Sports Spectrum: Sharing Jesus at the Ballpark

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What began as one Gospel event in Detroit has spread across the major leagues



Personal testimonies from Daniel Norris, Matthew Boyd, James McCann, Buck Farmer and Michael Fulmer



Andrew McCutchen, Aaron Judge, the Minnesota Twins

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Rockies ace Jon Gray says sharing his faith is just as important as his fastball





A deadly, fiery crash has left Sean Rodriguez’s family grateful — and in awe of God

EDITOR IN CHIEF Raymond St. Martin


ART DIRECTOR Aaron Dean Sauer



GATEWAY TO FAITH God’s Word is being passed down from Cardinals veterans



Get into the Word with Clayton Kershaw, Daniel Murphy and Steven Souza



By Dave Dravecky, former major league pitcher



MANAGING EDITOR Jon Ackerman STAFF WRITERS Justin Adams Jason Romano David Smale Becky York

Sports Spectrum Global is a multimedia ministry with the purpose to impact people by connecting faith and sports in a relevant way, ultimately directing people, with resources for discipleship, toward a personal, loving God who demands Christ-centered lives. Printed in USA. Copyright © 2017 by Sports Spectrum Publishing. Bible quotations, unless otherwise noted, are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. SPORTS SPECTRUM (USPS # 023-364) is produced 4 times a year by Sports Spectrum Publishing Inc., 5712 C Stockbridge Drive, 2nd Floor, Monroe, NC 28110. Periodicals postage paid at Indian Trail, NC, and additional mailing offices.

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BALLPARK By Becky York


mong the few headliners over the years who have sold out Comerica Park, the Detroit Tigers’ home stadium, are The Rolling Stones, Bob Seger and Metallica. Featuring MLB players and big-name musicians, one annual event puts on a show that rivals those stars. It’s called Home Plate, which has drawn more than 170,000 people back to the baseball stadium, helped sell out Tigers games, and saved thousands of souls. It began when one man had a passion for the game of baseball, and an even greater affinity to see the Gospel proclaimed. Jeff Totten was the associate pastor at Grace Baptist Church in Birmingham, Mich., in 1987. Recognizing that most of the youth in his church were actively involved in sports and loved the game of baseball — much like himself — he arranged to bring the 5th-12th graders to a Tigers game. To Totten, this wasn’t just an opportunity to have fun with a bunch of fellow baseball fans, this was a vision to center the event around the Gospel. With bold faith, Totten wrote a letter to one of the Tigers’ starting pitchers, Frank Tanana, whom Totten had heard was a Christ-follower. The pastor explained his vision and invited the pitcher to share his testimony with the kids at a breakfast before the game. Upon receiving the letter, Tanana agreed. On April 25, 1987, the star pitcher shared his story of faith and presented the Gospel message to a group of 1,030 tweens and teenagers in a local banquet hall. That marked the very first Home Plate event. “When I heard about the outreach event Jeff wanted to do — inviting people to hear the Gospel and players’ testimonies before the game — I was thrilled,” Tanana said. “I was so excited to share what God had done in my life so that others can experience Christ as I had.” 2


Home Plate was a huge hit. Totten made the breakfast available to all ages the following season. He knew how great of a vehicle sports could be for the Gospel, and he wanted others to experience the same. As word of the pregame breakfast grew, so did the number of attendees. Year after year, more players shared their testimonies and more fans came to hear the Gospel. And year after year, the group needed to find a bigger venue to rent. Often times, they had to turn people away due to lack of space. That is until 1996, when the Tigers’ management recognized the increasing traffic this event brought to the games. Once originally unreceptive to the idea of hosting the event at the ballpark, the organization soon offered to let Totten have Home Plate in the seats of the stadium. While Tanana continues to share his story and be an active part of Home Plate each year, he loves to come alongside new players who enthusiastically tell of their own Gospel experience. Current Tigers pitcher Daniel Norris shares a similar enthusiasm for the event after experiencing his home field turn into a sanctuary for the first time at last year’s Home Plate event. “The ballpark is a big stage and it’s nice to be able to be out there together with other players, sharing the truth of Christ,” Norris said. “It’d be one thing to go to an event center, but it felt good to be literally on the field with people in the stands. As a player, we’re out there and just playing baseball every day. But to TO SUBSCRIBE TO SPORTS SPECTRUM: CALL 866-821-2971

Frank Tanana

James McCann

Photo by Jeff Goode/Getty

Comerica Park be able to stand out there and proclaim our faith was powerful. We were able to say, ‘God we understand that You’ve given us this field as a platform and here we are, using it to spread Your Word.’” From eggs, bacon and a bunch of rowdy teenagers in 1987, to 9,000 fans before a sold-out Tigers game 30 years later, Home Plate has become a highly-anticipated event year after year. And the enthusiasm isn’t limited to the fans in Detroit. In the 1990s and 2000s, minor league teams began to incorporate a “Faith Day” into their promotional schedule, drawing Christ-followers and fans alike to the stadium to experience testimonies from players. Though many mainstream media outlets have ridiculed or accused Christians of encroaching into the world of sports, there’s no denying that fans hunger for faith in the ballpark. Today, nearly 75 percent of major league teams host a Christcentered event each year at their home facility. Whether it’s called Faith Day, Fellowship Day, Faith and Family Night or Home Plate, the Gospel is proclaimed by pro athletes, coaches, umpires and chaplains who are eager to declare the reason they take the field: to bring glory to their Coach, their King — Jesus Christ. 3


In Minnesota, the Twins weren’t unfamiliar with bringing a night focused on faith and worship to their ballpark, but when outfielder Torii Hunter was traded from the Tigers to the Twins in 2015, he entered the clubhouse inspired by Home Plate. He insisted they bring Faith Night back to the Twin Cities. Catching Hunter’s excitement, pitcher Kyle Gibson and second baseman Brian Dozier joined him as they approached their chaplain, David McIver, to make it happen. “That year blew us away,” Gibson said. “And the year after that and the year after that. Even though last year our event followed a 14-inning game and met a thunderstorm 10 minutes into the presentation, it was still awesome.” Gibson went on to recall his favorite part of being involved in Faith Nights in Minneapolis: “The most memorable moments for me are the ones after the event, later on in the season when fans come up to me and the first thing they talk about is Faith Night. They may say, ‘I was going through a really hard time and what you said that night really hit me at just the right time!’ It’s these ongoing stories, from believers and non-believers alike, that bring us so much encouragement.” SPORTS SPECTRUM TO SUBSCRIBE TO SPORTS SPECTRUM: CALL 866-821-2971


“The most memorable moments for me are later on in the season when fans come up to me and the first thing they talk about is Faith Night. They say, ‘I was going through a really hard time and what you said that night really hit me at just the right time!’” — Twins pitcher Kyle Gibson T

he players aren’t the only ones who use their platform to share the message of Jesus Christ with fans on these nights. Top Christian performers such as MercyMe, David Crowder Band, Newsboys and many others join the festivities by providing their music, setting the stage for a night of worship. MercyMe, a contemporary Christian band founded in 1994, has faithfully led worship at dozens of MLB faith nights over the last 15 years. “We (the band) love baseball so it’s really easy to say yes,” MercyMe guitarist Mike Scheuzcher said. A die-hard Texas Rangers fan himself, Scheuzcher admits that since they’ve been invited to play in Arlington for Faith Night this 2018 season, he’s been counting down the minutes until the event. “I can’t wait! I’m hoping to meet Adrian Beltre,” he said. Though Scheuzcher recognizes that many of the fans may not have heard their music prior to their performances at the ballparks, they see it as an opportunity to shine Jesus in a major league way. “There are believers in all walks of life,” he said. “You may be a mechanic, a musician, an athlete or a stay-at-home mom. My number one goal as a Christfollower is to show the hope of Christ. It’s not to push the Bible on people, or



prioritize my music. It’s to say, ‘This is who I was before Jesus, and this is who I am now because of Jesus.’ People need hope. If we can share the hope of Christ with people through our music, just like an athlete can after a baseball game, we will.” In addition to live performances by worship bands, there have also been additional special guests and Christian-themed attractions featured on these nights — such as Bible character bobblehead giveaways or special appearances by VeggieTales veggies.


ormer San Francisco pitcher Dave Dravecky has been invited to faith days across the league for years. He and his wife, Jan, look forward to Fellowship Day every year at AT&T Park, where he’s both shared his testimony and watched many players do the same. “It’s a powerful thing to see young men who have a very sincere faith use the platform of baseball to share their faith in Jesus Christ,” Dravecky said. “I know that for some of them, getting up in front of people to share their faith is far more terrifying than taking the field each week in front of millions. But as they take this step of faith and tell their story, many are encouraged and challenged to seek Jesus for themselves. It’s very raw, very beautiful, and very human. It’s a time for the stadium to see that these athletes are real people with real stories.” Arizona Diamondbacks shortstop Nick Ahmed shared the same passion as he recalled experiencing his first Faith Night while playing for the Triple-A Reno Aces in 2014. It was Ahmed’s first time speaking in public, and without a bat or mitt in his hands, he was more than nervous. But eager to share his faith, the shortstop stepped out of his comfort zone and back on the field in front of a crowd of thousands. “It was a really cool experience to be able to play a game and then come back after to see how many fans stuck around to hear about Jesus and what He’s done in our lives,” Ahmed said. “That year I was also able to connect with a few of the players on the other team — Blaine Boyer and Jeff Francoeur — who shared their faith as well. There’s a really good community of Christ-followers in our league. It’s really special.” The following year, Ahmed was called up to the majors. Having become an Arizona Diamondback, he’s been able to share his faith in Christ on a bigger platform at the team’s annual Faith and Family Night. Though he was injured the following two years, Ahmed plans to continue sharing his faith in every opportunity he’s presented.


