Modern Monday – Who do you Represent? – Wil Myers – San Diego Padres

Wil Myers (far right) and 3 other new Padres are introduced at a press conference – a common occurrence for players joining new teams

As the Trade Deadline approaches, I have to confess that it is one of my favorite days of the season – in any sport. It is exciting when a veteran player joins a new team. There is a press conference and the new player pulls on a jersey of the new team to meet the press and be introduced to the fan base. There is an association that happens – the player now represents his/her new team and the team is proud to have the new player join the franchise. I really like Draft day too! There is something to be said about a young aspiring player having the next step in his/her dream fulfilled when his/her name is called by one of the teams in the professional leagues. They are, in essence saying I see the potential on you and we are going to take action because we see you as a fit for our team. Then the player, if they are in attendance at the draft, go forward, meet the decision makers of the team and pull on a jersey of the new team that they now associate with.

Padres OF/1B Wil Myers

With that lead in, we will check out the story of Wil Myers of the San Diego Padres. He is the most well known name on the Padres largely due to his 2013 Rookie of the Year win with the Tampa Bay Rays. He was an All-Star for the Padres last season, and now that the NFL’s Chargers have moved up the coast to Los Angeles, Myers has become the most well known sports star in the city.

Drafted out of High School by the Kansas City Royals in the 2009 draft. He would be traded to the Rays before playing a game for the Royals.  Before the trade, Myers had torn up the minors at the AA and AAA levels. He won the Rookie of the Year despite playing only half a season, but still led all rookies in RBI. However, after his successful Rookie of the Year season, injuries limited his playing time and his effectiveness for the next 2 seasons. He was dealt to a rebuilding Padres team to be a key player hopefully speeding up the rebuild.

Myers was an All-Star last season, and a participant in the Home Run Derby

After his All-Star season last year, Myers entered this season with lofty goals. You can check them out in this article from the San Diego Tribune. In the article, he also talks about the “All-Star Hangover”. He says “When I got to the All-Star break I felt like my season was done, It was like, ‘I’m an All-Star. I did it.’ And then I had 2 1/2 months left to play. I didn’t prepare. I didn’t lock back in quick enough into the second half. I was still in that All-Star hangover. When I found out, shoot, I’ve got to get going again, it was too late, and I started to panic.” So this year, the hope was to recover the torrid pace he had set in June last year. His numbers are on par with his season last year, falling a little short of his 40-40 goals. He is looking to avoid a repeat of last year, when his numbers fell off after the All-Star break. And as we can read in this San Diego Tribune article, Myers does learn from his past. The article shares how his mother and father instilled in him the value of taking responsibility for his own actions. We read “When Wil was in middle school, he was playing in a game down in Concord and slammed his helmet to the ground after making a third out. When he got back to the dugout after the next half-inning, Pam was removing his bag from the hook on the fence. “He said, ‘Momma, what are you doing?’ “ Pam recalled. “I said, ‘Wil, you don’t throw your helmet. You’re not playing like that.’ He said, ‘Momma, I promise I won’t do that again.’ ”Pam relented, but not before a scolding reminder that “You represent me and your daddy. You represent this family. We don’t do that.

So a player may pull on a jersey of a new team to meet the fan base and media, but they represent more than their new team when they play the game. We read that Myers family also takes ownership of his play and his actions – he represents them by his work and his attitude. And as you can learn in this video below, he also represents Christ as he plays.

He says “Jesus is your Lord and Savior. He’s the one who died for your sins. He’s the guide to make disciples of all nations for Him. You go out there and every time you get that voice in your head to talk about Him you just got to do it!

Here are my takeaways from Myers’ story

Myers was the 2013 A.L. Rookie of the Year. Myers says “You go out there and every time you get that voice in your head to talk about Him you just got to do it!”

