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R.A. Dickey

(p9); NCAA Baseball Closeup: Mark Appel (p11); PGA Closeup: Ben Crane (p13); Track & Field Closeup: Allyson Felix (p15) Lisa Blumenfeld / Getty Images




Lisa Blumenfeld / Getty Images

Torii Hunter escaped the poverty-stricken neighborhood that was riddled with crime and drugs, but then his life drastically changed BY JOSEPH D’HIPPOLITO





AIRING IT OUT: Wake up, it’s dark


Sports Yapp: Tim Shaw


OLD SCHOOL: Review, Wherever I Wind Up


Examining the realistic, dark side of Tim Tebow’s world and the difficulties of Christianity BY BRETT HONEYCUTT Sports Spectrum interviews linebacker and key special teams player for the Tennessee Titans Tim Shaw BY BRYCE JOHNSON A closer look at R.A. Dickey’s new book Wherever I Wind Up and whether it’s worth the read BY AARON MAY

ANOTHER ANGLE: The God excuse

Dissecting “The God Excuse” and why it’s sometimes annoying to bring up God BY STEPHEN COPELAND

Natalie Storment / Powercross

Jeff and Natalie Storment sacrificed everything, but they couldn’t deny the calling BY BRETT HONEYCUTT

Lisa Blumenfeld / Getty Images



Christi Nelson / Rawsii

What seemed unrealistic at first has become a reality for Luke Zeller and his family BY STEPHEN COPELAND

The giant target on Tim Tebow’s back. Time to wake up and be aware of the darkness (page 2)

Ezra Shaw / Getty Images





b h o n e y c u t t @ s p o r t s s p e c t r u m . c o m | F o l l o w @ b re t t _ h o n e y c u t t

Wake up, it’s dark That statement by Neal Biderman alone would irk some people, but knowing the context would, likely, disgust everyone. The context is that Biderman said this in late April after offering $1 million to anyone proving that they slept with Tebow, who is a virgin and saving himself for marriage. As biblical and God-honoring as Tebow’s commitment is concerning this, Biderman’s offer is equally dark and despicable. Biderman also said: “Sports and sex (and of course, infidelity) go hand in hand. If Mr. Tebow is indeed abstaining from adult relationships, I would encourage him to find a nice lady or two and enjoy his youth and fame as much as possible.” However, the issue isn’t necessarily Biderman’s $1 million offer or his provocative and disgusting ideas concerning relationships. It’s the fact that the idea, alone, is present in someone’s mind. Even more troubling, though, is that Christians are surprised by Biderman’s ideas and behavior. But they shouldn’t be, especially if they read their Bibles. Remember David? Not only did he sleep with Bathsheba when she was married to someone else and he was married to someone else, and not only did he lie and try to cover it up by putting her husband in a position where he would be killed, but David’s trouble began years before those heinous sins. You’re probably puzzled if you’re a peripheral reader of Scripture because you recognize David as a man after God’s own heart (I Samuel 13:14 and Acts 13:22), but read on. Before David was King of Israel, he had a wife, Michal, Saul’s daughter, (I Samuel 18:26-27), but Saul gave her to another man (I Samuel 25:44), and then David took her back (II Samuel 3:1516). But not before David had married two other women, one of whom was someone else’s wife who David married after God struck him down (I Samuel 25:36-43). David also had a son, Amnon, who raped his own sister, Tamar (II Samuel 13:1-19). However, David did nothing about it. The incident, and David’s inaction, sparked 2


anger in the heart of Absalom, the brother of Amnon and Tamar, who then had Amnon killed (II Samuel 13:20-29). All of that is disheartening, disgusting, despicable and dark, and I’m not even telling you everything. But I give you that look into David’s life to point out that the Bible talks about some hard subjects, which should make us aware that despicable sin (do I have to use that adjective to describe sin? I mean, any sin is really despicable) is present. It is present with God’s people, and it is certainly present in people who will never trust or believe in God. In a nutshell, we shouldn’t be surprised by anything in the world today that runs contrary to God’s ways. It should disgust us, no doubt, but most importantly it should spur us, energize us and awaken us to the sin that is in this world and, most importantly, it should lead us to pray for Christians who have a target on their back. If you are living for Christ, and honoring God, that means you. You don’t have to be a famous athlete who honors God. All you have to be is a committed follower of Christ. If you doubt that you will face trials, read James 1:2-4, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” It says, “whenever you face trials,” meaning that we will. Also read Psalm 34:19, John 16:33, I Peter 4:12, Romans 5:2-5, I Peter 3:13-17, I Peter 4:12-19 and PhiLisa Blumenfeld / Getty Images lippians 1:20-30, to see that trials are inevitable, but that God is stronger and will bring us through when we put our faith in Him. As a side note, what would be ironic is if Tim Tebow married and then his wife asked Biderman for the $1 million. It would be ironic because Biderman, the CEO of a website that promotes infidelity, would have to pony up $1 million to someone who actually fulfilled his request, but did so in the context of a committed marriage. And the evidence? Brett Honeycutt is the An ultrasound. managing editor of Sports Now, that would be Spectrum magazine. His column something that not addresses controversial topics even the world would from a biblical perspective. be expecting. AARON MAY / SPORTS SPECTRUM


guarantee that no man of Tim Tebow’s stature could survive a season in New York without succumbing to the temptations of the city,” – Neal Biderman, CEO of an internet site.

SPORTSSPECTRUM.COM Sports Devotionals and Sports Stories Based on the Book of Proverbs Verses from all 31 chapters of Proverbs are paired with spiritually encouraging stories of well-known athletes and thought-provoking devotionals. You will be inspired as you read each page of this book written by Robert B. Walker.

Available now in the Sports Spectrum store



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Every week Bryce Johnson is joined on Sports Spectrum’s official podcast, SPORTS YAPP, by inspiring guests to discuss sports, faith and life. Listen to the full audio of all his interviews on Below are some highlights from Bryce’s interview with Tim Shaw, who graduated from Penn State University and is currently a linebacker and key special teams player for the Tennessee Titans. He recently went on a mission trip to Haiti.