Coors Field Colorado Rockies Newsboys’ Michael Tate

“People need hope. If we can share the hope of Christ with people through our music, just like an athlete can after a baseball game, we will.” — MercyMe guitarist Mike Scheuzcher “I hope to play in the majors for another 10-15 years,” he said, “and no matter how many times I’m asked to be a part of a faith night, I’ll always say yes. It’s a great opportunity for us to show fans that we’re more than just baseball players.” The Milwaukee Brewers hosted their first Faith Night in 2017. When Brewers fan Chad Pagel saw the event on the team calendar in February of 2017, he could not pass it up. Four months later, Pagel brought his three young daughters, his wife, and four families from the church life group he and his wife led. Knowing it was a first for the team, they weren’t sure what to expect. “It was hopping! We were blown away by the turnout … 2025,000 people were there!” Pagel said. “Pitchers Cory Knebel and Chase Anderson shared powerful testimonies. What really struck me that night was the boldness they had. Cory had just come to faith that same year and yet, though he was new to the family of Christ-followers and quiet in personality, he wanted to get out there and tell everyone about his faith in Jesus.”



Pagel admitted he has been impatiently checking the 2018 calendar, waiting to see Faith Night reappear. “You see these guys on TV but you don’t know their background,” Pagel said. “For them to open up and relate to us as fans and Christ-followers, we are able to see that they have the same faith and strength in God that we do. To hear that, whether they win or lose a series, they come home knowing they’ve already won it all because they have Christ … It shows a side of them that really matters.” “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.” — 1 Peter 4:10-11 SPORTS SPECTRUM TO SUBSCRIBE TO SPORTS SPECTRUM: CALL 866-821-2971



FAST TRACK TO FAITH For me, the process of getting drafted, going through the minor leagues, and then making it into the majors felt like I was on somewhat of a fast track. I was drafted in 2011, had my first pro season in 2012, and was then called up to play in the big leagues in 2014. I was only 21 years old when I faced the challenge of competing at the highest level of baseball. Realizing my dream had come true, I also experienced the pressures that came with performing at that level. I had to rely on my faith in God, which is an ongoing process for me. I continually have to trust in Him in every moment. I know baseball is what I’m supposed to be doing. I cling to my faith in Christ while I’m working out, training and competing. Though I know God’s plan will happen no matter what, I work my hardest to show Him I’m willing to make the most of this opportunity and His plan for my life. My faith in Christ has been a continual journey. I’m really fortunate to have grown up in the Church, going every Wednesday evening and twice on Sundays. The truth of God’s Word was embedded in my head and heart at an early age. Having said that, it hasn’t always been an easy journey. I’ve been through a lot of challenges that have tested my faith, times when I’ve really and truly had to trust in God on a deeper level. I’ve learned, time and again, how to rely on God. It’s an interesting story and one that’s still being written. Most of these challenges revolve around the game of baseball. I’ve been called up and sent down a few times, and every time it happens, my faith is tested. I struggle with thoughts of not being good enough. There are also family hardships. A few years ago, I lost both my grandparents in the same year. And being on the road



Photo by Tim Warner/Getty

“God always equips me, and honestly, it’s often during these times when my faith is the strongest.”

DANIELNORRIS away from my family, which means so much to me, is also difficult. Then in 2015, I had a scare with cancer. But God always equips me, and honestly, it’s often during these times when my faith is the strongest. When the health scare came, it really didn’t shake me too much. I knew I was going to be OK. God gave me a huge peace about it from the get-go. I was prepared for whatever He had in store for me. I want to play for another 20 years and have a successful career, but ultimately, God doesn’t care about that. He calls us to put our pride and personal desires to the side. He cares about me as a person and who I can reach. If that is enhanced through baseball, then great. But if not, I’ll have to find another way to fulfill that duty. God doesn’t care about MVPs, contracts or how much money I make. He cares about how we live our lives and who we are reaching.



A TURNING POINT “By trusting in the Lord, I experienced His plan to be way better than my own.”

I was drafted late that year by the Reds — a deal was agreed upon and I was ready to sign. But the next day something was bothering me. It was the first time I felt uneasy about this, so I prayed, “OK Lord, am I supposed to sign? Make it clear to me if this is not right.” I soon got a call from the Reds saying, “Hey! We’ve got the money amount for you and we have one quarter of school covered.” To which I reminded them we had agreed on four. He admitted he forgot but said it wouldn’t be a problem. Then a second call came in and he let me know they could only cover one quarter. This was a deal breaker; I had promised my parents I would finish my degree. I began to fight it but then realized this was God speaking to me — making it clear. I decided not to sign and instead went back to school.



Photo by Norm Hall/Getty

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.” — Proverbs 3:5-6 It was my junior year at Oregon State and I had just completed back-to-back All-American seasons. I had played on Team USA that year and thought I was a surefire draft pick. But that season I started struggling for the first time in my collegiate career. Baseball was becoming my identity — who I was, not just something I did. I started dropping in the draft order and began thinking I was going to just sign somewhere and leave. I was angry about the situation; I wanted a plane ticket out of there so I could just start my career.


I knew God was leading me in this direction even though it was not my perfect plan. In fact, it was a better plan. Not only was that the moment when I truly started trusting the Lord, but during that season with Oregon State I saw a few of my teammates come to know Christ, that was the season I met my wife, and once again we won a Pac-12 championship, which led me to be drafted even higher. By trusting in the Lord, I experienced His plan to be way better than my own. The summer I said no was a turning point in my faith, and consequently, in my career as well. I went into that season with the expectation of playing pro ball, but I also knew that if baseball wasn’t where He wanted me, then He would have something better for me. I had never had a peace like that before. His grace was showered upon me and as a result, that was the time I truly started committing my life and plans to the Lord.



ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE Due to pregnancy complications with my mother, doctors gave me a 1-in-4 chance to survive birth, and if I did, it was all but guaranteed that I would be faced with mental and physical disabilities. Needless to say, the good Lord has been protecting me from day one. Not only was I healthy, but I was blessed with a wonderful, loving, Christian family. I grew up in the Church learning about Jesus and His love for me. It was not until college, however, when I truly came to an understanding of the meaning of a personal relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It was at this time when I began to understand and feel God’s love, and know there was nothing I could do here on earth to deserve His Grace; rather, it was Christ’s sacrifice that already paid my debts. Your story is never over. God is always building upon it; He will use your life for the betterment of His Kingdom. When my mom delivered me — a perfectly healthy baby — she looked at the doctors and said, “Not bad for a 1-in-4 chance!” My wife and I just had twin boys. We too were a very high-risk pregnancy with multiple complications. And while our boys were born 10 weeks premature and we had to spend seven weeks in the NICU, we’re praising God that they are doing awesome today. Throughout the time we met with doctors about my wife’s pregnancy, she and I had a peace about everything. We knew God was in control; He was adding to our story. This miracle is yet another element to share what God’s done for us. Baseball for me is not who I am. During my college days, baseball had become my idol; I found my identity

Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty

“My No. 1 goal is to one day hear the words, ‘Well done, My good and faithful servant.’”

JAMESMCCANN in how well I played that day. But slowly I understood that my identity is not in baseball, and it’s not in what I do. It’s in Jesus Christ. Baseball is simply something I can do to glorify Him. Today, I live my life to honor and glorify God in all I do. Reproducing God’s love, mercy and grace is my mission on earth. I have many dreams and goals I hope to accomplish in the game of baseball, and I know with God on my side, ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE! But despite all those earthly dreams, my No. 1 goal is to one day hear the words, “Well done, My good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21). I sign all my autographs with the verse Mark 10:27 — a promise God’s given me and that He’s proved time and time again in my own story. From day one, man said I wouldn’t be here, but here I am. And I’m going to use the life God’s given me to bring glory to Him. “For Jesus said to them: ‘With man this is impossible. But not with God; For nothing is impossible with God.’” — Mark 10:27 “For Jesus said to them: ‘With man this is impossible. But not with God; For nothing is impossible with God.’” — Mark 10:27





THE DAY MY LIFE CHANGED “I am able to live in the moment and trust that God is in control.”




Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty

Late in August 2016, a simple breakfast meeting changed my life. I’d been attending our team chapels regularly when one week, our chaplain Jeff asked me if I would grab breakfast with him. As we sat down, Jeff handed me a booklet entitled, “Would You Like to Know Jesus Personally?” I took that home to read and inside was a prayer asking Christ into your life. It stated that once you pray this prayer and accept Jesus as your Savior, your life will change. I prayed the prayer that day and the book was right, my life was changed. Since that day, I’ve been able to experience the joy of Christ every day. I wake up and have peace, without worrying so much about where I’ll be tomorrow. I am able to live in the moment and trust that God is in control. My wife and I have learned to continually say, “If God really wants us somewhere, that’s where we will be.” Probably the biggest thing we’ve gained from knowing Christ is the confidence to trust that He has a plan for everyone. We all face a thousand tribulations in this life, but knowing the Lord has a plan for it all makes it easier to face each one. After discovering Christ, my purpose in life transformed. As professional athletes, we have a media outlet not a lot of other people have. We have the ability to spread God’s truth to the world through the choices we make and the lives we live, because a lot of people are watching. This realization drastically changed my perception of my career. Whether I’m suddenly sent down to the minors, traded or injured, I know there’s a purpose in God’s plan. Maybe that purpose is to take God’s Word to another team or someone within that city. I’m willing to accept whatever He places in front of me.

Continuing to grow in my faith includes fellowship with my teammates, going to Bible studies and pursuing a deeper understanding of God. I’ve also been able to share my faith through fan mail. I’ve had several people ask me to sign their card or an article of clothing, and every time I do, I include a Bible verse: 1 Peter 5:5. I want to keep His Word traveling throughout the world. “In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.’” — 1 Peter 5:5 I choose to share this verse with my fans because it emphasizes the importance of being humble before God. This is an important truth I don’t want to forget. We shouldn’t have to boast in what we do. We should live lives that leave people with absolutely no doubt of where our loyalty lies — at the cross with Christ.


