Father’s Day Special – Following his Father’s Footsteps – Steve Tolleson -Toronto Blue Jays

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I have this card in my collection. Wayne Tolleson played for 10 seasons from 1981 to 1990.

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Blue Jays utility player and third generation baseball player Steve Tolleson

If it didn’t make my title too long, I would have added “and Wayne Tolleson New York Yankees, Texas Rangers and Chicago White Sox” as this is as much as story of Steve Tolleson‘s father Wayne, who played for 10 seasons in the majors.  In fact, Wayne’s father Jim played in the minor leagues for 7 seasons, too.  And so on this Father’s Day weekend, it seems appropriate to talk about this father-son baseball duo and the role that their faith in God plays in their life.

Wayne Tolleson was drafted twice into the Majors.  He didn’t sign the first time, and was drafted again the next year (1978) by the Texas Rangers. He made his debut in 1981 and would play over 800 games as an infielder for the 3 teams mentioned above.  His debut was made against the Toronto Blue Jays, the team that now employs his son, Steve.

Steve was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in 2005 and played in the minors with until he was picked up on waivers by the Oakland A’s in 2010.  He too would make his debut against the Toronto Blue Jays and collect his first major league hit against them a couple days later.  He bounced around some more (San Diego, White Sox and Baltimore) before the Blue Jays signed him in 2013 and invited him to Spring Training.

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Steve Tolleson has played many positions as a pro. He even took a turn on the mound

Both Tollesons have seen action at many positions in their career.  They have both spent time at second, third, shortstop, designated hitter and in the outfield.  Steve has also appeared as a pitcher .

As you can see, the similarities between their careers is quite something.

Both father and son have built their careers around being able to play many positions and step into to lots of different situations.  Baseball is a game and so it sounds like a career in baseball would be a lot of fun, but working through the minors and playing at the top level can be a grind as well.  As you can read in this post on John Clayton’s Blog  Wayne helps prepare and encourage Steve in this process by reminding him to keep God as the top priority.  Steve says

Dad has always stressed putting God first. God never puts something in front of us or puts in a position that we can handle. . . . Through all the ups and downs with different organizations, I can honestly say that I know now that God put me there for a reason.”

And as you can read in this article from The Citizen Times Wayne is just fine with the career that he had.  “God richly blessed my career in terms of longevity, and getting a chance to play every day as a New York Yankee was a highlight of my career

These days Wayne is a consultant for a great organization “Upward Sports” whose purpose is to introduce youth to Jesus through the medium of sport.  They currently offer sports clinics in 6 different sports.

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My brothers on the outsides my dad and I in the middle. I am very grateful for my family!

Here are my takeaways from the Tolleson’s story:

1- Being a Son –   My father has been a great influence on me.  He has modeled a Godly life and while I didn’t follow in his footsteps professionally, I do strive to be a Godly example for my own kids.  I also want to live a life that makes my dad proud of me. I know that I have not been a perfect son.  I can no doubt claim my share of his gray hairs.  But I also have great memories of many wonderful times spent together and life lessons learned with his guidance.  Life has put many miles between us, but I don’t feel far away from him.  I have been loved and cared for by my earthly father and his support and love is proof that God is alive and working in and through him.  Happy Father’s day Dad!

2- Being a Father –  I strive to be an example of a Godly life lived with the purpose of following God.  I hope to instill in my children the notion that living for God is the most important thing they can do in their life. and wherever it leads them, if they are following God then I am 100% behind whatever they are doing. Fatherhood is an adventure and to see the little pieces of me that make up my children is fun although at times hard.  In the good, I see that God is working through me to show His love to my children.  And in their imperfection, I am reminded that I am still a work in progress.  But in every part of being a dad, I understand more about God’s love for his children.  I pray that my life can point them to His perfect love.