1- Who do you represent? –  Myers talks about following the prompting of the Holy Spirit when it comes to sharing about his faith. He knows that just like he is the face of sports in San Diego and he represents the city and his team with the way he acts and plays, as a believer, he also represents Christ to fans, teammates and opposing players. He says “You just got to do it” when you hear that voice in your head to talk about Jesus. As believers, we are representatives of Christ. It is true that we are always being an example, always influencing those around us. The question we must ask is what kind of example are we being? What kind of influence do we have on others? Is it a positive one that points them to the love of Jesus or is it the selfish me-first attitude that we battle against every day? What kind of mark do we leave on our surroundings. Christian Rock band Send the Beggar has a song called “Leaving Jesus” The lyric from the song that came to mind as I wrote this article is the part where they sing. “They don’t call me Jesus, but I leave your name every where I go.  I prove that you’re here by being here Like tracks in the snow“. That is our challenge – to show Jesus everywhere we go.

After last years All Star game, Myers struggled to continue at the pace he had been hitting. He aims for a better second half this season

2-  Stay Prepared – Myers shared how he struggled after the All Star break last season. He said “When I got to the All-Star break I felt like my season was done, It was like, ‘I’m an All-Star. I did it.’ And then I had 2 1/2 months left to play. I didn’t prepare. I didn’t lock back in quick enough into the second half” For Myers, he rested on his accomplishments and didn’t keep the same mindset and drive in the second half of the season. I’ve heard it said “The only way to coast is downhill” and while rest is important, we need to stay in the battle, constantly asking God to guide us and help us through the struggle. Satan will never leave us alone, but he is sneaky and looking for a chance to attack when we are vulnerable. Let’s stay locked in to following God and putting our all into following Him.

TBT – Dream a Little Dream – Joe Carter – Toronto Blue Jays

Former Blue Jays OF, Slugger and Hero Joe Carter

It is amazing how God can use “normal” things in everyday life to draw us to Him. One of the coolest stories that I have come across was that of a man that I met 15 years ago at a conference I attended. I was there on my own and found myself sitting next to a guy before one of the sessions. We struck up a conversation, and he told me how he came to know that God was real. He went with some people from his church to a Promise Keepers conference. While there, he heard some things from the Bible that stirred his heart a little. But he was not completely convinced. He prayed a prayer asking God specifically for a “flashing sign” to show that He was real. He went into a session of worship and teaching and as the band played, to his surprise, God gave him what he asked for. This man’s name was Roland and from where he was standing, as the singer rocked back and forth one song, the name brand of the key board came in and out of view. So as he watched the stage, he saw “Roland! Roland! Roland!” He remembered his prayer for a flashing sign and was amazed at how God worked it out. He committed to following Christ that night.

The biggest moment it Blue Jays history happened in part because God told Carter in a dream to stay in Toronto.

Cool story of how God used the brand name of a keyboard to draw a man to himself. For Blue Jays legendary slugger Joe Carter, his flashing sign was actually blue jays. As you can read in this article from sportscollectorsdigest.com it was a dream that led him to stay in Toronto instead of leaving for a more lucrative contract from the Royals. He had just been part of the World Series champs in 1992 and his contract was up. The Jays offered a 3 year deal. The Royals approached with a 4-year offer for more money. Then, the dream. Joe said “I went to bed one night and I had a dream. I saw myself walking with Devon White (his Blue Jay teammate in 1992) to a stadium and I was dribbling a basketball. Why I had a basketball, I don’t know, but it was pitch black when we walked in and the scoreboard said, ‘Welcome to SkyDome.’’ That was sign No. 1. The next sign came when he awoke and his wife told him to look out the window. He saw blue jays all over his backyard.”

Carter sees the dream and the appearance of blue jays, not unseen but rare in Kansas City, as a sign from God. He says “I figured God was making it pretty clear to me what I should do”. So he re-upped with the Blue Jays, and they would go on to win it all again. They won in 6 with Joe Carter hitting a walk-off homer that is among the most memorable moments in baseball history. Most Canadians know where they were when this home run was hit. I was sitting in the front seat of a car as a leader at Scout Camp, waiting for another leader to return to the camp with my sleeping bag. (Another long story for a different time). Anyway, in case you have never seen it, here is Joe’s moment.