Photo by Mark Cunningham/Getty


GOOSEBUMPS FROM GOD “God led me to the stage that night and worked a miracle in my life. It was a simple choice, but one that changed my life.” Have you ever had goosebumps? I don’t mean because you’re cold. Have you ever had goosebumps for a reason you couldn’t quite explain? When I was 13 years old, my family and I moved to a new city where I knew no one. A week later, I agreed to go to a youth camp simply because I wanted to get to know some of the baseball guys I had met at school. Until that point, going to church was just a habit, something I did with my family. I didn’t really have faith in Jesus and I certainly didn’t have a relationship with Him. All that changed one night during this four-day camp. After the service, the pastor invited anyone to come to the stage — anyone who wanted prayer, encouragement, or to accept Jesus into their life. Out of the 20,000 kids who were there, only a group of 10 of us made our way to the side of the stage. That night I gave my life to Christ, accepting Him as my personal Savior. I don’t how or why I did it. At that age, I never would have made that walk on my own. But I had goosebumps I couldn’t ignore. God led me to the stage that night and worked a miracle in my life. It was a simple choice, but one that changed my life. Before that day, I just did things to do them, and now suddenly, I had a reason for everything! I now have a purpose for everything I do — no matter what it is. What excites me daily in my faith is the act of telling at least one person per day something about God’s Word. Whether that’s a truth I’ve learned or a verse I’ve read, I always share. You never know how that might impact that person. At our first in-season chapel this year, we had a record number 16 out of 25 players at our chapel. It was amazing! This past offseason I had elbow surgery, which was difficult. During this time, my parents also went through a divorce, which was really tough for me and my brother.




But through all of this, I’m learning to trust God in a deeper, richer way by leaning on Him and His Word. As a result, I’ve been able to encourage my mom to become more connected in fellowship with the Church. I know God has a plan for everything, even the hardest things. Whenever I sign my autograph, I include the same verse I had hanging on my door since sixth grade: 1 Corinthians 9:24-26. In this verse, Paul compares Christians to a runner in a race. He says that everyone runs a race for a trophy, but the true winners are those who run to glorify God. “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air.” —1 Corinthians 9:24-26. I live by this truth. In the game of baseball, I play for one reason: to glorify Him every chance I get — through both the good and the bad.


Photo by Alex Trautwig/Getty



By Jon Ackerman

No team has won more World Series titles over the past decade than the San Francisco Giants. They went on an even-year run that brought championships in 2010, ‘12 and ‘14. Then again, no team was worse than San Francisco in 2017, as the Giants and Detroit Tigers tied for a league-low 64 wins. But hopes are high again in the Bay Area after some big offseason moves. The Giants aim to jump right back into the NL West race, even if it is one of the toughest in the majors, considering Los Angeles, Arizona and Colorado all made the postseason in 2017. The Giants’ biggest acquisition was outfielder Andrew McCutchen from Pittsburgh, where the fivetime All-Star was the face of the Pirates franchise. He hoped to be one of the rare players who stayed with the same organization his entire career, but after nine years and only eight postseason games, the 31-year-old is eager to join an organization with World Series experience. “There are a lot of emotions that, of course, come along with this,” McCutchen said during an conference call with media after the trade. “I was there for nine seasons. You’re going to have those emotions. A lot has happened. To put it all in a nutshell, we have a lot to be excited about, and we have also a lot to be thankful for.” Pittsburgh is where McCutchen met his wife, Maria, and the couple had their first child (a son named Steel, who McCutchen insists was not named after the Steel City). It’s also where, in May of 2013, Cutch really dedicated himself to the Lord. “I was going through some things,” he said in an interview with The Increase, a community of Christian pro athletes that is part of the Sports Spectrum network. “It got to a point to where I got on my knees and told God, ‘I submit. I give it to You. I know baseball doesn’t rule me. And I want You to know that if I didn’t have baseball, I know that I would still have You. I love this game that You gave me, but I know just as quickly as You’ve given it to me, just as quickly You can take it away. But I know what You can’t take away, and that’s my love for You and Your love for me.’” 11


Photo by Alex Trautwig/Getty

ANDREWMCCUTCHEN From that moment on, McCutchen went from going out on the field to just perform and play well, to playing and making a difference in His name. He ended the 2013 season by leading the Pirates to their first playoff berth since 1992, and McCutchen was named the 2013 National League MVP. He remained an All-Star and MVP candidate in ‘14 and ‘15, while the Pirates again earned wild card berths. But the team couldn’t stay above .500 in ‘16 or ‘17, which led the organization into rebuilding mode, which led to trading McCutchen. “I’m just very happy to be a part of [the Giants] organization, an organization who knows what winning is all about,” McCutchen said on the conference call. “I’ve seen it over the years, played against it for many years.” McCutchen will make an emotional return to Pittsburgh the weekend of May 11-13. TO SUBSCRIBE TO SPORTS SPECTRUM: CALL 866-821-2971

Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty



As a hot prospect climbing the ranks within the New York Yankees farm system in 2015, Aaron Judge was being compared to baseball legends. One such icon himself, Reggie Jackson, told reporters gathered for the Yankees’ spring training in Sarasota, Fla., that the 6-foot7 outfielder boasted characteristics of Hank Aaron, Willie Stargell and Dave Winfield, among others. A modernday name that popped up that day was Giancarlo Stanton, then a 6-foot-6 outfielder for the Marlins. Three years later, Judge is beginning to live up to those comparisons. He made his major league debut late in the 2016 season, and last year turned in a rookie campaign for the ages — All-Star, Home Run Derby winner, American League home run leader (52), AL Rookie of the Year, second in AL MVP voting. And then this offseason, New York went out and traded for that modern-day star Judge was being compared to: Stanton — four-time All-Star, last year’s National League home run (59) and RBI (132) leader, last year’s NL MVP. The Yankees were already going to be contenders in 2018 after taking Houston to seven games in last season’s ALCS. But now they have another big bat in a lineup that will easily live up to the famed “Bronx Bombers” moniker long associated with the club. New York could challenge the MLB record of 264 home runs hit by a team in a season, set by Seattle in 1997; the Yanks bombed 241 in 2017. Leading the barrage will be the 25-year-old Judge, who was also ranked as MLB’s favorite player last year in an ESPN poll. He’s a favorite among his peers, too. Prior to the ALCS last fall, Jose Altuve of the Houston Astros told the media, “If I was a GM, I want him on my team because he plays the right way and he’s very humble.” “He did everything to win the MVP in the regular season,” added Altuve, who went on to take the award ahead of Judge. “But what I like the most about him is how humble he is.” That sentiment is shared by many around the league. And Judge is not shy about showing where that unpretentious attitude stems from. His Twitter profile reads, “Christian. Faith, Family, then Baseball,” under an image displaying 2 Corinthians 5:7, “For we walk by faith, not by sight.”



AARONJUDGE Upon crossing home plate after smashing his 52 homeruns last year, Judge would point to the sky. Following the game in which he hit No. 50, thus breaking the rookie record for homers in a season, he was asked who he was thinking of when he pointed upward. “The Lord,” Judge told the assembled media. “He put me in this position, blessed me with so many opportunities in my life. I just try to take a quick moment just to kind of thank Him. I just got a chance to hit a home run at Yankee Stadium. That’s something not too many people can say they’ve done. It’s a blessing every time I step on that field and get that opportunity.” As he plays his sophomore season, Judge is living out Matthew 23:12: “For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”



With 85 wins and a wild card berth in 2017, the Minnesota Twins became the first team in major league history to advance to the postseason a year after losing at least 100 games. They were 59-103 in ‘16, then 85-77 in ‘17. The drastic turnaround was led by manager Paul Molitor — a Hall of Famer who was in his third year in charge of his hometown team — and earned him 2017 AL Manager of the Year honors. Though the postseason lasted just one game (an 8-4 loss to the Yankees in New York), the Twin Cities now expect Molitor to keep the team a contender. Minnesota’s core remains largely intact for 2018, with first baseman Joe Mauer and second baseman Brian Dozier leading at the plate and in the field, and Ervin Santana, Jose Berrios and Kyle Gibson on the mound. The Twins hope center fielder Byron Buxton can continue developing into a franchise player, and that offseason acquisitions Jake Odorizzi and Anibal Sanchez will bolster the starting rotation. Or could a utility guy like Eduardo Escobar spark the squad again? Last season, All-Star third baseman Miguel Sanó went down with a stress reaction in his left shin on Aug. 19, so Escobar filled in. He proceeded to belt 10 of his career-high 21 home runs as a fill-in starter. He also collected a career-high 73 RBIs on the year, leading the Twins with nine home runs and 25 RBIs in September as they clinched the playoff berth. “The 20 home runs is surprising,” Escobar told the Star Tribune in late September, “but I’m working hard all year. It’s different when you have the opportunity to play every day. I feel like Jesus has blessed me.” Could it have been because the team chaplain prayed over Escobar’s bats? True story: He brought his lumber with him into the team’s chapel service on a San Francisco road trip. “Escy walks in, he’s got both his bats; he’s been struggling,” said Gibson, one of the team’s chapel leaders, on the Sports Spectrum Podcast. “He walks in, both his bats, crosses them right there in front of the chaplain, and the chaplain’s just kind of like, ‘All right, let’s pray.’ “[Escobar] goes out and hits a homer and then he just goes on a [hot] stretch, and it was at a perfect time … Then of course he had to bring them every week to chapel.”



Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/ Hannah Foslien/Getty



BRIANDOZIER “We needed a bat bag about a month later for everybody’s bats in the chapel,” said Dozier, another chapel leader. Yet, the tone at chapel or for the season wasn’t set by bats, say Gibson and Dozier. It starts with the manager. “You have a guy like Paul Molitor, who’s really firm in his faith, and the leader of the whole team, and the icon he is — when you have a guy like that that’s firm in his faith, he’s always at chapel,” Dozier says. “We’ve been trying to get people to chapel just to pray every now and then, but when you see a Hall of Famer go in there, [other] guys are like, ‘Hmm, if he’s doing it, let me check it out.’”