Stanley Cup Special Part 2 – In the Corner – Don Cherry – CBC Broadcaster

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Cherry (in his “Cherry blazer” with Coach’s Corner host Ron MacLean)

Last time I wrote about an icon of U.S. hockey broadcasting – Doc Emrick, and his faith in God.  Today, I will do the same north of the border.  I grew up watching Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday nights.  Coaches Corner was always an entertaining part of the program.  In that brief segment during the first intermission, host Ron MacLean and former NHL coach Don Cherry would give their opinion about something that was going on in the hockey world at the time.  Don Cherry tends to be a very divisive figure.  He is loud (both in voice and in wardrobe), opinionated, and outspoken.  He would occasionally spark controversy with his comments and people tend to either love him or hate him.  But enough people loved him that he was named to MacLean Magazine (no relation to Ron that I know of) as one of the 10 greatest Canadians in history.  I didn’t mind him most of the time.  He is entertaining and passionate about hockey and I can get that.

But imagine my pleasant surprise when I came across this video that he did with Canadian T.V. host Lorna Dueck

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Don Cherry as a player with the Rochester Americans

In this video, Cherry speaks of a desperate prayer that he made at the age of 36, worried about what the future would hold.  He felt God answer his prayer by telling him to “go back to hockey” and 2 years later, he is coaching in the N.H.L. In the book “Along Came God: Miracles in Everyday Life” by George Slater. Cherry tells his journey from being unemployed to His successful return to hockey.  The credit?  Cherry says “I remember my first game behind the Boston bench[…] I thought back to my room in Rochester where I couldn’t get a job sweeping floors and how I asked the Lord for help and to show me the way[…] In only three years He pointed the way back and I was on top of the world. In just three years, and they say there is no God!” The Lord rescued me in my darkest hour.  If you are having a hard time in life like I was and you believe, He will help you”.

Here are my takeaways from Cherry’s story:

1- Pray for Help and Be Willing to Work –  Cherry had reached his end.  He prayed for help and God directed him back to hockey.  But he had some work to do to get back in game shape.  He was 25 pounds overweight.  He was 36 years old.  But he worked hard to lose the weight and get back into game shape and made the team.  God has a plan and power to carry out that plan but he also gives us the chance to be obedient.  Cherry trusted God and went to work.  What has God called you to?  Are you ready to put in the work of obedience to Him?  If so, prepare yourself.  He can take us far beyond our greatest dream or our most extravagant imagination.

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Don Cherry the Coach. Behind  the bench of the Boston Bruins.

2- Ready to Give Back –  Near the end of the interview with Lorna Dueck, Cherry talks about speaking with kids, talking about the hard issue of suicide.  Now I don’t know how close Cherry was to going down that road, but he says repeatedly in the articles that I read that it was his darkest, most depressing time of his life.  That was when he called out to God and God answered his prayer.  Now he is speaking to those who are battling through some dark days.  He spoke in the interview of second chances.  We have all been given a second chance.  (and many more than that even).  We deserve death as a penalty for our disobedience to God, but Jesus paid that death penalty for us and offers us a second chance.

3- Who do you worship –  The interview and the stories that I read often referred to hockey as the national religion of Canada.  Sadly, I think there is some truth to that – but it is not just a problem of Canadian hockey fans.  We all have things that we worship and make more important than God.  Work, family, money, stuff, celebrities, just to name a few examples.  But in the end, all of those will fall short and let us down.  God is the only One that is worthy of our worship.  Let’s keep Him as the focus of our life and let’s save our worship for Him alone!

4- No expectation of perfection – The temptation can be to think that  so-and-so can’t possible be a Christian – look at what they say or what they do.  I’ve seen them ____ fill in the blank with a sin or behavior that is unacceptable for a Christian to do.  And there is something to be said about the fruit that our lives produce. But would I ever hate to have that lens pointed at my life.  Cherry knows that he is still messes up.  ““I always get a guilty feeling about them, and I try to smarten up the next time.”  I hope that we can all understand that we make mistakes and learn from them. 

Stanley Cup Special – Life’s not fair – Mike “Doc” Emrick – NBC Broadcaster

The Stanley Cup has a great way of reminding us that life is not fair.