Carter’s exuberant trip around the bases after the home run is one of the most well known moments in baseball history

The result of this home run was not only a win for the Blue Jays and a legacy moment for Joe Carter, it increased his platform size as people would love to hear his story. With that platform, he has shared the excitement of the moment and also his desire to honor God through his life.  From the book “Famous People Speak about Jesus” Carter shares “I am thankful and I give honor to God, and to my Savior, Jesus Christ. And I say that because you see a lot of athletes nowadays on TV say, `I want to thank God for the game that I had and thank God for what He’s done for me.’ But what God are they really talking about? I found myself listening to that and said `I want to be different because I want to leave no doubt as to who I am talking about and who I’m serving and that is my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.’ I want to really emphasize that because He is the true leader of my life and that the way I want to be remembered.”

Carter had a dream and saw a blue jay in his back yard. God used those moments to guide Carter to stay in Toronto. And the World Series stayed north of the boarder. He now talks openly about how God worked to guide him and how he wants to live his life for God.

My takeaways from Carter’s story:

1- No Insignificance with God – By themselves, there is nothing spectacular about a blue jay in your back yard or a Roland keyboard, yet God used these items to guide people to understanding His plan for them. What has God used in your life that really show His creativity. How has He shown up in unexpected ways to show Himself to you and demonstrate his Love, forgiveness and grace to draw you close? God is not undone by our skepticism and He doesn’t abandon us in our unbelief. Instead, he patiently shows Himself in ways that can only be orchestrated by the Maestro of creation. But the other part that we can’t miss is that He also takes care of the little things, the things that we have not dared to share with other people, the quiet doubts and concerns that we may have. He patiently shows up to calm all of those and show us He is real, He is with us and He has an amazing adventure for us.

2- Legacy moment – Joe Carter is known for a successful baseball career, but the defining moment of that career was a walk-off World Series winning Home Run in Game six of the 1993 World Series. It is only the second time in all of baseball history where the World Series was won with a walk off home run. And while that moment’s significance seems greater because of the situation and the 10’s of millions of witnesses, but if you ask my friend Roland, he would say the “flashing sign” that he was was also life-changingly significant. When God shows up and changes our life, He writes that unique part of our story which then becomes part of our legacy. How has God changed your life? Where did He show up and show a personal touch to you that drew you into his very presence. This is your legacy and He gives it to you to share and encourage others. Don’t turn away from your story. Embrace it and share it.

All Star Six Pack – “All-Star” players and their faith in God

Tonight, it is time for the All-Star game. It marks the middle of the baseball season and the middle of summer. The game is a showcase of talent from around the Majors. Over the past week, I have focussed on several players who are playing in tonights game. But to finish it up, I have pulled together this All-Star Six Pack of some more players whose faith in God is an important part of their game.

 

The Bruise – Josh Harrison – Pittsburgh Pirates

Harrison is playing in his second All Star game. I gave his the nickname of the Bruise because he is leading the league in, of all things, Hit by pitch with 20. He has played with the Pirates for the past 7 seasons, has played every position except catcher, first and center field. And as you can see in this video from a Pirates Faith Night, he is open about his faith in God. (starting at about the 4 minute mark)

The Fireballer Craig Kimbrel –  Boston Red Sox

Red Sox closer Craig Kimberly in his Spider Arm stance.

Pitching for his third team, Kimbrel was named to his 6th all star team. He debuted with the Braves in 2010 and won the NL Rookie of the Year in 2011. This year, with the Red Sox, he has been great. In fact, on May He also, according to baseball reference received votes for the MVP and Cy Young awards. 4 times he has led the league in saves. What makes him so effective, so dominant? Maybe it is his Spider Armed pre-pitch stance. Or maybe it is his fastball which this season has been largely unhittable .He even pitched an immaculate inning earlier this year (9 pitches, 3 strikeouts).  As you can read in this article, Kimbrel knows that his fastball is a gift from God. He says “God gave me the ability to throw a baseball, and I get to do it with conviction against the best in the world every night.”