The game was over, many fans began to file out, and most of the players headed to the locker room before calling it a night. But 800 fans chose to stay seated, knowing a few players would soon return to the field. These players would exchange their gloves and bats for a microphone, each of them eager to tell their personal life-changing story of eternal significance. The day was Sept. 4, 2005, when the Colorado Rockies instituted the first Faith Day at Coors Field (then known as Christian Family Day). The idea came not from one of the players, nor one of the coaches, but from the organization’s director of sales, Matt Haddad. During his first year with the team, he sought a themed day that would sell tickets. The faith concept, which he had seen while interning with the Dodgers during his college days at Texas A&M, was one he was extremely passionate about. “One of the main reasons our events have been as successful as they have been is because the buy-in comes from the very top,” Haddad says. “Our late president, Keli McGregor, loved Faith Day and supported it from the beginning.” The backing continues to trickle down the chain of command. Rockies owner Charlie Monfort spoke at one of the first events, while the VP of Ticketing Sue Ann McClaren and COO Greg Feasel have also been extremely supportive of this day over the years. Chaplains, pitching coaches and radio announcer Jerry Schemmel have all

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By Becky York


shown themselves integral to the success of these events. Bo Mitchell, the former Denver Nuggets chaplain who now serves as both the team chaplain and senior advisor for the Rockies, has been amazed by the eagerness players have to display the message of Christ to their fans and their teammates. “Our guys are lifting each other up and reinforcing good things toward each other all the time,” Mitchell says. “I’ve never seen anything like it in all the years I’ve been in sports. It starts with people who want to be good teammates first, and then know that will lead to good performances on the field.” Over the 14 years of Faith Day hosted by the Rockies, the team has only lost three times. And ticket sales have continued to rise — 800 fans joined the first Faith Day in 2005, but by 2009 that number grew to more than 20,000. Over the past few years, the game has consistently sold out on Faith Day. Not only have these days been deemed “wins” on the scoreboard, fans love coming to this annual event. The biggest struggle the team has run into is deciding to put on only one or two of these events each season. Over the years, many Rockies players have told their stories of faith on the field, putting their gloves and bats away to share with fans. For most of them, public speaking feels as foreign as putting on a hockey mask. But any opportunity to spread the Gospel is one they won’t pass up.

Photo by Norm Hall/Getty


Faith Day hassubecccoesms e an annual


Photo by Norm Hall/Getty


says sharing his faith is just as important as his fastball By Becky York 15




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jon gray

Photo by Norm Hall/Getty

“I don’t think I’m doing it right if I’m only showing my faith on Faith Day. I try to live out my faith on a daily basis. I’m just living my life and God’s using me as a light; it’s my job not to put a cover on it. Faith Day is an opportunity for the fans to be able to proclaim their faith as well. It means a lot to them to be able to say, ‘I’m staying after the game for Faith Day.’ And they can invite their neighbors to go with them. So for fans and players alike, this is a chance for us all as brothers and sisters to share the Gospel. We can come together on one day to share how we are forgiven.”

— Ian Desmond,



any players find that baseball is not a distraction from their faith, but rather a catalyst to bring them closer to Christ. Count pitcher Jon Gray in that group. He’s discovered community, accountability and fellowship within the brotherhood of the Colorado Rockies organization, all pointing him toward a deeper relationship with Christ. But his journey to faith didn’t start in Denver. It began to take root while he waited to be called up from Triple-A to the big leagues. “I grew up in a Southern Baptist church my whole life,” Gray says. “I had a knowledge of Christianity, but I didn’t really discover what it was about until I was grown and faced with some very challenging circumstances. In 2015, when my world turned upside down, my faith started to grow and my life began to turn around.”



Gray was drafted with the No. 3 overall pick in 2013 by Colorado and spent the remainder of that year in rookie and Single-A ball. He advanced to Double-A in 2014, and opened 2015 with the Triple-A team in Albuquerque, N.M. Nearly everyone, including Gray himself, expected him to be called up to the majors sooner. Though Gray couldn’t wait to make it to the big leagues, he now sees this delay as a gift from God. “I was going through some really

difficult circumstances during this time,” Gray says. “When I signed, my family started treating me differently. I felt like I became this object instead of a son. It was the money; money can do crazy things to people. It tore my family apart and it still hasn’t been fixed. Deep down I know they love me and I love them too, but there was a time when I thought maybe they never really did love me for me.” While Gray questioned his family’s devotion, he knew he didn’t have to question his teammates’.

“Baseball means a lot to us, but sometimes people think that’s all we do. God put us in this sport long before we knew what was going on. To have fans come out and hear what we believe and listen to our testimonies is really cool.” — Trevor Story, shortstop




Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty

Photo by Norm Hall/Getty

Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Photo by Norm Hall/Getty

“I kept thinking, ‘Why are these bad things happening to me? I’ve tried to be the best person I can be,” he says. “But thankfully I had an amazing group of guys around me. More than half the guys on the team [in Albuquerque] were strong Christians. They made it easy to open up and talk to them about what was going on in my life. To have these older guys around me that I could lean on was so great; they gave me perspective and comfort.” Not only did Gray gain a band of Christian brothers, he began to establish a personal relationship with his Savior, Jesus Christ. “That’s when I started praying a lot. Never before had I spoken to Christ as if He was another person. We didn’t have that type of relationship before. And the more I prayed, the more my faith grew and my fear lessened. No longer did I have reason to fear anything but God Himself,” he says. The community around Gray strengthened his faith in Christ and stirred up a new desire in him to do the same for others. “It was because of them that I’m now able to be bold about my faith,” Gray says. “I always believed in Christ, but I never really dropped His name. I was uncomfortable with it, but the boldness and openness of my teammates in Albuquerque was contagious.” As 2015 went on, Gray realized God had a greater plan for him than he had for himself. Halfway through that season, Gray was called up to the big leagues. He moved his family to the Mile High City to join the Rockies, but he was not the same man. He was changed — matured in faith and filled with confidence in Christ.

“Since that year I’ve set my sight on what’s ahead, not what has happened in my past,” Gray says. “When things turn upside down, I know that nothing will shake what happens in the end. No matter what, I’m in God’s hands. Since that time, my favorite verse has been Luke 6:21, which says, ‘Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.’” As Gray transitioned to a new team, he was pleasantly surprised to find there was also a strong Christian presence in the Rockies’ clubhouse. Not only did his teammates love Jesus, but many of his pitching coaches did as well. He also found a friend in his nearly 70-year-old chaplain, Bo Mitchell, who often joined Gray and his teammates on the golf course on off days. Completing his first full major league season in 2017, Gray was able to share the work God’s done in his life with the Colorado fans at Faith Day. But this year, he looks forward to taking it a step further. “I was excited to share last year,” Gray said. “I knew that even if I made sense to only a few people it would be worth it, but I did feel like I didn’t say all that I wanted to. This year, I want to share more about fear. The sense of fear continues to leave me the more my faith in Christ grows. No longer do I fear what comes with the world. Bad things happen in life but as Christians, we don’t have to be afraid of them. We have everything to gain by giving up this life in order to gain the next.” Gray and his wife of two years, Jacklyn, are excited for what this new season has to offer in Denver. Having joined the brotherhood and fellowship of the Rockies, they’ve also linked arms with their friend and pastor, Zach Harris, to launch Colorado’s first Life Church, a satellite campus of the main Life Church in Oklahoma pastored by Craig Groeschel. Eager to share his faith on any platform he can, Gray continues to pursue Christ in a way that pushes others toward faith in Him, just as his teammates in Albuquerque did. “I have a few teammates I have my eye on — ones I want to be a light to,” Gray says. “If I can only help one person this season, I know that I did my job. But I’m going to extend to reach as many as I can. Life is a test of faith and I don’t believe that it ends here.” Whether this message is shared in the locker room, on the bench, or in front of a stadium of thousands, the power of God’s saving grace is changing lives. The platform of baseball is just one more avenue through which to do that. “At some point you are going to be faced with a challenge that you are not equipped to deal with without Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit to help us,” Mitchell says. “On our own, our messes just stay messes. Christ not only heals and restores our messes, He turns our messes into messages, and uses our lives to encourage others who are going through problems like we are.”

“I’ll hear people mention to our players how much they appreciated seeing them and hearing from them at Faith Day. If someone likes a player and then hears them share their heart at Faith Day, that player now has a fan for life.” — Matt Haddad, director of sales TO SUBSCRIBE TO SPORTS SPECTRUM: CALL 866-821-2971

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able to make their way back out to the field, so he thought to fill that gap with the wives’ stories. The Pirates helped the women produce a video presentation the first year, and the second year Billie interviewed a few wives in front of the fans. Topics include their struggles as wives in baseball, raising kids with dads often on the road, and long-distance dating. Billie says the feedback on wives sharing has been powerful, as they’re usually on the back burner and fans don’t hear about life from their perspective. In 2017, fans heard from utility player Sean Rodriguez and his wife, Giselle. Earlier in the year, they were involved in a serious car accident with two of their children, but “we’re all alive, we’re still breathing and it’s obviously through His grace” (see page 19). In 2018, Faith Night has been highly promoted by the Pirates and Christian organizations throughout the city. Once again, it will be after a night game. All parties involved are praying for no more rain delays. “The date and the time of the game doesn’t matter when it’s about God,” Dave says. “It would be nice to have a little better weather situation but it doesn’t matter when we’re impacting people. And that night does impact the city and a lot of people, including ourselves.” The players, wives and coaches who speak may vary each year, but one remains consistent. Hurdle shares his powerful testimony, and also leaves the fans with a dynamic message. With his Bible in hand, the manager preaches.

Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty

wo years into his tenure as manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Clint Hurdle consulted with the front office about having a faith event after a game. “Clint went to the front office and boldly stated what a success it was in other stadiums,” said one of Hurdle’s coaches, Dave Jauss, who along with his wife, Billie, now help plan Faith Night — when players, wives and coaches share testimonies with fans. “Clint is a strong man and a strong man of faith,” Billie says. “With those two qualities and being the manager, the front office was happy to allow Faith Night at PNC Park.” The Pirates’ first Faith Night took place in the summer of 2013. Team chaplain Brad Henderson largely did the legwork of getting the word out and organizing the evening, and between 5,000 and 6,000 people stayed after the game — more than anyone anticipated. The following year, more promotion was done and the crowd grew. It’s now such a staple on the Pirates calendar that youth groups send buses full of kids to the games, and the fans are willing to stay well into the night — even the wee hours of the following morning. “In 2016, we had about 16 to 17,000 people stay after a 7 o’clock p.m. game that had a rain delay,” Billie said. “We didn’t get onto the field until midnight.” Billie, an author and public speaker, and Beth Henderson, the chaplain’s wife, have led the way for wives of players and coaches to also share their stories. Brad Henderson noticed during the first Faith Night a significant delay from the time the game ended to when the players were

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ean Rodriguez came to at the sounds of a shotgun firing. He was standing in the middle of Coral Way near SW 99th Avenue in west Miami on Jan. 28, 2017. What he saw when he regained consciousness was a police car on fire, dozens of onlookers, and his black Chevy Suburban on the sidewalk, demolished. A police officer tried to move him away from the fire, which was causing the shotgun rounds to go off in the police car. “Wait, wait, wait. Hold on. That’s my family over there on the ground,” Rodriguez told him. “You were driving this car?” the officer responded in shock. “Yeah, I was,” Rodriguez told him. “And he was just like, ‘Man, you got to get checked out.’ I go, ‘What do you mean?’ He goes, ‘You don’t remember nothing?’ I said, ‘Nah, I don’t remember anything.’” In the moment, Rodriguez did not care to receive the details. He limped over to see his two sons, Sean Jr. (Gogo) and Zekiel, who were being tended to. Paramedics pushed him aside. So he hobbled over to his wife, Giselle, who was also being examined. Next thing he knew, his boys were in ambulances. He tried to hop in with Gogo, who has autism and was 7 years old at the time, but it left too quickly. So he jumped in with Zekiel, who was 2. A third ambulance took Giselle to a different hospital.

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AP Photo/Jeff Roberson

All the while, Rodriguez — who had signed with the Atlanta Braves in November 2016 — noticed his left arm wouldn’t move. “With adrenaline pumping, you’re worried about the kids, you’re worried about Giselle,” he recalls. “Yeah, I wasn’t worried about me.” Once the boys’ CT scans came back clear and they were stable, a doctor suggested Rodriguez get checked out too. He resisted, told everyone he was fine, and took his parents’ car to see his wife. She sustained the most serious injuries: broken femur, broken tibia plateau, three broken ribs, a broken wrist, a three-quarter torn Achilles and a fractured foot. Zekiel wasn’t moving when an onlooker pulled him out of his car seat, but he only had internal bruising around where the harness held him in. Gogo suffered a fractured right orbital, a broken right wrist, and numerous lacerations on his head. As severe as the injuries were, the entire Rodriguez family lived. That wasn’t the fate of the man who had stolen the police car and hit the Rodriguezes’ vehicle nearly head-on. He died at the scene, either from impact or the flames. Within the week, Rodriguez and his family (which also includes daughters Sofia and Vanelope, who were in another car with other family members at the

AP Photo/Matt York

Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty


time of the accident) returned to their home in Tampa. Still experiencing swelling and pain 10 days after the crash, Rodriguez finally visited Dr. Koco Eaton, the team doctor for the Tampa Bay Rays, Rodriguez’s former team. An MRI revealed rotator cuff damage. At that point he alerted the Braves, who wanted him to immediately see Dr. James Andrews, the renowned orthopedic surgeon. “Come in at 7 tomorrow” Andrews told him, “you’re going to need surgery.” Rodriguez’s rotator cuff was completely torn, his labrum was torn, and his bicep tendon was completely dislocated. The initial timetable: Doctors told him he’d be sidelined a year.


Miami native, Rodriguez grew up in a Christian home but in many ways learned about God right along with his parents, Juan and Maricela. The Cuban natives fought to make sure Jesus was the foundation of the family (which also includes oldest sister Anays; brother Robert, who played five years in the Washington Nationals’ organization; sister Natasha; and then Sean). “It was very fresh for my mom and my dad,” Rodriguez says. “My dad came to Christ in ‘85, which is the year I was born. So as I was growing up, obviously I was getting to know God as they were also.” It was Juan — a coach and scout T O S U B S C R I B E T TOO SSUPBOSRCTRSI BSEP ET OC TSRPUOMR: T CS ASLPL E 8C6T 6R-U8M2 :1 -C2A9L7L1 8 6 6 - 8 2 1 - 2 9 7 1

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for numerous professional baseball organizations — who suggested the hand of God was on his son’s car the day of the crash. “My dad went back to the [scene] and said, ‘You guys had to have been lifted up,’ because you see pictures of the car,” Sean says. “He said somebody grabbed this car and basically placed it right there [on the sidewalk] … because if the car tips over, who knows what happens. “So we felt like God literally had a hand in us being alive. I mean that. He possibly could have picked up the car, who knows. It’s hard not to sit there, see everything that happened, see everything the way it went down — I mean, we’re continuing to live our lives pretty normal — and not feel like God played a huge factor in us still being able to do that.” Barely three months prior, Rodriguez signed a two-year, $11.5 million contract with the Braves and expected to be their primary second baseman. He earned the deal after a career year with Pittsburgh in 2016, posting career-highs in average (.270), home runs (18), RBIs (56), OBP (.349), slugging percentage (.510) and games played (140). He also played seven different positions, which had become the norm for the super-utility player. Rodriguez, 33, hoped Atlanta would become home after two years with the Angels (‘08-’09), five with the Rays (‘10’14) and two with the Pirates (‘15-’16). But before he could even report for spring training with the Braves, he was on the disabled list. His time there, however, wasn’t even half as long as doctors initially anticipated. Rodriguez returned to the field in five months, on July 1, 2017, making an appearance with the Braves’ rookie team.

He reacclimated himself for the next two weeks in the minors. Then on July 17, he finally made his debut with Atlanta. Yet, two and a half weeks and only 15 games later, Rodriguez was traded. He and his family were sent back to Pittsburgh. While he hoped to plant himself in Atlanta, his family always felt at home with the Pirates. “There was so much excitement that I was going back to Pitt, that they obviously wanted me and my family to go back to Pittsburgh. Giselle, me and the kids, we really, really loved it there,” Rodriguez says. Giselle especially. She wanted God’s will to be done, and if that was to happen in Atlanta, so be it. But for the nine months her husband was with Atlanta, she still felt a pulling on her heart to be in Pittsburgh. As of the beginning of the 2018 season, she’s still not fully recovered from the accident. Sean and the boys are back to normal, but Giselle has a limp and can’t yet fully walk right. Her regular physical therapy treatments are helping to keep her spirits up, but ultimately, it’s our Healer who sustains her. “I think He used [the accident] to draw me closer to Him,” Giselle says. “I think He wanted me to know Him personally and intimately and that’s exactly what’s happened. I draw my strength from Him. I’m knowing Him more intimately every day and I think He used it for that, which is very unfortunate, but I’m kind of glad that He did because I know Him personally now. Before I did but not this way; it’s very intimate now. I’m not glad [the accident] happened but I’m glad that because of it I’ve grown closer to Him.” Less than two weeks after Rodriguez

rejoined the Pirates, the club held its annual Faith Night. Sean had shared his testimony in front of thousands of fans in 2015 and ‘16, but in ‘17 he was able to speak of God’s faithfulness after enduring the accident. He sees it as no coincidence that he returned just in time for Faith Night. “I’d always speak so highly on how much I love it in Pitt, and that is one of the main reasons why I do: One, because of Faith Night, but two, because of the people who are actually trying to make sure that Faith Night continues to be a big deal in this city,” he says. “Because we’re obviously reaching people. We’re sharing our testimonies and getting to answer questions [fans] submit. They get to see us and hear us speak about our faith, and what helps keep us being the men that we are, continuing to grow and to be better men.” Rodriguez says he’s emerged from the accident spiritually and physically stronger. “Probably better now than I was two years ago, even before the accident,” he says. “I’m definitely back to 100 percent, thank the Lord, and feeling amazing.” But more than anything, he’s in awe of God’s power. “He gave me this because He wanted to show His strength and His power through me and through my family, and see how we wouldn’t take it and resent, but just continue to say, ‘Thank you Lord’ for what He does allow us to have,” Rodriguez says. “It really does allow you to see we’re not in control. He is in control of what’s going on, He’s in control of everything. He chooses life or death if and when He wants, and we can’t question that. He’s ultimately in control.”

“He is in control of what’s going on, He’s in control of everything. He chooses life or death if and when He wants, and we can’t question that. He’s ultimately in control.” — Sean Rodriguez





t. Louis Cardinals fan Judy Boen had a wild idea in 1990: One day at Busch Stadium, underprivileged kids would be able to attend a baseball game and hear the Gospel of Christ from players and coaches. So she took that dream to her husband and church leaders, who encouraged her to meet with the Cardinals. What birthed out of the meeting turned into one of the longestrunning events in the Midwest. “A group [called Christian Family Day, led by Boen] approached the Cardinals and wanted to do a ticket sales initiative that included a postgame sort of outreach event,” said Cardinals Director of Ticket Sales & Marketing Martin Coco. What started in 1991 has become Christian Day at the Ballpark, one of the Cardinals’ most consistent annual events. Fans stick around after the final pitch is thrown to hear about the love of Jesus Christ through the testimonies of players and coaches. “It means the world to me because it’s one time a year where we can bring a lot of the players, as well as the fans, and go out there and just have a moment with Jesus and just learn more about His Word,” Cardinals pitcher Luke Weaver says. The event these days is emceed by former Cardinals pitcher and broadcaster Ricky Horton, and players and manager Mike Matheny take several minutes to speak about how Christ has impacted their lives. “The platform that you’re blessed with [can be used] to hopefully inspire or

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motivate or just to spread some joy to any fan that’s listening,” Cardinals first baseman Matt Carpenter says. World Series heroes Lance Berkman and David Eckstein, and NFL legends Tony Dungy, Mike Singletary and Kurt Warner have headlined in the past. Occasionally, the keynote speaker will stretch beyond sports to believers such as Duck Dynasty’s Willie Robertson or former Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell, the inspiration behind the movie “Lone Survivor.” “We try to get a dynamic speaker every year and that’s what we’ve found has been the biggest draw,” Coco says. “To bring people to the game and to keep people here afterwards is a speaker with a faith-based message that has a broad appeal.” Generally 15,000 to 20,000 fans stay in attendance for the event. But one year, the numbers were dramatically cut for an understandable reason. In 2015, Warner was the headliner and a big crowd was expected to stay afterwards, but the game went 18 innings and lasted almost six hours. Nonetheless, several thousand fans waited through the extra baseball and braved the heat to hear from the former St. Louis Rams quarterback. In 2018, another St. Louis great will highlight Christian Day as current coach and former player Willie McGee will be the keynote speaker. And fans of all ages will be treated to a memorable night full of faith, and of course, baseball. “It’s really special for sure. It’s really great to be able to let your voice be heard — more importantly let the Gospel be heard,” Carpenter says.