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Phil Housley’s 1495 games is the most without winning a cup in NHL history

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John Adams’ got his name on the Cup before he played his 1st NHL game.

Let’s prove that point.  John Adams was the third string goalie for the 1970 Boston Bruins.  He was on the roster but wouldn’t play his first NHL game until 3 seasons later. He would only appear in 22 NHL games in his entire career.  But when the Bruins won the cup in 1970, Adams’ name was engraved on the Cup.  Contrast that with Phil Housley.  He played in 1495 NHL games with 8 different teams without playing for a Cup winning team.  That is the record for most games without a Cup.  It just doesn’t seem fair.

Mike Emrick  is a voice that hockey fans in the U.S.A. know well.  He is the primary voice for NBC’s hockey coverage so his voice is familiar.  But it was in a different setting recently where he used his voice to share another example of perceived unfairness.  Here is a message he preached at his home church in St. Clair Michigan as recorded on the Hockey Ministries International website.

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Mike “Doc” Emrick is the voice of hockey in the U.S.A. He is the primary voice for NBC’s hockey broadcasts.

Emrick shares the story of Brad Stuart who in 2008 was traded from the Los Angeles Kings to the Detroit Red Wings.  He played in only 9 games with the Red Wings in the regular season, but was with them for their playoff run in which they successfully won the Stanley Cup.  As the Stanley Cup winnings were divvied up and the rings handed out, Stuart received the same portion as those who had been on the team all season.  No one complained, no one really gave it a second thought.  Emrick compares that to the parable from Matthew 20 where a land owner agrees to pay some workers for a full day of work.  He goes back throughout the day to hire more workers.  At the end of the day, he starts by paying those who were latest to arrive a full days wages.  Those who put in a full day then expected a bonus.  When they were paid what they agreed to, they complained.  It is an interesting take on the story and a great demonstration of how the ultimate reward is shared equally among all who participated, regardless of their participation both in heaven and in hockey.

Continuing, Emrick shares the story of a boss of his who “was a big, bombastic man. He was not known by any of us as a Christian  At the boss’ funeral, he shared the story of his boss’ acceptance of Jesus as Savior in his last days.  It was met with many surprised, even disdainful looks from those in attendance.  And I know that we are all capable of the same.  It is hard to grasp a grace that extends to those who lead a rough or hard life, but come to faith in God after their indiscretions or in their final days.  I am guilty, too.  I know that writing this blog, I have come across the stories of athletes who have a checkered past, but have come to a true and genuine faith in God.  I am tempted to doubt the legitimacy of their faith or at least expect that I am somehow due a higher standing than them.  But that is flawed thinking.  I mean, are they deserving of any less reward than I am? No way.  I have my own checkered past, too.  I am a sinner who needed grace to be extended to me.  I still need it every day.  The plank in my eye clouds my vision and seems to magnify the specks in the eyes of others so it looks much larger than mine. (Matthew 7.3)

I appreciate the reminders like this message from a hockey sportscaster which reminds us to not get caught up in comparing ourselves to others or questioning who God offers grace to, and instead celebrate that we serve a God that is powerful enough to change all hearts and extend grace to everyone.

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Emrick’s love for his job comes from it being a calling from God

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Emrick preaching a challenging message at his church

Here are some points to ponder.

1- Our Great Savior – The amazing thing about Jesus is that He died to offer grace and forgiveness to all people.  I heard singer Derek Webb talk about having an awareness of our sin and when we come to terms with the depth of our sin, we begin to understand the greatness of our Savior.  Let’s be real with ourselves and understand the desperate need that we have to be saved from our rebellion, bad choices and mistakes.  As we understand our own desperate need for Him we can really celebrate that He DID pay the price and offers freedom from our sin. And whether we come to this understanding at a young age or in our last breaths, His offer remains vaild for ALL who chose to believe in Him.

