Carlos Zambrano and his belief in God are the focus for this, the 10th installment in my series on Christian Baseball Players.
His story is an amazing one, one that started in poverty in Venezuela. His fiery personality and clumsiness in sports led no one to believe that a future in sports would come his way. When he finally did earn a spot on a baseball team, he usually only got the mop-up duties, playing when the outcome of the game was not in question. But he was tenacious and determined to get better. It worked for him as he was signed by the Chicago Cubs in 1997 (at age 16) and finally made the big league in 2001.
And now, 10 years into his big league career, he has become a star in the league both on the mound and at the plate. He has won more than 120 games in his career and he is regarded as one of the best hitting pitchers in the game today. He has 22 career home runs, an amazing number for a pitcher. He twice had taken no hitters into the 8th inning, and then in August of 2008, he completed a no-hitter against the Houston Astros.
His fiery demeanor, which helped him achieve the success that he has known so far, has also been something that keeps him grounded and humbled him. There have been some episodes that have had been well publicized. (look them up on wikipedia if you want). There are battles with opponents, (Jim Edmonds) teammates (Michael Barrett, Derek Lee) Cubs fans, and inanimate objects (a Gatorade cooler or two). After last year’s meltdown with Derek Lee, he was suspended by the team to seek anger management therapy.
He is also a very caring, giving person, who remembers the hardships of his upbringing and is looking to make a difference in the lives of others in similar situations. Check out this story about him and his wife as they adopt a boy from Guatemala. This is a boy that they met when they were there on a mission trip with their church. They worked with Hope of Life International, a ministry in Guatemala which works with children in orphanages, as well as building homes for families in need. They also have a food distribution center, sustainable feeding plans and medical assistance. Click the link to learn more about this great organization.
And you can also check out Carlos Zambrano’s foundation The Big Z Foundation here.
If anything can be said about Carlos Zambrano, it is that he is passionate. In the above story, when asked about the struggles and meltdowns from last year, he cuts off the interviewer mid question, and says “Let’s talk about this year”. This part of his story reminds me of Paul’s writing in Philippians 3. 13. This is a verse that has meant a lot to me. It says, in the second part of this verse. But this I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. When we think of all those things that we do that keep us humble (most of the time not by our choice), it is easy to get caught up in feeling guilty, embarrassed and humiliated. But God’s forgiveness knows no end. He is always willing to forgive us if we ask Him to. And then we get to let it go and leave it behind. There may be consequences to face, but the guilt and weight of the sin can be forgotten. And it is a good thing to, because as that verse says, we are going to be straining enough with what lies ahead, we don’t need to drag around the extra weight of what has already been forgiven.
We all have things in our life that we need to let go of and walk away from, so remember that God is willing to forgive us for whatever we do, when we ask him to from a genuinely repentant heart. In verses 7-11, we are reminded that all we could gather or get is worthless compared to knowing God. And the best thing about knowing God is knowing that his grace is bottomless. Paul simply, in verse 16 reminds us to live up to what we have already attained. We have been forgiven, let’s live in that forgiveness and grace, and keep going hard after God.