The PriestCarlos Martinez – St. Louis Cardinals

Cardinals Ace Carlos Martinez

Carlos Martinez used to shine shoes for money to help his family make ends meet. The Red Sox were interested in him, but when he didn’t have a birth certificate and couldn’t afford to have one re-issued, they didn’t sign him. The Cardinals worked with him, got the official paperwork and signed Martinez.  He has not disappointed. He has been excellent in his time in the Majors. Interesting fact Martinez studied to enter the priesthood for 4 years. Church was an important part of his life. Still today, he is motivated to server others. He started the Tsunami Waves foundation for that purpose.

The BomberAaron Judge – New York Yankees

The Champ – Aaron Judge and the Home Run Derby Trophy

He is a Bronx Bomber and as he showed last night (and all season) he hits BOMBS, too. Aaron Judge has taken the majors by storm thus far. He hit a home run in his first Major League at bat and this year, before the 40 or so he hit in the Home Run Derby last night, he has put 30 major league pitches beyond the Home Run fence. He is gigantic at 6’7″ 282 pounds, he looks more like a football player. But he is a gentle giant who is outspoken about his faith in God on his Twitter Feed .  If you want to learn more about him, check out this article from Sports Spectrum about Judge and his love for the family that adopted him when he was one day old. He says “I feel they kind of picked me, I feel that God was the one that matched us together.’’ I have a friend who is adopted and this sounds like a conversation I once had with him. And it also  made me think of Ephesians 1.5 that says “”

The PlumberMichael Fulmer – Detroit Tigers

2016 A.L. Rookie of the Year Michael Fulmer

I thought about turning this one into a feature post, but I needed one more to make the six-pack so here it is. Michael Fulmer was a rising prospect for the Mets. Then he was packaged in a deal for Yoenis Cespedes. And the deal paid off for the Tigers. Fulmer won the A.L. Rookie of the year last year, posting a 11-7 record and an era of a hair over 3. This year he is an all-star and while pitching last Sunday means he won’t play in the All-Star game, he is worthy of the spot with his work this season. He leads the league with the lowest home runs allowed per nine innings (o.5). Check out this article from Crossings church where it talks about Fuller seeking to be used by God in every community he is in in his life and how he strives to stay humble and grounded. Like we can see in This article from Sports Illustrated that talks about his off-season regimen which includes an early start, not to work out in a traditional baseball way, but rather with the physical labor demands of being a plumber. Neat story about a likable guy!

The Kid – Carlos Correia – Houston Astros

Carlos Correia is one of the youngest players in the All-Star game. He was the 2015 Rookie of the Year and is making his first All-Star game appearance this year. As you can see in this video put together for Astros Faith Night, Correia discusses his belief in God and the importance of honoring God and living by His principles. An injury showed Correia that baseball would end one day but his life of honoring and following God should never end. Check it out.

I have to be an Example – Ender Inciarte – Atlanta Braves – All Star Focus part 4

Braves All-Star outfielder Ender Inciarte

As a job, I am a “Site Coordinator” for an after school program that operates at a school in the greater metro Twin Cities. I oversee a staff 0f 15-20 who plan and carry out a daily before and after school program during the school year, and full-day programming in the summer. I have a boss and a group of supervisors that I answer to, but at the site, I am the leader.

So an important question to ask when you are in a leadership position is: How should I lead? What is my leadership style? I am a firm believer that a good leader values people and leads by example (i.e. is willing to do whatever task they are assigning others to do). A good leader is willing to practice what he/she preaches.  These thoughts came to mind today as I looked into the story of Ender Inciarte, All-Star outfielder for the Atlanta Braves.