BRYCE JOHNSON: I know you’re a golfer, and since it’s been the offseason, how’s the golf game? TIM SHAW: I love golf. I’ve been playing since I was 13, and my grandpa taught me how to play. Playing football and playing golf do not mix! When you lift weights and you go out and try to hit a golf ball, it’s a tough thing. So, I’m very, very inconsistent, but I have a blast! BRYCE JOHNSON: You recently went on a mission trip to Haiti with your friend Kevin Boss (Kansas City Chiefs tight end). How did it work out for you to go on this trip? TIM SHAW: It’s a very interesting story. I think anytime you really put God at the center of what you’re trying to do, these things just come together. I had another trip planned to go to the Czech Republic with a total different group. That fell through, and the next day, my buddy Kevin Boss calls me up and says, “Hey, this is so random, but I’m going to Haiti with my buddy Denny. Would you like to come with us?” And I’m just like, “Dude, yeah, absolutely I would. I’d love to.” I’m always praying about opportunities and so when one falls in your lap and you just know it’s right, you just jump on it. So, I didn’t even know the details. I just said, “Yeah, man. I’m in!” BRYCE JOHNSON: That’s a great story on one door closing and another opening. How did the trip end up going? TIM SHAW: Loving Haiti is a cool organization, started by Kevin’s friend, Denny. Denny is adopting two girls from the orphanage, so he has a huge heart for this place. We just went there to love on these kids and just love on these people and see what we could really do to help. Haiti is such a struggling country, and I think a lot of people attribute it to the earthquake, but I attribute it (I’ve been there twice) to the government and the culture. It’s a struggling people. They lack purpose and direction and leadership. The thing that we can bring over there is a different mindset more importantly than anything. BRYCE JOHNSON: We would love to hear your testimony. How did you come to know Jesus?

TIM SHAW: I was saved at an early age, but it wasn’t my faith. It was my family’s faith which I’m so thankful for. When it became real for me was when I got older when I had to leave the house go to college, and I got to Penn State and realized I didn’t have my family around anymore. I have to make this decision for myself. There are all these other options out here in the word, and was this right for me? That’s where I had to make that choice of going from a believer who didn’t have Christ on the throne. I was making the decisions, I was making the calls, I was in the driver’s seat doing what I wanted to do, and God was riding along. I let him in the car, but I wasn’t letting him make those decisions for me. When I got to college, that’s when I really had to make that decision of, “Okay, Tim, well, guess what: This is going to have to go a different way. The way you’re living is against what you’re proclaiming.” I had to make that decision to put God on the throne and put him in the driver’s seat, so to speak, and let my decisions start being made for Him and not for my pleasure. BRYCE JOHNSON: That’s so encouraging to hear. Before you go, though, since you live in Nashville, we have to discuss your thoughts on music. Are you a country fan? TIM SHAW: I grew up right outside of Detroit and let me tell you, country was the last thing on my mind! That’s just not the way I was built, not how I was designed. But Nashville has influenced me country-wise. I’m trying. I tell people I’m trying to get into country here. I love the music scene down here. You can go any night, you can pick a million places, go somewhere and hear some live music. It might be somebody famous, it might be somebody just trying to make it, but there is nothing but talent here in Nashville, so it’s an awesome place just to go and you can listen to free music all the time, so I love that.

BRYCE’S BEST Album: KJ-52’s “Dangerous” KJ-52 has been a popular rapper in the Christian music scene for a long time. He’s always had really fun and even funny songs that make his fans bob their heads. The fun continues (with a song about Bill Cosby), but his latest album also shows a more mature side of KJ-52, both lyrically and musically. You will enjoy the song with Lecrae called “They Like Me,” and his first hit song “Dangerous.” You will be encouraged and entertained with KJ’s latest project. TV Show: “Feherty” David Feherty is a former golfer and current golf analyst for CBS sports. His hilarious and quirky personality landed him his own TV show. I love his approach to interviewing, and I think he does a great job of getting interesting answers from his guests. I especially loved his interview with Bubba Watson earlier this year. The two of them seemed to have a great time together, and it was fun to see Bubba relaxed and open with Feherty. This show is mainly for golf fans, but everyone should love this show, too, when he interviews guests like Bill Clinton, Bill Russell and Charles Barkley. Tap Drill: Quick thoughts about faith, sports, life, and entertainment • I hope Derrick Rose’s injury isn’t a Penny Hardaway or Grant Hill situation. Rose is great for the game. • LeBron James has the ability to take over games and put the team on his back in the clutch. The coaching staff has to make sure that everyone believes Lebron is “the guy” and they need to trust him with the ball down the stretch. I think it’s Lebron’s team and everyone needs to hop on board. • It’s outrageous that the Saints haven’t given a long term contract to Drew Brees. • With all the discussion about the dangers of playing football and the risk of head injuries, I’m excited to watch flag football become an even more popular sport for kids. I think kids play tackle football when they are way too young. SPORTS SPECTRUM ~ DIGIMAG 2012




a a ro n @ s p o r t s s p e c t r u m . c o m | F o l l o w @ p p l c a l l m e b l u e