2- Do you Love what you Do?  –  In this article from Geneva College, Emrick talks about doing a job that he loves.  He says A man is very lucky if God gives him a job he enjoys.’ I am lucky, that’s for sure. I know if it weren’t a calling, I would have probably found something else along the way. It is a wonderful job and I am grateful for it.  I wanted to do his job.  My dream in high school was to be a hockey broadcaster.  God however had different plans for me.  But I am OK with that. He has brought me to a job that I really enjoy and in the process he has brought out gifts and interests that I wouldn’t have guessed were in there.  What do you do? How has God led you to that place.  How can He use you for His purposes in the place he has put you?  God’s plan is the best and if you trust it and see it develop, be grateful for how He is at work!

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When No one is Watching – Caleb Joseph – Baltimore Orioles

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Orioles Catcher Caleb Joseph

Last season, the Baltimore Orioles surprised many in baseball by finishing 30 games over .500 and winning the tough American League east.  They swept the Tigers in the first round of the playoffs before bowing out to the Royals.  There were high hopes for the Orioles but so far they have not matched last season’s win-loss differential.  In fact just past the quarter post in the season, the Orioles are 2 games under .500 and in 3rd place in the division.

Now part of that may be a distraction factor as the city of Baltimore has been the center of attention for the country’s media with the unrest that has been in the spotlight for the past month.  The Orioles has 2 games postponed, to be made up later, played a home series on the road (in Tampa) and even played a game in an empty Camden Yards – the public were not allowed in.

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Joseph is in his second Major League Season, filling in nicely for injured star Matt Wieters.

Caleb Joseph is a catcher for the Orioles, in his second year in the majors.  Last season, he made his debut in the majors, and played in 82 games during the regular season and 3 more in the post-season.  Joseph caught the attention of the national media with a stretch in August where he homered in 5 consecutive games.  This season, his name appears on the all-star ballot as the main catcher for the Orioles.

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Joseph caught the attention of the national media last year when he homered in 5 straight games

Drafted in 2008 by the Orioles out of Lipscombe University, he was actually drafted 3 rounds later than his younger brother who was taken by the Yankees and now plays in the Braves organization.  And as you can read in this article from Lipscombe University from before getting called up to the Orioles, Joseph who spent 6 seasons in the minor before his debut, was trusting in God’s plan.  He was ready to follow wherever God lead him, even if it wasn’t to the majors.  He says “If it is in God’s plan I will make it. I am at a point in my life where I understand so much more about that.  I am going to give it my best shot, but if I don’t make it my life is not defined by this. If it doesn’t happen I will be all right.”  And now that he has arrived in the majors, he is not going to take his time there for granted, and he is going to look to make the best of all situations, even ones that are out of his control.  Check out this video of that strange situation and the fun that Joseph and Chris Davis (whom I have also written a post about) had with the imaginary audience.

Here are my takeaways from Joseph’s story.

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Joseph signs imaginary autographs for imaginary fans at a vacant Oriole Park earlier this season. He had 2 hits and 2 RBI in the game

1- Who is Watching? – It was the first time in Major League history where the game was played without fans.  The game went on, there were officials there and the statistics all counted as a regular game – It is just that there were no fans there to watch the game.  But what happened in the game still mattered, still counted.  There is an interesting parallel to our faith walk. Who are you when no one is watching?  Our thoughts and actions still count, no matter what we are trying to keep out of the public eye?  Everything we say, do and even think is known by God and proves again that we desperately need a savior.  We are all corrupted by sin and I know that I have honed my skills of keeping what is going on in my head hidden from the rest of the world.  In this game between the White Sox and Orioles, a hit was still a hit, a home run still a home run. And likewise sin is still sin even if we think no one noticed.  There is nothing that is hidden from God’s eyes.

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Orioles and White Sox play in front of an empty field.

And the flip side is also true.  The things that we do that no one sees, the behind the scenes things that people do to meet needs of others and facilitate ministry will be lost either.  He is  not simply looking to catch us doing something wrong.  He is lovingly watching and encouraging us as we chose to serve Him – not for any recognition of our own, but out of love for Him.

