill to finish his collegiate career. His best season was in 2002 as a senior, leading the TranSouth in home runs with 20 and driving in 51 runs.
He graduated from the University in 2002, earning a bachelor’s degree in communications, which he quickly followed up with a master’s in management in 2004.
A standout player for Trevecca, Collins spent four years as an assistant coach with the program. When Forehand left Trevecca to coach at Lipscomb University, Collins took over the team, becoming the sixth head coach in program history. In all, Collins spent six years serving in various coaching positions at the University.
As coach, Collins led Trevecca to the program’s highest national ranking in history in 2007 when the Trojans were ranked No. 4 nationally in the NAIA.
Now an executive pastor at Oro Valley Church of the Nazarene in Arizona, Collins remembers his time as a player and coach as being influential and special.
“At Trevecca, you’re able to focus on the things that influence people the most—like the spiritual aspect—[and the effect] that has on a student and an athlete,” he says.
2000s: Matt Swinehart
Playing baseball in rural East Tennessee, Matt Swinehart was recruited by former Trevecca head coach Ryan Gray to join the Trojans at the collegiate level.
Recruited by other schools, Swinehart says he liked the Christian aspect and small community of Trevecca, which sold him on coming to the Hill.
“I was raised from a young age to follow Christ,” Swinehart says. “Having that at Trevecca really strengthened my faith and going to chapel and having that foundation at school was a big help.”
Swinehart says that one of his best memories as a baseball player was playing against Vanderbilt for the season opener. The Commodores had recently won the College World Series, and Trevecca gave the team some competition.
Competition aside, Swinehart cherishes the relationships he built during his time on the Hill, where he met his wife, Shelley, and developed lifelong friendships with teammates and coaches. “I built a lot of relationships with my team members,” Swinehart says. “We were a family. We roomed together in a suite, were always together on and off the field and always had
After graduation, Swinehart made a point to stay in touch with the coaches at Trevecca and has developed a relationship with current head coach Ryan Schmalz—who let Swinehart’s son’s little league team use Trevecca’s
2010s: Clay Staton
Clay Staton knew that baseball at Trevecca was where he was meant to be the moment he walked on campus.
“As soon as I got to [Trevecca], it felt like I was a part of a family,” Staton recalls. “When I shook Coach Schmalz’ hand and met the rest of the staff, I felt the feeling that this was where I wanted to be the next four years.”
A Tennessee native, Staton started playing baseball at the age of five. His primary position was catcher until he arrived on the Hill, where he transitioned to the outfield. “I came in with the attitude of doing whatever I had to do to help the team,” Staton recalls. “When Coach asked me to play left field, I said no problem.”
Those four years at Trevecca were instrumental in Staton’s life, he says. He developed lifelong friendships, but most importantly, his relationship with God grew.
For his final game on the Hill, Clayton says he knew Trevecca was the right choice. “I got the feeling that God was showing me that I did the right thing, and I was where I was supposed to be and that was a great experience for me,” Staton remembers.