Review: Wherever I Wind Up


A. Dickey has done a lot in his life; he’s been a top collegiate pitcher for the University of Tennessee, he’s pitched for Team USA in the 1996 Olympics, he’s played for four different major league ballclubs, he’s climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, and now he’s written a book. Wherever I Wind Up is a story of overcoming obstacles, persevering and trusting God. Through all of his struggles, R.A. has found redemption and healing through Christ. Athletes write books all the time. But this one is different. Instead of only seeing the surface level that most athletes give us, we get into the mind of Robert Allen Dickey. He shares the thoughts, the worries, the doubts, and occasionally, the triumphs. “I’d trusted myself and pitched with conviction during my warm up...I was fully in the moment. And when I started, I hid...As I let each pitch go that night, I had voices in my head saying, ‘Please let it be a strike,’ and ‘Please don’t let them hit it.’” “It is no way to pitch, no way to live.” In Wherever I Wind Up, you are on the journey with R.A. as he provides memories in precise detail, reliving his thoughts and actions throughout the book. His photographic memory provides a picture of his life as a child and certain moments in his adult life and baseball career. He vividly recalls the games he would play with other boys at the minor league ballpark in Nashville, and what his thoughts were while meeting with Texas manager Buck Showalter and pitching coach Orel Hershiser about becoming a full-time knuckleballer. He even recounts the layout of bars he was taken to as a child with his once-alcoholic mother. R.A. is a great wordsmith, and Wherever I Wind Up makes it really easy to put yourself in R.A.’s shoes. Dickey has always been a fighter. He writes about getting into plenty of fights as a kid, and often he was the one starting them. It explains his persistence in trying to make it to the big leagues after many others typically give up. He spent seven years in AAA at Oklahoma City and didn’t play a full season in the big leagues, without a stint in the minors, until last season. As you might expect, the journey was filled with ups and downs, much like his signature pitch, the knuckleball. Dickey isn’t a knuckleballer by choice; it was a pitch he turned to as a last ditch effort to save his career. In 2005, Dickey had lost the velocity on his fastball, dipping below 90 mph, and the Rangers coaching staff told him he would not make it back to the big leagues if he continued to be a conventional pitcher. Thus began Dickey’s journey to become a full-time knuckleballer. At first, he writes, he was a little resistant, but he decided he would give it a try. He wrote, “Who cares about throwing 90 miles per hour? I’m tired of being average or worse. Tired of being lost, hiding on the margins of life and the Texas Rangers’ roster.” I think it’s really cool to hear the thoughts of a baseball player in this book. So often we get such calculated statements from 6



guys in interviews after games. When guys go through slumps, they insist they have not lost any confidence, or have no worries about tomorrow’s performance. Yet, everyone knows those answers are a bunch of baloney. R.A.’s honesty is the key ingredient that makes this book such a good read. Dickey often talks about how he would doubt himself while standing on the mound or waiting in the bullpen. It lets you know that professional baseball players are indeed human while on the diamond. R.A.’s journey has not been alone. God has been with him. Throughout the book, R.A. writes about his prayers to God. When R.A. was in seventh grade, after attending a few weeks of FCA meetings with his friend Bo (whose sister, Anne, R.A. would later marry), R.A. decided, “I want a relationship with Jesus Christ.”

It’s really fitting that the knuckleball became his pitch of choice. A pitch that is wildly unpredictable and hard to control. A pitch that is best thrown when you trust that it will move and do the things you need to get Major League hitters out. As R.A. finally began to trust his knuckleball, he also finally put complete trust in God for His plan for his life. Now R.A. has a full-time spot in the New York Mets rotation. No more stints in the minors, and stability with one team, one city, and with his family and finances. God had His hand in delivering him through the darkness, personally, and in his career, and R.A. wants people to know that. I hate to give you any more spoilers here (though I’m really not, since to really understand his words here you’ll need to take the journey with him), but here are the last couple lines from the book: “I know my journey is nowhere near complete. The point isn’t to arrive. The point is to seek, to walk humbly with God, to keep walking, keep believing even though you know there will be times when you make mistakes and feel lost. You keep seeking the path, and He will show you the way. “Thank you, merciful God for all these blessings and more, for giving me the courage to stop hiding, and the courage to find a new way. “I turn out the light. I close my eyes. I have hope.” Wherever I Wind Up is one of the most insightful, inspiring books that you will probably Aaron May is a staff writer is a ever read about a prostaff writer and videographer fessional athlete. for Sports Spectrum. You can Do yourself a favor catch his weekly columns and read it! AARON MAY / SPORTS SPECTRUM

He lets us in on his salvation experience: “... I get on my knees with Bo and his mom, and ask Christ to come into my life. I tell Him that I believe He is the Son of God, and I want to trust Him with my life. I secretly ask for forgiveness for what seems like a galaxy of sins and guilt and shame. “When I am done speaking, the room is completely still. I feel relief. A lightness. It’s not the sky opening up, or angels singing, or lightning bolts striking the big magnolia in the front yard. Nothing grand or God-like. It’s much more subtle, like the best deep breath you could ever take.” It’s refreshing to see an athlete be open and honest about his life, revealing his sins and struggles, and a secret no one would want to have, because even with God on his side, R.A. has lived through much conflict and pain. His willingness to share all of this makes his redemption story even more amazing. His parents separated when he was young. His mother became a bad alcoholic, and R.A. moved out to live with his mostly absent father, breaking his mother’s heart. He spent many nights in high school living in abandoned houses. He lost more than $800,000 in bonus money from the Texas Rangers after a physical revealed he did not have an ulnar collateral ligament, which is the ligament people get Tommy John surgery on. He toiled away in the minor leagues. He cheated on his wife while on the road. He almost drowned trying to swim across the Missouri River. But most shocking, and the root of a lot of mental anguish throughout his life, was the revelation that he had been sexually abused as a child by his female babysitter and later by a 17-year-old boy. I think it’s really courageous that R.A. could tell his deep, dark secrets to the world. Hopefully, Wherever I Wind Up can be encouraging to others who have been abused and need to seek help/ counseling, and to others who try to hide their sins instead of asking for forgiveness and repenting.

on college football, college basketball, and Major League Baseball, depending on the season, each week at


to watch an espn interview with dickey where he discusses the past difficulties in his life