2-  Alright no matter what – Joseph was drafted in college.  He spent 6 years working his way through the minors before realizing his dream of playing in the majors.  But all along, he said he was trusting God and His plan for him.  It is hard to get to that place.  We have our own ideas and agendas that we want to have realized, and to simply trust God and follow wherever he leads us is hard to do.  But it is the best plan we can have for life.  God knows what we want to happen,  He is the one that put those desires in us,  but He also knows what is best for us.  Sometimes they match, but sometimes they don’t.  Are you ready to trust God and His plan even if it doesn’t match our plan?  His best plan is for us to know Him, trust Him and follow Him always.

Mistakes and Second Chances – Andrew Bellatti – Tampa Bay Rays

imagesLast weekend, I wrote a post about Yankees OF Slade Heathcott and how he arrived in the majors after making some decisions earlier in life that could have kept him away. But when offered, he was able to take advantage of another chance and turn things around.  And he is not alone in this type of story.  Many of the athletes I have featured have seen God redeem some bad choice that they have made and made the most of a new chance that they are given.

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Earlier this month, Bellatti made his major league debut picking up the win against the Rangers

This kind of story connects with me because it is my story too.  Bad choices that I made could have drastically changed my life, but by the grace of God, extended through some wonderfully forgiving people, things are way better than I could have imagined or deserved.

And so the story of Andrew Bellatti, Tampa Bay Rays pitcher, connects with me.  And I’m glad to share his story and the role that grace and God has played in it.  Drafted in the 12th round of the 2009 draft, Bellatti had a decent first year of pro ball finishing 1-0 with a 3.38 ERA and a strikeout-per-inning ratio.  But on January 22, 2010, a bad choice by Bellatti changed his life forever.  On a rainy night in his Southern California town, he was driving too fast, lost control of his car and collided head-on with a van, killing the other driver and injuring his son.  Bellatti was charged with manslaughter and reckless driving.  As you can read in this article, Bellatti was facing 7 years in prison and wrote a letter of apology to the widow of the victim.  When it came time for sentencing, the widow asked the judge for leniency.  And the judge obliged her.  Bellatti spent less than 90 days in jail. It was during this time that Bellatti read a lot in his Bible.  That helped him grow in his faith and he learned to lean on this faith during the long nights of guilt and remorse that would follow.  The truth is that he still lives with the consequences of his actions every day.  He says “I just let God take control because I (was helpless). It was all Him and His plan. In that moment and in that time in my life, that is when I really turned to the Lord for everything”

“God has been right there with me throughout my entire life. He is the ultimate everything. I try to live every day through the Lord”

And with the grace extended by the widow and the second chance God has granted him at a career in baseball, Bellatti is turning heads.  As you can read in this article about his debut, he was the story of the game, pitching 3 1/3 innings of 1 hit ball and earning the win.

Here are my takeaways from Bellatti’s story:

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Bellatti, humbled by the mercy extended to him from the family of the victim, has learned to depend on God to help him deal with the consequences of his choices

1- Beauty out of Tragedy –  This story is tragic – make no mistake about it.  I don’t want to minimize the sadness experienced by the family of the victims, nor do I want to minimize the effect that this choice will have on Bellatti for the rest of his life.  What I want to focus on is the beauty of redemption that exists in this story. We see it in the grace and forgiveness extended by the family of the victim.  They had every right to be upset and hold out hope for the stiffest penalty available, ruining his chance to attain his dreams of baseball success.  Instead, they chose to forgive and ask the judge for leniency.  What hard things have come in your life? Who do you blame for these things?  Are we willing to set aside our need to see someone “get what they deserve” and offer mercy instead. Because the truth is that we all deserve a prison sentence – on death row.  But instead, we are offered another chance, we are offered life, out of prison and in paradise that will last forever.