Photo by Norm Hall/Getty


Photo by Ron Vesely/Getty

By Justin Adams

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S I U O L . T S N I By Justin Adams



t. Louis Cardinals baseball isn’t just a summer pastime, it’s a culture. For more than a century, the Cardinals have been the heartbeat to fans young and old throughout the Midwest. The Gateway City — home of the Gateway Arch, which oversees Busch Stadium — has long been a home for legends, such as Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Ozzie Smith and Stan Musial. And nestled inside the clubhouse, a culture within that culture has developed among a close-knit community of Christian players and coaches. As the current crop of Cardinals seeks a 12th World Series title, a veteran warhorse and the team’s manager are looking to pass their wisdom and knowledge on to the rest of the team — not only on the field, but off it as well.




dam Wainwright vividly remembers the day he saw the impact a well-known baseball player could have on others. During spring training when he was with the Braves in the minor leagues, word got out that Hall of Fame pitcher John Smoltz was going to speak at a Bible study. Wainwright, a Georgia native and avid Braves fan who grew up watching Smoltz pitch for Atlanta, sat in attendance at chapel and heard the Hall of Famer talk to a room full of players about his faith in Christ. Smoltz’s words struck a chord with the young pitcher, and Wainwright knew he needed to make some changes in his life. “It was powerful to see a future Hall of Famer come and pour his heart and soul into a message for us,” Wainwright recalls. “I know that I was on the fence at the time in my own faith, as I’m sure many others in the room that night were, and we were able to see someone who we really looked up to share his faith through the platform that he’s been given. By this platform, many are able to come to know and trust in Christ.” Now at 36 years old and having established an illustrious career as a St. Louis Cardinal, Wainwright continues to pour out his heart to his teammates in the locker room (he was traded to St. Louis in 2003). As a team leader and mentor, he understands that because of his stature and on-field success as a three-time All-Star, he’s able to have much deeper conversations concerning things other than the game of baseball.




Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty

Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty

“We are looked up to as leaders, and naturally we have an ‘in’ with the younger players simply because we have the knowledge and experience that they want to learn from,” Wainwright says. “When we can also speak into their lives on deeper matters — on things besides baseball — it provides a huge opportunity for us to share Christ’s love with those who are eager to hear what we have to say.” One young player who has been affected by the mentorship is Luke Weaver. The 24-year-old pitcher was inserted into the Cardinals starting rotation last August when Wainwright was placed on the disabled list with an elbow injury. Weaver went on to compile a 7-2 record with a 3.88 ERA. During his time in the locker room late last season, he was greatly impacted by the Christian community. “It’s incredible because if you would’ve told me what I’d be getting myself into joining the Cardinals, I would have had no idea,” Weaver said. “Going up through the levels [in the minor leagues] and getting to this point where I’m meeting the Hollidays, the Wainwrights and the Carpenters, those guys and being able to just be filled by their walk and their talk, it just inspires me. It makes me want to be that next wave — be that guy who’s soaking in all this wisdom.” Weaver and his teammates are also able to receive nuggets of wisdom during the weekly chapel services. Since games are held on most Sundays

throughout the season, players and coaches don’t get the chance to go a traditional church service. To make do, they get to hear a 15-minute message on a subject from the Bible before a game. “Chapel is one of the things that a baseball player knows is safe; they know they can go there and be encouraged by a short, impactful message that will help carry them onto the next week,” Wainwright says. Guys take conversations from chapel to the meeting rooms, to the locker room, to the bench, and sometimes they even become the topic of choice during road trips. The community study helps create a stronger team bond and develops a level of accountability that carries over to the field.

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“Iron sharpens iron and to be able to be around other believers in the clubhouse certainly makes for a better experience when you come to work every day and you get to be around them, and the impact that you have around others that are either new to their faith or either searching for it. So it’s quite a blessing,” Cardinals first baseman Matt Carpenter says. “The locker room is such a great place for us that we see everyone everyday in just casual conversations, so why not have a conversation about that,” Weaver says. The culture in the locker room starts with

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Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty

the leadership at the top. Since being hired in 2012, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny hasn’t been shy about letting others know the important role the Christian faith has in his life. Known as the “Toughest Man Alive” for his hard-nosed style of play as a major league catcher for 13 seasons, he understands the value of having a tight-knit locker room over the ups and downs of a 162-game season. Once a year, Matheny shares his faith with fans at Busch Stadium in a postgame event called Christian Day at the Ballpark. Several years ago, Matheny told the crowd his goals for the team and noted that winning wasn’t the only thing he was looking to achieve. “His main goal is not just performance on the field, but he realized this is a group of 25 young guys who are also navigating life. So he wants to be a help and a direction and a manager for them as they kind of learn how to navigate life, not just how they perform on the baseball field,” says Cardinals Director of Ticket Sales & Marketing Martin Coco. “My Christian faith is the guide for my life and I have never been one for forcing my faith down someone’s throat, but I also believe it to be cowardly, and hypocritical



to shy away from what I believe,” Matheny once wrote in a piece called the “Matheny Manifesto.” The outward expression of faith among Cardinals sometimes even makes its way to the field. Praying on the mound is something Weaver likes to do before he pitches. “I know for me out there on the mound, each inning I try to give a small moment where I slow down the game and give it to Jesus, and just pray for people on the field and just for health. And not for gain or for loss, but just for the mere fact of where I am at for the moment and knowing that the platform is just more than trying to win the ball game. It’s really cool for me just to have that moment,” Weaver says. Once the season is in full swing, several new challenges face the young pitcher. “I’m still trying to earn a rotation spot on the team,” he said before the 2018 season. “While that can threaten to be stressful, I don’t let it be. Instead, I’ve been allowing God to stay in control of it all. Knowing everything is in His hands gives me a peace, so I can enjoy the game and work my hardest to be the best I can be. I can breathe easy knowing

my steps are already perfectly planned out by Him.” One of Weaver’s biggest goals is better consistency from the mound. Standing at 6-foot-2 and a slim 175 pounds, he knows making the rotation is one thing, but being available to pitch every fifth day over the duration of a season is going to be tough. “It’s going to take a toll on my body, I know. I’m not the biggest guy in the world so there’s a durability aspect that some question me on. But I know I have the strength from within and that strength is driven from the Lord. I just need to be smart and listen to my body. Though I’m tired on some days, I know I can rely on Him for the extra adrenaline and push that I need,” Weaver says. When the season gets tough for Weaver and the other Cardinals players, they don’t have to look too far for guidance. The culture nurtured by Wainwright, Matheny and others will allow guys like Weaver to blossom both athletically and spiritually. “I’m thankful I have a group of men around me who will hold me accountable and sharpen me to grow closer to Christ each day,” Weaver says.



Daily Devotional WK-1

MONDAY>>> the least of these

My wife Ellen and I had been married three weeks when we found ourselves on a plane to Zambia. When we arrived at the village, we met Hope, a beautiful little girl who wouldn’t leave our side. She was what the experts call a “double orphan” — both her mother and father had passed away. Ellen and I decided to sponsor Hope, although we didn’t realize what that could or would become. In Matthew 25, Jesus talks to some folks about what He considers to be of primary importance. He speaks of feeding the hungry, quenching the dry throat of the thirsty, inviting the stranger into our homes, and clothing the naked. This passage became more than personal to me when I looked into the eyes of Hope. “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, He will sit on His glorious throne... “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father; take your inheritance, the Kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited Me in, I needed clothes and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you came to visit Me. ...Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of Mine, you did for Me.’ “Then He will say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave Me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite Me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe Me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after Me. ...Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me.’” — Matthew 25:31-46. God is separating people into two groups based on how they respond to what Jesus called “the least of these.” How we treat the poor and oppressed is deeply connected to the center of God’s heart. Are we responding to the Jesus we see in their eyes, or are we turning a blind eye to them, hoping someone else will serve them instead of us? The people who chose to give water and food and shelter and clothing are unknowingly serving Jesus Himself. Ellen and I are as broken as everyone else, but in our brokenness, we’re trying our best to hear God’s voice, and then respond to it with our actions.



CLAYTON KERSHAW Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher


Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images



serve the lord with gladness [OPEN WITH]

Psalm 100:1-5

A few weeks ago I had to get a blood test. I arrived before they opened at 7 a.m. to avoid a wait, but there was already a line. Having fasted before the test, everyone was a bit grumpy. No one had enjoyed their morning coffee yet. It was a drab scene. In Psalm 100:2, we’re commanded to “serve the Lord with gladness! Come into His presence with singing” (KJV). But why does our worship sometimes feel like a 7 a.m. blood test? Worship and service are to be offered with joy and gladness — something akin to a raucous victory parade. We normally think of worship as serious business. We come before the Creator of the universe thinking He’s holy but we’re sinful. He’s strong but we’re weak. He’s infinite but we’re finite. And yes, there may be times when you come to Him in brokenness and repentance, but that’s not the norm. When you serve Him, you should be full of gladness! We are to “serve the Lord with gladness.” That’s why when our churches gather, we call it a worship service. Romans 12:1 talks about our “spiritual service of worship.” God calls us to be active participants in worship, where we’re giving not just our money, but ourselves up to God. We’re not spectators who evaluate how good the show was. The mindset of the servant is to ask, “Did I offer to Him what He’s worthy of?” Evaluate your service of worship. Is it more like a 7 a.m. blood test or a victory parade?