Scott Boehm / Getty Images

Scott Boehm / Getty Images



he knuckleball. It dips and dives, darts and drops, and is the most unpredictable pitch in baseball. It seemingly takes a wild journey before reaching its destination to the plate. No one knows exactly where it will go. The batter doesn’t, the fielder doesn’t, even the catcher, and most importantly the pitcher, aren’t exactly sure where the ball will land. It’s so tough to tame that there is just one active major league knuckleballer: R.A. Dickey. For Dickey, though, the pitch accurately describes his career. It was 2005, and Dickey had already been in baseball with the Texas Rangers for nine years and had yet to grab a solid major league roster spot. He started to realize his baseball career had stalled. “I understood that what I had to offer wasn’t going to allow me to be a consistent major league pitcher,” he says. Dickey was using a knuckler as one of his secondary pitches, but his pitching coach at the time, Orel Hershiser, pushed him to use it full-time. So he did. But it wasn’t easy. And it took a lot of help from God. “I had to unlearn things that I had learned in my previous 20 years of throwing a baseball,” Dickey tells Sports Spectrum. “I had to unlearn in an effort to relearn the proper mechanics of throwing a knuckleball. That was a really trying time; God was helping me to endure and persevere. I had a lot of self-doubt. I made a lot of bad decisions as far as what I put my time into.” For four years, Dickey went up and down between the AAA and major league clubs of Texas, Milwaukee, Seattle, and Minnesota trying to master the knuckleball with varied success. But in 2010, after being called up from AAA Buffalo in May, Dickey got an opportunity with the New York Mets, and this time pitched at career-high levels; going 11-9 with a 2.84 ERA (seventh in the National League). After the season, the Mets signed him to a two-year major league deal, solidifying a spot on a major league ball club. At age 36, R.A. Dickey, who was born in Nashville, Tenn., and played for the University of Tennessee, had finally gotten his baseball career on track. And in 2011, he spent his first full season without a trip to the minors, posting a staff-best 3.28 ERA and logging a team-high 208.2 innings for the Mets. This season, he’s off to a 5-1 start. It’s possible the All-Star game could be on his horizon. Not too bad for a journeyman knuckleballer. “It’s been a real journey for me and it’s coincided with my journey as a knuckleballer starting in 2005,” he says. “…as an adult, from ages 32-36, I feel like I’ve really matured. God’s really grown me up in a lot of ways. He’s really impressed a lot of time and energy in helping me to feel loved and worthy and that’s been a big difference maker for me as far as my professional career has gone.” Knuckleballers have been known for pitching well into their 40s; Hall of Famer Hoyt Wilhelm retired five days from his 50th birthday! Which begs the question, how long will he continue playing? “I feel like my body will be able to endure into my 40s, however, this game has demanded a lot of me and my family,” Dickey says. “If God calls me away from baseball tomorrow, I would gladly walk away knowing that He has given me an incredible story to tell and an incredible journey where He has taught me so many different things. But He still continues to make me hungry to compete and makes me passionate to pursue a craft that’s very hard. It’s a very specialized thing and He’s given me a passion to try to cultivate that craft.” - AARON MAY




to watch mark talk about his faith



Photo provided by Niall Adler / Stanford Athletics




Photo provided by Niall Adler / Stanford Athletics

t would be easy to sympathize with Stanford’s Mark Appel if he felt pressure. He is the top pitcher on one of the nation’s best college baseball teams, and he is taking classes at one of the nation’s toughest academic institutions. And, he is projected by many scouting services to be the top overall pick in Major League Baseball’s draft on June 4. But he doesn’t need the sympathy, because the pressures, overwhelming feelings and anxieties have been taken care of. “I feel like being a starting pitcher is a high-pressure job to begin with, and you’re taking classes at one the toughest schools and the major league draft is in a month, but (because of) God’s grace I don’t feel pressure or as much pressure as I should feel right now,” says Appel, a 6-foot-5, 215-pound right hander whose fastball has topped out at 98 mph. “Feeling the peace of God kind of wrapping me up and Him saying, ‘Look, I have you. Everything’s going to be good. It doesn’t matter how the season goes. It doesn’t matter where you get drafted. You’re mine. I’m not going to let you go.’” That’s been so awesome. It kind of reminded me there are bigger things in life than baseball and getting good grades and stuff. It’s all about Him.” His strong faith and confidence in God didn’t happen overnight, though. It was cultivated by his parents, Patrick and Sondra, and has continued by the encouragement of other Christians at Stanford. The first hint of that came on a recruiting visit to the school in 2009. When Appel was walking around campus, what caught his eye wasn’t Stanford’s prestige, with its intricately crafted sandstone architecture, challenging education (as one of the nation’s top academic schools), or the promise of being part of one of college baseball’s best programs (Stanford’s 16 College World Series appearances is tied for seventh all Two of Stanford’s best, Andrew Luck, (left) who was the No. 1 overall time). pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, and Mark Appel (right), who is the What caught his eye was the promise of a spiritual side: He saw a projected No. 1 pick in the 2012 MLB Draft, pose for a photo at a Stanford baseball game. sign in the baseball team’s locker room that read, “Team Bible study 7:30 p.m.” “I thought that was cool,” says Appel. “Even the Christian schools I had been recruited by, I hadn’t seen that. The believers here on campus are so on fire for Christ. It’s just an encouragement to me.” It’s no surprise, then, that Appel wanted to share his story with others. Niall Adler, Stanford’s Sports Information Director for baseball, was videoing preseason interviews with some of the team’s key players when Appel had an idea. “(My interview) was really quick and I was like, ‘Hey, do you think I could do another interview talking about Christ, because I think that would be cool.’ And he said, ‘Yeah, that would be cool.’” The video was done and was uploaded on Stanford’s athletic website. “I’ve always seen God’s hand in my life,” Appel says. “I can see God has me (at Stanford) for a reason.” He equates telling his life story, as sharing Christ because God is the biggest part of it. The two can’t be separated. “Christ’s hand in my life is something that is important to me,” he says. “I see me telling people about it as one of the small ways I can glorify Him in the opportunities and situations He’s given me.” “All I can do is work out hard, and maximize the talents God has given me. You know your hope in life isn’t found in baseball or in school, but it is found in Christ. So many things you see differently. The draft is coming up, and for me it’s just another opportunity God has given me to bring glory to His Kingdom. When you look at it like that, it takes the stress off to perform. Honestly, when I go out, I just think, ‘Man, God is too good.’” - BRETT HONEYCUTT



“It’s this incredibly hard dynamic of wanting to win and play really well, yet letting God tell the story. You go through seasons where you play really well, and you think, ‘Oh my gosh, I want more of that.’ That becomes who you are. Then you end up coming back and saying, ‘Lord is this for me, or is this for you?’ God wants us to work hard and be competitive and have the will to win, but love well along the way and use our platform for His glory.” -Ben Crane, PGA Tour