2- Learning to lean on God – The song “The Heart of Worship” talks about “when all is stripped away”.  Andrew Bellatti had a lot of things stripped away by the choice that he made. It was during this time when he didn’t have things to busy himself with, that he read a lot in the Bible.  In that time, his faith in God grew.  He know that this was more than he could deal with on his own, and that he had to learn to trust God and surrender all of this to Him.  And as he learns to lean on Him, God is redeeming his story, using it to share God’s goodness with others and help them learn to depend on Him, too.

 

When Dreams Come True – Slade Heathcott – New York Yankees

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Yankees OF Slade Heathcott

Timing is everything.  I decided that my next article would be about a member of the New York Yankees.  I picked out a story to feature, read it and re-read it, chose the direction I was going to go and sat down to write the post.  But for some reason that I can’t explain, I was not able to get it written in a way that I was happy with.  And so more than a week went by and I still hadn’t posted my article.  Then this morning, as I was about to try again to write my post, I saw a headline from the Yankees news that said a different player, one that I have been reading about and following for more than a year, had been called up to make his Major League debut.  How exciting!  And so I changed directions and players and am sitting down to write this post now.

And so, today, I welcome Slade Heathcott to the Major Leagues.  He made his debut as a pinch-runner on Wednesday and made his first start last night.  He wound up going 2 for 3, collecting a double in his first major league at-bat.  He was a first round draft pick by the Yankees in 2009 and is known for his incredible skill set.  He has a cannon of an arm, lots of speed and a heart that goes all out when he plays the game.   Check out this video of his first big-league hit and watch him stretch what would be a single for most players into a double.

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Heathcott safely at second after stretching an easy single into an exciting double for his first MLB hit.

Heathcott’s arrival in the majors is no doubt a dream come true – and the route that he took to get there had its share of bumps and detours.   He has bettled alcoholism,  was kicked off his high school baseball team for academic reasons, and had some other run-ins with the law. But after drinking too much one night, passing out and missing a team trip to Dominican Republic, the Yankees decided to get this young man some help.  Under their watchful eye, he joined Alcoholics Anonymous. And his life changed forever on “April 4, 2010, … the day Heathcott entered Idlewild Baptist Church in Tampa and, surrendered to Jesus Christ“.  Heathcott said “It just finally opened my eyes. He spoke to me and said ‘open your eyes. Look what you’re throwing away. Look what blessings you have.

He has drawn comparisons to Josh Hamilton (who I blogged about a couple years ago) and there are some similarities in their skills, their struggles, injuries and their relationship with God. Heathcott does considier Hamilton to be one of his favorite players.  But now, at age 24 Heathcott has arrvied and has seen his dream come true,  he remains humble and quick to understand that he has been greatly blessed by God and given many chances to share the difference that God has made in his life.  In several of the articles that I read, he talks about knowing that he messes up every day and always needs God’s grace.  But Heathcott knows that God’s grace is real and it is unending and that is the message he hopes to share everywhere he goes.

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Heathcott, a first round draft pick in 2009, has battled through injuries, waiting for a chance at the Majors which came this week.

Here are my takeaways from Heathcott’s story:

1- God’s timing is perfect – Heathcott likely would have drawn it up differently.  As far as first round picks go, some have progressed more quickly through the minors- not slowed by a long string of injuries.  But Heathcott knows that God is in control of everything and that includes timing and direction of his career.  Heathcott was removed from the 40 man roster this past off season – a sign that his promise was dwindling, but Heathcott came ready to work hard, as he has a reputation of doing, and turned heads at Spring training, winning the Yankees Top Rookie award.

Even in small ways, God’s timing is perfect.  I was unable to write a satisfactory post and yet because of that, I get to share Heathcott’s great faith story as he arrives in the Majors.  I wish him great success in the Bronx and I wish him every opportunity to share about what God has been doing in his life.  May God be honored and lives touched by Heathcott and his story.

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Heathcott has a reputation of playing the game with all he’s got. He also strives to pursue God with all he’s got. I’m challenged to do the same.