Inciarte is a Gold Glove Outfielder

Enciarte signed his first pro contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks back in 2008 as an 18 year old. Signed out of his native Venezuela, Inciarte worked his way through the Diamondbacks system but was left unprotected and selected in the Rule 5 draft by the Philadelphia Phillies in 2012.  He earned a spot with the Phillies out of Spring Training, but did not appear in the Opening Day game. After the game, he was demoted which for a Rule 5 player, means he was available to be reclaimed by Arizona. And that is what happened. He climbed the minor league ladder for a couple more seasons before making his debut with Arizona on May 2, 2014. He would play 118 games for the Diamondbacks that year, finishing 5th in Rookie of the year voting. He played one more season in Arizona before being traded to the Atlanta Braves. Last year with the Braves, Inciarte won a Gold Glove award for center field. Thus year, he already has 2 5-hit games for the Braves, christened their new stadium by recording the first out, the first hit and the first home run at the new Ball Park.

How do you win a Gold Glove? You keep some tricks up your sleeve and you have an accurate, strong throwing arm.  Check out this play from a game last season.

The speedy Inciarte has been a consistent leadoff hitter for the Braves for the past 2 seasons. Baseball gives him an escape from worry about what is happening in Venezuela

You can learn more about Inciarte and his thoughts about the political upheaval in his native Venezuela from this article from the Atlanta Journal Constitution. He recently tweeted. “I ask God every day and every night for the lives of all the people that go out every day to fight for liberty in the streets.”  You can also read about his excitement to play in the All-Star game on Tuesday, or you can check out this capture from his Instagram account. He wrote “I feel very humble and proud to be able to represent my team in the All star game. Faith in God and hard work has brought me even farther than what i ever thought. But the kid never stops dreaming. 

But it was in the book “Baseball Faith” by Rob Maaddi that I really was challenged by Inciarte and his faith.  He says “Religion is just a word. My religion is God, so I try to play for Him. Hopefully one day, people can see Him through me. I try to be a better person, a better example because if I follow Him, I have to set an example for others. 

Here are my takeaways from Inciarte’s story.

Inciarte knows he is called to be an example for others of what living for God looks like.

1- I have to set an example for others – There is a true statement that someone made once about examples. It says “You are always an example for others, are you being a good example or a bad one?”  What kind of example am I? Do my words reflect what I claim to believe? Do my actions line up with my words?  A verse that has meant a lot to me is 1 Timothy 4.12.  It says “ Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.”  Those 5 areas really cover all of life.  How can we be an example in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity?  For me, it comes down to understanding/admitting what God has done in my life. It is like in Acts 4.20.  Peter and John stirred up the city by healing a lame man at the temple. The leaders didn’t know what to do with them, so they decided to warn the two of them not to speak anymore about this healing or about Jesus. Peter answers “We cannot stay quiet about what we have seen and heard”. What have you seen and heard God do in your life? How have you experienced His love, forgiveness and Supernatural work? It had become so engrained in their lives that it came out of them, and they knew that they wouldn’t be able to hold it in. I pray that we all are so moved by what God has been doing in us that we are unable to hold it in either. Inciarte said “If I follow Him, I have to set an example for others.”

2- Pray for others –  I speak often about hard things that we go through. Let’s also remember that even if we are not in the midst of trouble and pain, we don’t have to look very far to find others in a hard situation. Inciarte is playing baseball and playing at a high level. He implied that baseball is a time when he can take his mind off of the trouble in his Homeland. But every day he is praying for the people there and the battle for liberty that they are fighting. Even if we are from here or our home is not in some form of political unrest the truth is that there is a world around us that are not living in the freedom that comes from knowing and living for Jesus. Pray for opportunities to share that freedom with them through your encouragement, your words and your example.