Sam Greenwood / Getty Images


to read an online ss column about ben’s faith and dependence on God


to read a full-length feature on ben in an upcoming ss issue





to watch ben’s interview with ss




“This is a God-given talent that He has blessed me with. Not only has He blessed me physically, but He has blessed me with the determination and a hard-working mentality. That’s something that I’m learning more and more. There are days when I’m just not feeling it, but the fact that I know that this is from God is motivation enough to get up and get through it.” - Allyson Felix, 2008 Olympic Champion and nine-time World Champion


to read olympic features in the summer 2012 issue of ss

Bill Frakes / Sports Illustrated / Getty Images




Torii Hunter escaped a poverty-stricken neighborhood that was riddled with crime and drugs, but then his life drastically changed efore the Los Angeles Angels’ Torii Hunter steps into the batters’ box, the outfielder who has won nine Gold Gloves and played in three AllStar Games performs a unique ritual. Hunter briefly holds his bat perpendicular to his body, then takes two choppy swings before bringing the bat across his body in a looping, underhanded motion. While doing all this, he says softly, “Lord, be with me. In Your name I pray. Amen.” That routine, which Hunter says he has done “every at-bat, my whole career,” reflects a faith that sustains him as he enters his 13th major league season—and has kept the chaos of his youth from consuming him. “Without Jesus, I promise you, I couldn’t do anything,” Hunter says. “In everything I do, I ask Him to guide me. “Some guys who really don’t have faith actually feel like they want to commit suicide. My faith allows me to go on, day to day, and not worry about what’s on and off the field.” As a child, poverty, crime and drugs surrounded Hunter and his family in Pine Bluff, Ark. His father was addicted to crack cocaine and alcohol. His brother joined a gang. “It’s a sad place to grow up, I can tell you,” Hunter says. “There were a lot of gangs, a lot of drugs. I remember knocking on doors asking for food. But we took care of each other in that neighborhood. That’s something I’ll never forget—the closeness that we had on our block.” The young Hunter also found a refuge in church because of his mother’s and grandmother’s influence.

“She said prayers with us,” he says of his mother. “The church was our second home. We went to Bible studies, summer camps. Everybody in the church was like family.” What Hunter learned in church made an early impact. “One day, my mom gave me $20,” he recalls. “Where I’m from, if you get $20, it’s like everything. I gave it to a homeless guy to help him eat. I think I was 7 or 8.” Hunter’s developing faith also helped him avoid trouble, for the most part. “The Holy Spirit always was with me and helped me make the right decisions,” he says. “Sometimes, I’d do some stupid stuff, anyway, and I always paid the consequences. I wasn’t always right. But the more I went through, the closer I got to Him, and the stronger I got to survive in that city.” At Pine Bluff High School, Hunter played four sports. In 1993, his senior year, Hunter received Gatorade’s award as the Arkansas Baseball Player of the Year. He then signed with the Minnesota Twins. Two years later, while playing for the Twins’ Class A team in Fort Myers, Fla., Hunter experienced tremendous stress. “I was on the road, I wasn’t playing well, and I was alone,” he says. “I felt a lot of pressure that I had to make it to try to help my family. I called home, and there was always bad news; the lights were cut off or there was no food.” So Hunter spent time reading the Bible, where he found renewed strength and perspective. “It comforted me,” he says. “Every time I read His Word, I felt relief. I just felt like 1995 was the year that me and Jesus really bonded. He said He’ll never leave you or forsake you. That stuck with me.” When he reached the majors, Hunter maintained his spiritual focus by participating in Baseball Chapel, which offers Sunday services and Bible studies. “When you’re playing baseball, it’s your life,” Hunter says. “It almost becomes your god. Everything throughout the week is so much of a grind. You miss your family. It’s hard to trust when you’re on this level. You don’t know who’s real. “So much is going on that I need Baseball Chapel to get closer to God and get a different perspective on different situations. We don’t talk about baseball. I have that time for God and for fellowship with others.” On the field, Hunter developed into one of the game’s best center fielders. With nine Gold Gloves, he needs just one to tie Ichiro Suzuki, Ken Griffey Jr. and Al Kaline for the most by any American League outfielder.



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Torii Hunter receiving one of his nine Gold Gloves (above), which is awarded to the best fielders at each position.

“He loves what he does, he loves to compete, and he expects a lot out of himself,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia says. “He practices at an extraordinary pace. I think that’s why he’s maintained his skill set.” But Hunter’s biggest contributions have nothing to do with personal performance. “He’s become an incredible leader and a mentor,” Scioscia says. “Really, his presence is very, very strong every day you walk into that clubhouse. You can sense it in the way he relates with people.” Peter Bourjos provided Hunter with a major leadership test late in the 2010 season. The Angels recalled Bourjos from the minor leagues to be their center fielder of the future. Hunter would move to right field. “Center field was my life,” Hunter says. “It was everything, man. I had to sit and pray about it. I spoke to God many nights before I said, Brace Hemmelgarn / Minnesota Twins / Getty Images



‘yes.’” Though Hunter would vacate his cherished spot, he provided his replacement with full support. “He welcomed me with open arms and he’s been great,” Bourjos says. “He was just like a friend, like I’d known him since I was a little kid. Anything I need, he’s always there to help me out.” When Hunter met outfielder Jeremy Moore in 2009 during a rehabilitation assignment in the minor leagues, the veteran came face to face with a younger version of himself. Like Hunter, Moore grew up amid poverty, crime and drugs. Like Hunter, Moore had a drugaddicted father. “We just looked at each other and it’s like, ‘Dude, we have the same life. We grew up the same way,’” Hunter says. “I wanted to take him under my wing because I’ve been through what he’s going to go through. I want to show him some of the ways I got out.” So for two months during that off-season, Moore stayed with Hunter, his wife and four children in their home in Texas. The two players worked out and discussed life. “It was great,” Moore says. “It’s a big step in my career. I feel like family. I feel like I can go there any time and just fit right in.” Hunter’s generosity extends beyond his teammates. He has established scholarships for underprivileged children, speaks to them about his past, helps repair urban baseball fields and has worked with such organizations as Athletes in Action, Boys and Girls Clubs and Big Brothers and Big Sisters. As a result, his fellow major leaguers voted Hunter as the Marvin Miller Man of the Year in 2007; the award honors players who combine excellence in baseball and community service. Two years later, Hunter won the Branch Rickey Award from Denver’s Rotary Club for his work with children. For Hunter, helping others makes the perfect intersection

of his youth with his faith. “Anytime I receive something, I try to give it back,” he says. “That is a blessing, to be a giver. Some people are just

takers. I want to be a giver and not a receiver. “It’s just about passing the torch. That’s what I want to do.”