2-  Trust God and Work Hard –  Heathcott’s reputation is based on 2 important ideologies.  Work Hard – pour everything you have into what you do and Trust God to take care of the results.  We also need to be aware that God can work through the bumps and hard things that come our way.  Heathcott has dealt with a rough past, some bad choices and a ton of injuries but God has worked it out to bring him to the majors.  A popular expression in the Christian world is to work like it depends on you and trust like it depends on God.  Heathcott shows that mentality with how he plays the game and how he lives his life.  And that is a challenge that we can all take on.  Trust God with all that we have and walk out the plan that He has for us.  There will be rough patches and detours on the way.  Some that are beyond our control and some that come from the choices that we make.  But He is in control and will direct our path.

Welcome to the majors Slade Heathcott!

My Other Half – Wil Nieves – San Diego Padres/Atlanta Braves

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Padres (now with Braves) catcher/first baseman Wil Nieves

Last Sunday was Mother’s day and I realized again what an amazing woman my kids get to call mom.  My wife Stephanie is a wonderful example of a life lived on purpose, with purpose for Christ.  He has led us on some amazing adventures thus far, and partnering in parenting is definitely one of the greatest adventures that we get to live out together.  As I look back, I see the way God brought us together and has used her to help me learn more about him.  She demonstrates many of his characteristics for me (his patience with me, his unending love, his ability to forgive) and she models these things for our girls too.

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Nieves pictured with his wife Yormarie during his time with the Nationals

When I look at the story of Wil Nieves and his wife Yormarie, I am reminded of our story.  We didn’t meet on a blind date like they did, but we did get married pretty quickly after we met. We went from first date to wedding date in 15 months.  Like Nieves, who has carved his career as a journeyman, we have moved around a lot too.  We currently live at our 10th address as husband and wife and we just celebrated 10 years of marriage a few months ago.  We have lived in 5 different cities in 3 different countries.  Nieves has joined his 8th major league team.  He has also played for 15 minor league teams in North America plus he has spent time in a couple different winter leagues. That is a lot of moving around! And the final thing I will mention that we have in common is that, as you can read in this story from  2010 (when he played for the Washington Nationals), his wife is his #1 fan.  She thinks he is the best that has ever played the game.  I cannot put into words how amazing it is to have a wife that believes in me, encourages me, and cheers me on as I proceed through whatever door God has opened for us.  Nieves says “God made this girl for me; she is my other half,”.  The article continues to talk about how their faith in God is a key to their relationship and that they were (in 2010) expecting their first child.

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Nieves hits a grand slam off the pitcher he caught in his Major League debut, Jake Peavy.

Nieves was drafted by the Padres in the 47th round of the 1995 draft.  That makes him a long shot to survive in baseball, but survive he has!  He made his big league debut in 2002 with the Padres catching for pitcher Jake Peavy (whom I blogged about a couple years back).  He moved on to the Yankees organization, but didn’t return to the pros until 2005.  He would go on to 5 more stops never playing in more than 72 games anywhere.  This past off-season Nieves returned to San Diego. Interestingly enough, his only home run so far this season was a grand slam hit off former teammate and current San Francisco Giant Jake Peavy.  Since beginning this article I have learned that he became a free agent and has signed with the Atlanta Braves. Here are my takeaways from Nieves’ story.

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My amazing wife Stephanie and I! Thanks for doing life with me!

1- Amazing Wife, Amazing Life – The articles show Nieves to be very loving and grateful for his wife.  This resonates with me because I am so grateful for the love of my life – Stephanie.  I love her so much and I love doing life with her.  I won’t say she completes me, only God can do that, but I know that I understand more about God and his love, compassion and forgiveness that he offers me because of her.  She is someone who helps me be the best me I can be and my love for her grows bigger and stronger every day.   She is proud of who I am and what I do and that helps motivate me to continue to grow into who God has made me to be.  I adore you Steph! Happy Belated Mother’s Day!