WEDNESDAY>>> the spirit of your service

Luke 10:38-42

In these verses, we see Martha slaving away in a hot kitchen, while Mary serenely sits at Jesus’ feet, listening to Him speak. Martha boils over and says, “Lord, don’t You care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” Jesus responds, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed — or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Mary gets the high grade and Martha gets the low one here. To be honest, that bothers me. I would expect Martha to get a pat on the back and Mary to get a kick in the pants. Deep WEB 27

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down I connect with the Marthas of this world. Martha knew that when you feed 16 people, someone has to hustle.


The problem with Martha wasn’t her service, but her spirit. Jesus described her as “worried and bothered about so many things.” But Mary chose “what is better.” She sat at His feet and listened to His words, placing herself in a position where the Lord could serve her. Martha tried to serve Jesus; Mary received service from Jesus. Genuine service must always start here.

James 4:6

Are you more focused on what you do for Jesus than what He wants to do for you?


you don’t have what it takes

Mark 6:30-44

In Mark 6, Jesus had been ministering to a huge crowd all day, but people were getting hungry. So the disciples approached Him with a plan: “Send the crowds into town to get something to eat” (verse 36). After all this time with Jesus, watching Him do miracle upon miracle, they can’t come up with anything better? Jesus replied, “YOU give them something to eat.” The disciples, still not buying it, shot back, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish, unless perhaps we go and buy food for these people.” Jesus had every intention of meeting the need, but He wanted to show the disciples they didn’t have what it took. Have you ever been in a situation where the Lord called you to do something but you didn’t have what it took? Did you try to pretend you did have what it took? Did you run away? Did you blame others for getting you into this mess? Did you try to fix the problem? The best thing to do is whatever Jesus tells you to do. That’s what the disciples did and it resulted in 5,000 filled stomachs. Jesus still wants to use us to meet the need, but He wants us dependent on Him. When we don’t have what it takes but depend on God to give us what it takes, He is glorified.

dealing with opposition Few believers have encountered greater opposition than George Whitefield, the central preacher from the Great Awakening in the 18th century. Though an Anglican himself, most Anglican churches were closed to him. They thought he was a little over the top. Three principles guided him when dealing with critics: Don’t defend yourself, don’t engage in controversy, and don’t stop preaching the whole Gospel. When churches closed their doors to him, he simply went into open fields where he could preach to much larger crowds. As a result, he often preached to more than 50,000 people without microphones or loudspeakers. Whitefield reminds me of Nehemiah. While rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, Nehemiah and the people of Israel also encountered great opposition. They had a clear calling from God and refused to stop working when confronted. Like Whitefield, Nehemiah devised an ingenious plan. “From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows and armor. … Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other, and each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked.” — Nehemiah 4:16-18 We can expect opposition when we serve the Lord. We must trust God; sometimes a closed door reveals an open one that’s even better. Sometimes we have to continue our work with one hand while being prepared to fight off the enemy with the other.


...continue reading about

serving god wholeheartedly:

1 Peter 1 & Romans 12; 1 Peter 3 & Romans 7:1-6

Mark Mitchell, San Francisco Giants chaplain

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Daily Devotional



what will you choose?

There are moments in our lives when everything comes into focus, when we put on new lenses and our vision becomes crystal clear. During these times, there are certain invitations we believe in and turn toward, and other invitations we stand against and turn away from. In life’s biggest decisions (whether they feel big at the time or not), both a good and bad invitation always seem to lie before us, and it quickly becomes our decision to choose. Before I signed with the Washington Nationals, I had played my entire career with the New York Mets, where you learn to live with the spotlight from the New York media. You learn to navigate the weight and expectations placed on you in such a significant media market. Tori, my wife, had become pregnant, and even though we hadn’t planned the timing of the pregnancy (as if that can ever really happen), we were both extremely excited about the birth of our first child — a son, whom we’d name Noah. It didn’t take very long, however, to realize that Noah might be born on Opening Day 2014. There was no question in my mind about where I’d be when our son was born, and it would most definitely NOT be on a baseball field. It would be in the hospital, with my wife and extended family. And sure enough on Opening Day, Noah was born. I didn’t really think it was a big deal to leave the team and just be the nervous dad in the delivery room. But when I arrived in Florida to see Tori, I discovered some New York and national media members had begun to question our decision for me to miss Opening Day. “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” — Galatians 1:10 That’s really what it all comes down to, right? Pleasing people. I love the clear, distinct line Paul draws here. Some things in the Bible are meant to be left with some mystery, but not this one. Paul is saying that a man or a woman cannot both please the whims and desires of other people and at the same time serve Christ. He’s saying exactly what I felt — that in life’s biggest decisions, both a good and a bad invitation always seem to lie before us, and it becomes our decision to accept and walk in the right direction. I love what Tori says about the birth of Noah: “I told Daniel that, one day looking back on Noah’s birth, he’ll either be able to tell his son that he missed Opening Day so he could be at the hospital when he was born, or that he got a double off of Strasburg that day, and that somehow Noah might understand.”

Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty



What decision, big or small, is God asking you to make in spite of what the world’s reactions might be?


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TUESDAY>>> get in the game [OPEN WITH]

1 Corinthians 9:24-25

In the 2017 MLB draft, 1,215 players were chosen by the 30 major league organizations. With only 25 spots on each major league team each year, every one of these players hopes to be one of the top 750 players in the world who make it. The numbers aren’t in their favor, but that doesn’t stop them from pursuing their dreams. Being one of those young men many years ago, I remember my teammates and I talking about how we would love to just be on the bench in the big leagues. When I was finally called up in 1991, I remember after about a week of not playing I wasn’t happy about just being in the major leagues. I wanted to get out on the field to compete and show the talent that got me there in the first place. Many followers of Christ are missing out on what God has for them because they choose to sit on the bench instead of putting themselves in the game to compete for the eternal blessings that are in Christ. To compete for Christ, we first need to look within and find out what hinders us from following Him. Then we need to direct our focus on Christ so we won’t be exhausted as we persevere in the life He’s set before us. My prayer is that we continue to “...fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:2).


check your ego at the door

2 Timothy 3:16-17

Coaches are there to teach you the game, call you out if need be, help you make proper adjustments, and train you in the proper way to play. No matter what level of sport you play, your coach is doing all this to get you ready to take your play to the next level. How do they do this? Drawing from their own experience, they TELL you what to do. They TEACH you how to get better according to your specific skill set. They TRAIN you by having you repeatedly practice what you need to. And they give you TIME to get in the game and put what you’ve practiced into play. As followers of Christ, we go to God’s Word to know what to do. How does Scripture help us? It TELLS us how its truths can be trusted (Psalm 19:7-10). It TEACHES us how 29 WEB

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to live according to the gifts we’ve been given (Romans 12:2). It TRAINS us to live a life for God and for others (Galatians 2:20). And God gives you the TIME to put what you’ve learned into play (Romans 10:13, 12:1).


Whether you are in a sport or learning from God’s Word, you need to check your ego at the door if you want to be teachable. Will you allow God’s Word to build you into the person He wants you to be (2 Timothy 3:16-17)?

God uniquely crafted each and every one of us before we were even in our mother’s womb. We often forget this and miss out on the continual crafting He wants to do in our daily lives.

THURSDAY>>> roll over

Proverbs 16:9 Every young player has a vision for what their career will become. There are some things they can choose for themselves, such as a specific position on the field or which travel team to play for. If they really want to, they can choose the high school or college that best fits them. But when a player enters the professional level, all of that changes. They no longer have control over the team they play for, or what position best fits them. Even when they get into the minor leagues, they can have all the plans they want on how to make it to the big leagues, but it’s the team’s decision to move you up in the organization or not. The player goes out and gives it all he can on the field and leaves his future in the hands of the club. Proverbs 16:9 shows us that it’s the same for the follower of Christ. This verse emphasizes that though man proposes plans, God is the one who disposes. The results are under God’s authority, not ours. Proverbs 16:3 tells us, “Commit your ways to the Lord and your plans will be established.” This word “commit” means to trust or roll. Will you roll your ways over to God to let Him direct your steps?

centering yourself

Jeremiah 18:1-12

God reminded the prophet Jeremiah of this when He told him to go to the potter’s house. While Jeremiah would make something on his wheel, God would reveal His message, which Jeremiah was to share with the people of Judah. In this great passage, we can clearly see God’s sovereign ability to mold the house of Israel if they choose to let Him. He is the Potter who is in charge of molding and making us (the clay), and He can change the clay as He pleases. In order for the change to take place, we need to turn to Him. Ultimately, the people of Judah didn’t listen to Jeremiah and continued to follow the plans of their own hearts instead of allowing God to mold them for His purpose. Eventually, God dealt with them. The good news is we can allow God to work in us. Are you are willing to humbly put yourself in the center of the wheel so God can work on you? If you are, God will continue to mold you into something wonderful and new until the day of Christ Jesus.