Joseph D’Hippolito is a freelance writer who lives in Fullerton, Calif. He has covered numerous events, including the World Series, Stanley Cup Finals and NBA Finals.



With Everything

Jeff and Natalie Storment sacrificed everything, but they couldn’t deny the calling BY BRETT HONEYCUTT eff and Natalie Storment’s lives had seemingly been changed overnight. Jeff had just become a Christian, he was reading his Bible, praying and trying to figure out what God wanted him to do with his life. He was a successful businessman in North Carolina, overseeing 350 employees in the southeast, and his wife, Natalie, had a successful business, too. But they desired God in a way that seemed to trump worldly desires. They didn’t want comfort by the world’s standards. They wanted comfort by God’s standards. And that meant doing what God wanted.

Listening, Seeking Jeff’s job required a lot of traveling, so he

had time to listen to an audio version of the Bible that his mom had given him. During that time, he and Natalie continued to talk about what God wanted them to do. His desire for God seemed insatiable. “We got to a point where we knew God was wanting us to do something,” Jeff says. “We were in church all the time. We didn’t really understand what He was wanting us to do, but our idea was to leave (town). Our idea was to get out of (Statesville, N.C.) and leave it behind. And His idea was for us to stay. We decided that we would start praying about it, and when we started praying about it, God started giving us visions.” The visions kept coming, but Jeff couldn’t

bring himself to talk to anyone about them. “I was embarrassed to talk to (Natalie) about the vision, because I’m not somebody that really likes to talk about reoccurring dreams,” Jeff says. “I kept having this dream over and over again. I kept seeing this black community in this indoor football complex with their hands raised in praise and worship. I didn’t really understand what God was telling me at the time, but I looked over at her after that dream one night, it was about 3 o clock in the morning, and I said, ‘Natalie, what are you doing up?’ She goes, ‘What are you doing up?’ I said, ‘Well, ahhh…’ She goes, ‘What?’ I said, ‘Well, I keep having this dream.’ And she says, ‘What? What kind of dream?’ I told her, ‘It’s about this indoor football complex and Pam Tebow, Tim Tebow’s mother and supporter of Power Cross, with Natalie and Jeff Storment, and their son, T.J.




Natalie Storment / Powercross

Natalie Storment / Powercross

Some of the boys Power Cross reaches through their ministry.

Pam Tebow, the mother of NFL star Tim Tebow, spoke at an event to help raise funds for Power Cross, a ministry that has given so much and reached out to the community in Statesville, N.C., for the sake of seeing children and their families come to Christ. “One thing that grips my heart is that Jeff and Natlie (Storment) are servants because they gave up so much to do this ministry,” Pam Tebow says. “And I wanted to encourage them, too, in addition.” Pam Tebow’s talk was centered on the four M’s (Master, Manual, Mindset and Mission) and that we need all of those to understand and accomplish the task God has for each of us on earth. Later, after her talk, she and the Storments, who began Power Cross, sat down with Sports Spectrum to talk about how moms can raise godly children. Tebow said, “I think all moms are more influential than they realize, just by the virtue that they have time with their children in the home. Natalie said, ‘You feel like you’re in a tug of war for your children.’ I felt like that at times, and I think every mother has that. You really are fighting against the world’s system. You’re fighting against other kids that influence them and so many other things – the media, television, and all of that, movies. So I think you have to be determined as a mother not to give in or give up or surrender, and you just are determined to win that tug of war.” She also listed several things that can help moms, and every parent, win that tug of war: Pray for your children, love your children unconditionally, read Scripture to them, teach them character and life skills through athletics and work ethic.

the whole community being there.’ And she said, ‘Well, that’s funny, I just had the same dream.’” “And at that point, I knew I was supposed to do something. I just didn’t know what I was supposed to do. I knew God wanted me working in the black community. I knew he wanted me pouring His Word into them. I just didn’t know exactly how it was going to go.”

Following, Doing What some could see as a struggle to follow God was re-

ally just Jeff trying to figure out what he needed to do. He wanted to do it, he just wasn’t sure what exactly it was. “I was a new Christian when all this was going on. I had just given my life to Christ and accepted Him as my Savior,” Jeff says. “It was a very hard transition for me because I went from being a partier and having a lifestyle like I grew up with, to completely changing, basically overnight, reading my Bible, praying, and trying to understand exactly what God was wanting us to do with this ministry and exactly what He was wanting me to do with my life…I figured out that I was supposed to serve Him, and I wasn’t supposed to serve


to watch pam’s interview with ss

Natalie Storment / Powercross Natalie Storment / Powercross

Power Cross reaches out to young boys through baseball, football, basketball and wrestling.

me. And seven years later, we’re at a point now where we have baseball fields, and we have half the community out here watching a baseball game.”

Sowing, Reaping That baseball field, helped by a $45,000

grant from Major League Baseball’s Tomorrow Fund, is only part of the way the Storments reach out to their community through Power Cross. “Power Cross is a boys ministry that works primarily with underprivileged kids, ages 7and up,” says Natalie. “Through sports, academic support, tutoring. We require them to hold a high GPA to help prepare them for college.” The Storments, who ended up leaving their jobs six months after beginning Power Cross because they didn’t think they could adequately minister to the children God had called them to reach, provide about 300 free meals per week, all of which Natalie cooks. They serve the meals from a facility where the boys and their families can come to relax, get away, and, most importantly, learn about God through Bible studies during the week. “We teach them about Jesus,” Natalie says. “That’s where we think their foundation needs to be.” They do that through discipleship, Bible study at least two nights per week and a leadership program with 22 kids, who get a little more fed into them and who are able to take it to places the Storments can’t get into. “One thing we try to do is really help them


understand that having a relationship with God is a daily commitment you do for yourself, it’s not attending church on a Sunday,” Natalie says. “We want them to understand that being a Christian is your life, it’s not a lifestyle, it’s not a character trait, it’s who you are. We really try to teach a kid that we pray over everything. We ask God first for anything, and we give God glory for those things, and there’s a purpose for that. We try to help them understand there is a purpose for that.” The Storments, through Power Cross, provide more meals at events and also provide the boys opportunities to play baseball, football, basketball and wrestling to help the boys stay busy, Natalie says. Sometimes, the situations are so tough that boys have come to live with the Storments. Sometimes they may only stay overnight, but others could stay for extended periods. “As a young man, I longed for a relationship with my father,” Jeff says. “It’s just a relationship I still long for. My dad is not what I want to consider an ideal Christian father. I think that’s why God picked me to lead these boys, was to show them what a father was supposed to be like, and to show them exactly how a man should be the head of the household like the Bible tells us.” Following God and His direction and giving up what the world sees as important comes with a cost, though, but it has helped the Storments rely only on God to provide.