2- The fight never ends – As you can read in this article Nieves constantly battled for his place in the majors.  Every year Nieves has fought to keep his job.  Even this year the team that signed him has released him and he has signed on with another team.  There is no easy road.  Someone wise once said “the only way to coast is downhill“, meaning that if you stop working and allow yourself to coast there is no more significant progress.  The only way to keep growing and moving forward is to keep working and battling.  This seems to be true in baseball as  there is always someone else looking to take your place.  The same is true in the work place.  If you coast, progress is impaired.  The same can be said for marriage and also our Christian walk.  If we stop working at growing in our relationship with our spouse or with  God, it will be easier to fail and fall short of God’s best plan for us.  Let’s keep our eyes on Him and let’s keep working at building our relationship with the God who created us and everything around us.  Do not coast!

Fight Night – Manny Pacquiao – Boxer – Philippines

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Pacquiao vs Mayweather – the biggest fight in boxing in years.

Tonight is the biggest night in many years for the sport of boxing.  In today’s sports tapestry that is so strongly focused on health and safety, concussions and injury, boxing is kind of caught in the middle.  But tonight, the sporting world is focused on the boxing ring again, with a battle between Floyd Mayweather, a perfect 47-0 in his career and Manny Pacquiao who has been a title holder at 8 different weights.  And while the boxers have both known great success in the ring, their public personas are at opposite ends of the spectrum.  Mayweather has a history of run-ins with the law over domestic abuse and battery.  Pacquiao, on the other hand, is beloved by his native Philippines.  He has been voted into public office as a congressman and serves as a reservist in the Filipino Military.

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Pacquiao is a congressman in his native Philippines

But Pacquiao’s clean public image has not always been his lot.  As you can read in this article from The Guardian,  Pacquiao was a partier.  He was “determined to squeeze as much fun from life as was available to someone who was born into grinding poverty.” But a few years ago things changed.  Despite being raised Catholic – the predominant religion of the Philippines, when his fame and success lifted him from the grips of poverty, it also blurred the lines between godly and being worldly.  But a few years ago, Pacquiao dedicated his life to Jesus and decided to use his platform to share about Christ’s love with others.  He says ”

I love my boxing, but I realize now that is not what my life is all about. I just want to encourage all those who are a Christian, to share their salvation experience to others.”
Check out this interview that Pacquiao did with Matt Crouch of TBN

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Pacquiao’s life has found purpose when he turned it over to Christ

Here are my takeaways from Pacquiao’s story.

1- Go into the World – The great commission given by Jesus to his followers was to go into all the world and make disciples of all people (Matthew 28.16-20).  In Acts 1.8, Jesus sends his disciples to be his witnesses to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth.  Now Samaria was the place of where the “enemy” lived.  Jews and Samaritans did not get along.  They had a strong dislike for each other, but still Jesus was sending his followers to share His love with their enemies, because He created them and loves them, too.  Boxing is the most mano a mano sport that exists.  It is a battle and it’s goal is to hurt your opponent more than they hurt you.  But Pacquiao sees his mission and understands it.  This following interview talks about how after the fight, he hopes for a chance to talk to Mayweather and “share his faith with him.” Even when talking about his enemy, he sees his mission to share God’s love with his opponent.  Check it out.

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Pacquiao has known success in the ring, will tonight be his top achievement? Win on Lose, count on Manny giving glory to God.

2- Only God Satisfies–  What I heard in the above interview is Manny Pacquiao’s story has some similarities to what Paul wrote in Philippians 4.12.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” Pair that thought together with Paul’s words from a chapter earlier (Phil 3. 7-.8) Paul writes “ But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ“.

Manny has known poverty that I will likely never know, and he has also known riches that I will likely never know.  But he talks about the emptiness that he felt in his life.  That is something that we all know if we have lived life without Christ.  He is all that satisfies.  He is our purpose and our passion.  He has given us the task of sharing His love with the world.  He has given us our story and our platform to share Him with others.  It is our choice to obey or not.  Pacquiao has chosen to share his faith in God every chance he gets.  I pray for courage and boldness to do the same.