I Cor. 1:26–29 NIV
The colorful Yogi Berra said, “Baseball is 90 percent mental, the other half is physical.” While we take issue with his math, many current players dispute his ideology, as well. Increasingly, professional athletes have incorporated the exercise of their faith into the discipline of their sport. As a result, they have risen to the top of their games.
Following are three of baseball’s finest:
Albert Pujols, first baseman and slugger for the Los Angeles Angels. An only child, raised by his grandmother in the Dominican Republic, he used limes for baseballs and a milk carton for a glove. “God made me older,” he explains, as his father’s alcoholism and his family’s poverty marshaled in the young boy a determination to live responsibly. No one suggests that he has done otherwise. His statistics are staggering; beginning with his first professional season, he continues to break or tie league records.
His wife, Deidre, first accepted Christ and he followed shortly afterward. He writes, “In the Pujols family, God is first. Everything else is a distant second. My life’s goal is to bring glory to Jesus. My life is not mostly dedicated to the Lord, it is 100 percent committed to Jesus Christ and His will. God has given me the ability to succeed in the game of baseball. But baseball is not the end; baseball is the means by which my wife Dee Dee and I glorify God. Baseball is simply my platform to elevate Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior.”
John Smoltz, Atlanta’s beloved pitcher, was raised in a Christian home but he struggled with the true meaning of grace. “I said the prayer,” he said. “If I said it a thousand times I said it two thousand times.” One evening John posed some questions to the team chaplain. “I’ve prayed the prayer … Maybe sometime down the road I’ll turn my life over to the Lord, and the rest will be history. What prevents me from doing that?” The chaplain replied, “Nothing prevents you from doing that with just one tiny exception. You might not make your target date. You are not in control of your next breath.”
“I accepted Jesus and really understood that it’s not just a prayer, it’s a surrender,” he states. National League Championship Series MVP, Cy Young Award and countless records later he concludes, “The significance of all that as I climb the ladder … it is incredible but it doesn’t compare to the riches and glory of knowing where I’m going to be the day I die.”
Mike Sweeney, retired first baseman for the Kansas City Royals, shares, “When I gave my life to Christ, I thought I gave Him everything, but it was apparent that I was trying to do baseball on my own … There was great uncertainty about my career. I was on my knees when I saw the vivid picture of my life. It was so detailed,” he says. “It was a picture of a tandem bicycle.I was on the front seat ... trying to steer … and it struck me, That’s why I feel all of the pressure, because I’m trying to steer.
“I cried my eyes out that evening. It was a time of brokenness, a time when I said, ‘God, I cannot do this on my own. I realize I’ve been trying to do this baseball thing for years. Lord, I don’t know where I’m going to go. I don’t know what spring training has in store for me, but it’s time for me to get on the back seat. You’re going to steer me wherever You want to … and I’m going to pedal my heart out. I’m not going to get sidetracked.’”
Mike concludes, “Love for baseball and God have been passions of mine since I was young; however, the best I can ever accomplish in baseball can bring only temporary happiness … while knowing Christ brings me eternal joy.”
Gloria Gaither wrote, “God has always had a people.” In a field of dreams, God clad them in cleats and uniforms.