...continue reading about being molded by god:

Jeremiah 1-2 & Philippians 1:6; Jeremiah 3-5 & Psalm 37:5

Eddie Taubensee, Director of Baseball Ministries at The Increase

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Daily Devotional



love at all times

We’re all walking in a certain direction in life. The question is: What are you walking toward? Or maybe more importantly: Who are you following? Are you following the world or are you following Jesus? What we fill our minds with is extremely important in determining the direction we walk in life. The more I engage in wrongful activities, the more I will try to justify those behaviors and follow others who do the same. But when I surround myself with people who point me toward Christ and seek out God’s will by the instruction of His Word, I can feed my soul with good things — things of God. Sanctification is the movement of growing closer to God. When we choose to participate in things of the Lord, living in the freedom and joy He offers, the Spirit of God becomes more evident in our lives. But choosing to live lives set apart for God is not always easy. If you get one paper cut, it might not hurt too much and you can probably choose to turn a blind eye to it. But when that one paper cut leads to 1,000 paper cuts, they will really hurt and might even lead to death. In the same way, we need to be careful not to let small sins creep into our lives and turn into life-draining habits. To what choices are you consistently saying yes? When you set yourself apart as a follower of Christ, you become a target. But Scripture says we are to take joy in this! When we are persecuted, rejected and laughed at for our faith, that’s when we should be filled with the most hope and peace in Christ. “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in Heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” — Matthew 5:11-12. If Jesus Himself warned us of persecution, why should we be taken aback when we face it? We have a choice to say yes to the things of the world and no to Jesus, or no to the temporary things and yes to things eternal. People will notice when you say no. They will wonder why you say no. They will also take notice when you take responsibility for something you’ve done wrong, ask forgiveness from others, and then move in the right direction. This is the kind of authentic, real and attainable faith we need to display. None of us are perfect, but if we walk in the Spirit and aim to bring glory to God in our moments of strength and weakness, we can be a light for the Gospel. When you set your mind on eternal things, you won’t begrudgingly submit to what the Word says. Instead, you will joyfully obey God’s command, knowing that His plans are so much greater than the world’s. Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty




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his love is unconditional [OPEN WITH]

Ephesians 2:8-9

God’s love toward us is unconditional. He doesn’t say, “If you do this, then I will love you.” His love is proven to us by what He’s done for us. Our God is a gracious, merciful and loving God. Grace is receiving what you don’t deserve. Mercy is not receiving what you do deserve. You see, if I choose to break the law by speeding and I get pulled over, I deserve a ticket. I will have to pay a fine as a consequence for my actions. But if the police officer doesn’t give me one, it’s because he’s choosing to show me mercy. I’m not receiving the punishment I deserve. You and I have sinned and we deserve to be punished. The punishment we will face is hell — eternal separation from God. But His mercy allows us a way out of that punishment, and His grace offers us eternity in Heaven. We’ve done nothing to deserve this! This incredible gift of grace not only promises us Heaven in the future, but also offers us life with Jesus right now! When we discover our God is a merciful God, we begin to grasp His great love for us. His mercy becomes the lens through which we look at things, empowering us to show the same mercy toward others. Who might be living under the misconception that God’s love is conditional? To whom can you show mercy today?

WEDNESDAY>>> god-pleasing prayers

James 4:1-2

Conflict comes from us. We all have evil desires within. Because of our former way of life, at times we ask for things we think we need. We have wrong motives. We desire power, prestige, worldly riches, etc. But what we should desire is wisdom, peace, forgiveness, humility, boldness, grace, mercy, purpose, understanding and discernment. We have the conflict of pleasure-motivated prayers versus God-pleasing prayers. We should find out what pleases the Lord and then pursue that with all our hearts!

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“When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” — James 4:3 Wisdom is asking God what He wants from us. Our own sinful desires lead to conflict, quarrels and distractions from the Gospel, which lead to prayers that have the wrong motives. When we live in conformity to this world, we are in opposition with God. But when we live lives that seek the wisdom and purpose of God, we’ll find the fruits of the Spirit infiltrating our lives. Today, pray God-pleasing prayers, not pleasure-motivated prayers.


conduct worthy of the gospel

Philippians 1:27

When Paul challenged the early Philippian Christians to conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel, he knew the downside of not reflecting Christ in everyday life. As Christ-followers in today’s world, the same charge remains true for us. The last thing the world needs is more Christians that look, act and talk like the world. We have been called to be holy (set apart) in the world. We are called to reflect Christ. “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” — Ephesians 5:1-2 An effective start to sharing the Gospel is living a life that reflects the nature of Christ, one that people are attracted to. People will notice a life of genuine faith in Christ and love for Him. We all know people can’t stand hypocrites. If we, who call ourselves Christ-followers, say one thing and then do another, our witness is diminished. How can we say we have new life in Christ when nothing about our lives reflect Him?


assurance of salvation

John 20:31

Confidence brings peace. It is extremely important for us to have complete assurance about our faith and salvation in Christ. In fact, this is one of the main reasons the Bible was written — so that we may know, without a doubt, that our sins have been forgiven and we have been given eternal life because of God’s grace and Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. God leaves no room for confusion on this subject. “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” — 1 John 5:11-13 When we know for certain that we have eternal life in Christ, everything in our life changes. This knowledge transforms our lives, allowing us to live with a greater joy. Our confidence in Christ instills in us a renewed perspective, enabling us to understand and respond to the call to serve and follow Him. Believe the Word of God and know that if you have placed your faith in Jesus, you are saved. You have been provided the confidence to live on mission for God. Allow Him to direct your path as you make Him known in this world.


...continue reading about following christ:

John 13 & 1 Peter 1:15-17; John 14 & 1 Peter 2:21

Put forth the effort to examine your life: speech, actions, attitudes, priorities, etc. Are you reflecting Christ in these areas of your life? Do others see Jesus in you? Our daily goal should be to become a visible image of the invisible Jesus in this world. Chris Lane, Miami Marlins chaplain

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Father, Thank you for creating this amazing game called baseball. As we enjoy the 2018 season, we are reminded once again of the “Boys of Summer.” Remind them of the amazing gift and talent they have been given as they pull on their uniforms and prepare for every game. For many of them, this is more than just a game. It is an opportunity, through their lives, both on and off the field, to reflect the love and grace of Jesus! As they use their influence, not only on the field but off the field, give them the strength and courage to be who You have created them to be in Jesus. Let their lives touch everyone they come in contact with as they get involved within their communities. Father, maybe in no other way can you create the kind of community that exists at baseball parks all over the country. Use this game and the “Boys of Summer” to heal and bring unity back to a nation that seems so divided. Use these young men, through this amazing game, to reflect the grace we all need to have for each other. And as they do this, allow them to enjoy this game and the wonderful experiences they will have, to remind them once again that this talent they get to enjoy is from You.

Dave and Jan Dravecky Former MLB couple

May you encourage these young men, their wives and families through Baseball Chapel this season. Use Baseball Chapel to draw these men and their families closer to you. May others — who do not know You — be drawn to You through the ministry of baseball. To God be the glory throughout this 2018 MLB season!

“May the Lord bless you and protect you. May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord show you His favor and give you His peace.” — Numbers 6:24-26 (NLT) 32



“I think it’s really important for people to understand who God is, what He says about us, and what He says about our sin. You have to turn from your old ways, from your old self. It’s not going to be perfect, but you have to turn and focus your eyes back on Him.” — Matthew Slater, New England Patriots


1. “God created mankind in His own image … God saw all that He had made, and it was very good” (Genesis 1:27, 31).

God made human beings with personal and relational qualities like His own (Genesis 1:26). But something went terribly wrong.

2. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

Our sins against a good and holy God have broken our relationship with Him (Isaiah 59:2).

3. “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

When humankind chose to rebel against God, sin poisoned the world. People lost their relationship with God, and with it their happiness. But God loved us so much He sent us Jesus, fully God and fully man, to deliver us from death and give us life (John 3:16).

4. “God demonstrates His own love toward us … while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Jesus went to the cross to pay the price for our sins. He rose from the grave, conquering sin and death (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

5. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). God’s greatest gift is a restored relationship with Himself, delivering us from hell and granting us entry into Heaven (John 3:36). This gift depends not on our merit but solely on Christ’s work of grace for us on the cross (Titus 3:5).

6. “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be

saved” (Romans 10:9). We must admit our wrongdoing, and ask God’s forgiveness: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Then we are to affirm to others that the resurrected Jesus is our Lord.

7. “Whoever hears My Word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over

from death to life” (John 5:24). The life we long for is freely offered to us in Christ. We can believe His promise and call on Him to save us, humbly accepting His gift of eternal life: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13).

If you believe Jesus Christ loves you, and would like to ask Him to forgive you and receive salvation, pray this prayer with me. It’s as simple as A-B-C: Admit, Believe, Confess.

“Dear God, I ADMIT that I’m a sinner and the penalty of my sin is death. I BELIEVE that Jesus Christ is Lord, and that He died and rose from the dead for my sin. And I CONFESS Jesus as my Savior. Please forgive me. I repent of my sin and surrender my life to You. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen." — Miles McPherson, senior pastor and former NFL player 3

If you’ve said this prayer text “Surrender” to 52525 to receive the next steps in your walk with God. SPORTS SPECTRUM


HOME PLATE is an annual outreach event at which current and former Detroit Tigers share about their careers as pro athletes and their faith in Jesus Christ. The event spawned many more “Faith Events� across the league.


Since its inception in 1987, Home Plate outreach events have hosted more than 175,000 people at 37 different events.


More than 1,800 churches and community groups from Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and Ontario have participated. More than 90 professional athletes have been featured speakers at these gatherings.

HOME PLATE HISTORY Total Tickets Sold:


Total Commitments to Christ:


- Total Renewal of Commitments:


San Diego Padres - April 28 Detroit Tigers - May 12 Houston Astros - May 19 St. Louis Cardinals - June 3 Philadelphia Phillies - June 6 Minnesota Twins - June 10 Milwaukee Brewers - June 24 Seattle Mariners - July 7 Kansas City Royals - July 7 Pittsburgh Pirates - July 27 Colorado Rockies - July 29 Arizona Diamondbacks - August 24 New York Mets - August 25 Chicago White Sox - September 1 San Francisco Giants - September 1 Cincinnati Reds - September 8 Los Angeles Dodgers - September 10 Atlanta Braves - September 18 Washington Nationals - September 22




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