to learn about power cross At one point, they had drained all of their bank accounts and only had $50 to feed the kids. Natalie figured out that she could buy hot dogs for that next meal, so she did. The next day, they received a check for $2,000, their first donation to the ministry. For a family that had been successful financially by the world’s standards, it wasn’t comfort. But it didn’t matter—because they had the comfort of resting in God alone. For more information on Power Cross or how you can help, go to www.powercross. org.

Brett Honeycutt is the managing editor of Sports Spectrum magazine.



Christi Nelson / Rawsii

WHAT SEEMED UNREALISTIC AT FIRST HAS BECOME A REALITY FOR LUKE ZELLER AND HIS FAMILY BY STEPHEN COPELAND t happened to Luke Zeller three times—the recurrence of a dream. “What do you want to do when you grow up?” a television reporter asked Luke when he was 14 years old. “I want to start a basketball camp,” he said. When Luke played basketball at the University of Notre Dame, it happened again. This time it was during an event at his roommate’s church, and he ended up sitting next to Justin Maust, the co-founder of Five Star Life, a character-building organization in Elkhart, Ind. They started talking. “What do you think God wants for your life?” Justin eventually asked Luke. “Well,” Luke said, “I used to think that it was running a Christian-based basketball camp.” Toward the end of Luke’s tenure at Notre Dame, the dream returned—when he had to give a presentation for one of his entrepreneurship classes and introduced one of his business ideas, a character-building basketball camp. “It was fun to dream about, but I didn’t think it would work,” Luke says. It had been a dream ingrained in his mind for a decade. But only a dream.


Luke Zeller and Bryce Bow were sitting on the lawn outside the College Football Hall of Fame in South Bend, Ind. They were upperclassmen in college—Luke, a star at Notre Dame, and Bow, a player at Goshen College in northern Indiana—when they were randomly paired up to work a free basketball clinic raising money for homeless awareness in South Bend. Both had a passion for basketball. Both had a passion for ministry. But they didn’t know they had so much in common. Sitting on the lawn after completing the basketball camp, Luke talked about his vision for a basketball ministry. “We want to teach character, leadership, and life skills,” Bow remembers Luke telling him. “That’s exactly what I’m passionate about,” Bow told Luke. “Basketball and ministry.” There was a connection.


There was a connection when Luke met his bride, Hope Zeller, too. But it had nothing to do with basketball. Truth is, Hope probably never imagined being part of a basketball ministry. When she and Luke Zeller started dating in college, she hardly knew who he was. All she knew was that he played basketball. She didn’t know he earned the famed Indiana Mr. Basketball award, that he hit a buzzer-beating, half-court shot to bring Washington High School its first state title, that he was adored at Notre Dame or that he was idolized in his hometown. To Hope, he was just “Luke.” “I told him at first that I hate to watch professional basketball, but now I have a professional basketball husband,” Hope jokes, referring to Luke’s current playing career with the Austin Toros. “I didn’t even know there was an award called Mr. Basketball.” The first time they met each other, they went to a movie with a group of friends. Afterwards, they went to Wal-Mart. Luke bought a basketball video game. SPORTS SPECTRUM ~ DIGIMAG 2012


Christi Nelson / Rawsii

“Don’t you play basketball?” she asked. “Yeah, I do,” he responded. “But you want to play more basketball?” Hope admits it was culture-shock dating Luke—going to Notre Dame games and seeing people wait outside the locker room just to talk to him, or visiting Washington for the first time and people knowing her name that she had never even met. “We couldn’t walk anywhere without people talking,” Hope says. “I felt like I was in a fishbowl being watched by my owners…But what convinced me that the Zellers’ lives weren’t so terrible was how they handled it. The reality is that they are normal people. They live normal lives, and they are humble.” With the Zellers—parents Lorri and Steve and sons Luke, Tyler, and Cody—she’d be a part of something big.


“A Zeller Family Program.” That’s the phrase on the website for DistinXion—the name of Luke Zeller’s basketball ministry. The name of his dream. “God is not a God of confusion,” Luke says. “I had always envisioned it and seen it. It was simple. This was it.” It truly is a family program—all the way from the name, which his wife Hope came up with because the Greek symbol for Christ is “X;” to the basketball side, which is managed by Luke with summer help from Tyler, who is a projected top-15 pick in the NBA Draft and played at the University of North Carolina, and Cody, who helped lead Indiana University to the Sweet 16 his freshman season; to the counseling side, which is run by Luke’s parents, Lorri and Steve; to the marketing side, which is directed by Hope. “I know there is a reason the Lord made the boys seven-feet tall,” Lorri says. “And I don’t think it’s to play basketball. He gave them that basketball talent so they could have a platform to glorify Him.” DistinXion isn’t new—it’s been around for a few years—but the Zellers are starting to see it explode, evidenced by its recent national recognition in USA Today and on CBS. What began as a dream, and turned into a nearly 80page business plan for a class at Notre Dame, has evolved into what it is today, where the Zellers travel to different cities during the summer and host camps for grade school and middle school children, using basketball to teach character and faith. Christi Nelson / Rawsii

Top left: The Zellers’ father, Steve Zeller, coaches a group of boys at a DistinXion basketball camp. Bottom left: Lorri Zeller, the Zellers’ mother, instructs children in crafts. Bottom right: Bryce Bow will start working full-time with DistinXion this summer.

Christi Nelson / Rawsii

With the help of Bryce Bow and Hope, it continues to expand. After working as an athletic director at Florida Christian College and connecting with trainer Ganon Baker, who has worked with Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul, and LeBron James, the 25-year-old Bow is leaving a well-paying job to start full-time with DistinXion in July as the organization’s trainer. And while the basketball side of DistinXion primarily targets boys, Hope is spearheading a cheerleading division to impact young girls—something she believes is essential when “girls’ feeling of self-image and self-wroth is at an all-time low.” “There are 52 weeks in a year, and we only get them for one weekend,” Hope says. “We don’t think we’ll be an organization that will immediately change everything. But we still want to start the change. Hopefully over time, more parents will learn from our camp that they want to raise their kids with character.”


Though it’s Luke’s vision, the oldest Zeller is quick to say that he isn’t the one who built DistinXion. God did. “Fifty percent of our funding is based on sponsors and donors. That’s an absolutely stupid way to run a business,” Luke jokes and admits. “In a worldly way, it doesn’t make sense, but I see myself as a steward of God’s organization.” Luke says that when he looked at DistinXion’s most recent income statement, all he did was fall to his knees. He had just hired two full-time people, and all he kept asking God was, “How?” “When we have no clue where we’re going, I rejoice because it makes me completely rely on Him,” Hope says. “DistinXion took off so much quicker than any of us would have thought. There are a lot of times when we just sit and say, ‘I have no idea how this is going to work out.’ But in the end, God continues to provide the people and provide the finances.” Growing up, Steve Zeller always used to tell Luke that he had to be a “trailblazer,” that he had to clear a path worth following. “At the end of the day, we could have a lot of awards, but what’s the legacy we’re going to leave?” Luke says. “What’s the impact we’ll echo into eternity?” And now, the whole family is following.

Stephen Copeland is a staff writer and columnist at Sports Spectrum magazine. SPORTS SPECTRUM ~ DIGIMAG 2012 Christi Nelson / Rawsii


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The God excuse “Why did you lose the tournament?” “I guess God didn’t want me to win.” No, you missed three putts within four feet. Plus, you were peaking on each stroke as if $500 in cash was wadded up in the cup. Practice more. “How’s work?” “Not good. My boss is a jerk. I think God wants me to find a different job.” No, YOU are the one who wants to find a different job. And you are the jerk for bringing God into it. “Dating anyone?” “I wish. Oh well, God will bring her to me.” No, you see that cute blonde smiling at you in the corner of the coffee shop? Maybe you should go talk to her. Maybe buy her a caramel frappe? Can’t go wrong with those. Psalm 37:3-6 talks about trusting in the Lord, doing good, dwelling in the land, befriending faithfulness, delighting in the Lord, committing to God, and then—and only then— God will give you the desires of your heart. Then, your intentions will be aligned with God’s. As James says, “faith apart from works is dead.” I’m not downplaying prayer or faith. I’m not. I believe in a sovereign God. But I also believe we have to do our part (see, again, Psalms and James). As Webb says, God hasn’t called us to lie down and let Him do all the work. You have to get out of the boat before you walk on water. Too often, we do nothing because we’re lazy and write it off as faith. But that’s when God just becomes an excuse. That’s when we cheapen the Almighty. So, work hard and do Stephen Copeland is a staff your part, and also let God writer and columnist at Sports Spectrum magazine. work. His column tackles sports Or did God tell you to be and faith from another lazy? Lisa Blumenfeld / Getty Images

W E B S I T E : w w w. S p o r t s S p e c t r u m . c o m

he be more wrong? Who are we, as humans, to say why God does things? It’s the God excuse. People were desperately asking why the tragedy happened, so he told them. But it’s wrong. How offensive is it that we use the God of the universe as a tax write-off? Remember the Crusades? We use God as a cop-out. It makes us feel better, so we do it.



ome guy the other day looked at me and said, “Just pray about it.” I felt like he was telling me to shut up—like he was tired of listening to me or something. I was mad. Praying made me angry. In high school, I remember my dad telling me to apply to colleges. I told him God would lead me to the right one. I felt holy—like I was seeking “God’s direction” (isn’t that what they say in church?). So I picked up my PlayStation controller and built the most legendary dynasty the world had ever seen on Madden 2004. I think that made my dad angry. I heard a story one time about some dude who was drowning in an ocean but kept telling the rescue boats that God would save him. When he drowned in the ocean and went to heaven, God said, “I sent you three boats, you idiot.” God was probably angry; righteously, of course. It’s the “God Excuse,” when we Christians, in my opinion, try to sound holy to compensate for our laziness. The idea for this column came when PGA Tour star Webb Simpson candidly told me in an interview that one of his biggest mental struggles as a Christian athlete is the thought that winning is up to God. It’s a concept he believes many Christian athletes wrestle with. I would argue that most believers, athletes or not, struggle with this. Webb told me: “The stereotype of Christian athletes is that if God wants me to win, I’ll win, and I can’t do anything about it. I was falling into that trap (in 2010). But God has not called us to lay over and let Him do all the work. God wants me to be a champion. He’s called me to be a man and a champion and be the best I can be.” Spending the last half-decade in the Christian bubble, I’ve heard some pretty bad God excuses. To be honest, I’ve probably used most of them, because one, I’m lazy, and two, I like feeling holy. I remember one of my friends breaking up with his girlfriend and telling her, “I don’t think God wants us to be together.” Truth is, he didn’t even like her, but he didn’t want to feel guilty for not liking her. Plus, how could she argue with God? One of my theology professors in college told us a story about a teenager’s funeral where dozens of people ended up getting saved. At the end of the funeral, the pastor stood up and confidently said, “This is why she had to die—so these people could be saved.” My professor was sitting in the back thinking, Could

angle, whether it’s humorous, personal or controversial. SPORTS SPECTRUM ~ DIGIMAG 2012


May 2012 DigiMag  

Sports Spectrum -- Where Faith and Sports Connect

May 2012 DigiMag  

Sports Spectrum -- Where Faith and Sports Connect