This is What I Got – Robbie Ray – Arizona Diamondbacks – All Star Focus Part 3

Diamondbacks pitcher Robbie Ray

A few years back, I wrote a blog post about New York Yankees reliever Mariano Rivera. Part of his story was that one day, as he was throwing with a teammate, practicing his cut fastball (aka cutter) the baseball just began to move unpredictably. It was the pitch that made Mariano Rivera an All-Star and Hall of Famer. Teams would know that the cutter was coming and they still couldn’t hit it. Now Rivera is a legend and maybe the best that ever played the game. But the goal for all pitchers is to be unhittable – to make batters miss, even if they know what is coming. Robbie Ray has been pretty successful at making batters miss.  He will be the focus for the Living Up to My Name post for today.

Ray hit his first career home run against Tampa Bay’s Chris Archer in 2016

Ray was drafted by the Washington Nationals in the 12th round of the 2010 draft. He worked his way through the Nationals system, and in 2013 he was traded to the Detroit Tigers as part of a package of players sent to get Doug Fister. He would start the 2014 campaign with the Tigers AAA team in Toledo. He was brought up to make his debut in May, and pitched in 9 games with the Tigers that year. Another trade brought him to Arizona where he is now in his third season as part of the Diamondbacks rotation. After a rough start to the year, he has really turned things around and has earned an All-Star spot – the first of his career. He is 8-4 with an era just over 3. He has also struck out 128 batters in 100 innings.This article from CBN calls him a fastball specialist. Like Rivera, you know what you are going to get with Ray, you simply have to figure out how to hit it. And many fail at this. Ray is one of only 12 pitchers in baseball history to average 11 strikeouts per nine innings over the course of an entire season.  He says “I’m not an aimer. I’m more of a hard nose, in your face kind of pitcher. I’m coming at you and with my best stuff all the time. I’m not a guy that’s gonna nibble on corners. I’m not looking to trick you. I’m coming at you with what I got and that’s it!Last year I felt like there were starts where I could tell the guy ‘hey this is what’s coming’ and he still wasn’t gonna hit it.” Check out Ray sharing his thoughts on pitching in the majors below.

Included in that piece was Ray sharing the importance of faith in his life as a baseball player and as a dad. He says “I think its just trusting Him daily. What really put it in perspective for me is when I had my first son. And I realized the relationship I have with my Heavenly Father is a lot similar to that. He can disobey me but I could still love him. And so I know every time I mess up, every time I do something wrong – that God still loves me.” As a member of the Tigers, he was an active participant in some Faith Days.  You can check out his faith story from his days with the Tigers here.

Here are my takeaways from Ray’s story:

Ray is a Fastball pitcher. He says “I’m not an aimer. I’m more of a hard nose, in your face kind of pitcher. I’m coming at you and with my best stuff all the time.”

1- This is what I got –  Ray is a fastball specialist. He may mix in a few different versions of the fastball, but ultimately, his weapon is the fastball. He admits that he isn’t a finesse pitcher, trying to catch the corner of the plate and keep you guessing about what is coming. He just simply brings fastball after fastball and dares batters to hit one. And frequently, they are unable to do so. Let’s compare that to our Christian faith. Some people get caught up worrying about how to present the gospel message in a relevant way that will draw people outside the Christian circles. We try to find clever new ways to sneak the message in. Even when I worked in youth ministry, it was a tricky line to walk to plan a fun event, but still have some spiritual aspect to the night. Lately, I’ve realized that we don’t really need a trick or a hook.  Jesus is the hook. He alone is relevant, and the best message we could share with others. Let’s be like Robbie Ray with his fastball. “Here it is. This is what I’ve got. I’m not going to hide it, or try to trick you”.  It is my story, the way that I have seen God work in my life.  I’m just going to present it to you. What you do with it is up to you and your willingness to let God speak to you.

Ray with son (photo borrowed from Twitter) He says being a dad has given him perspective on his relationship with God

2- Father/child relationship – I am constantly amazed how many lessons I learn from being a dad. I really resonated with what Robbie said in the video about the perspective he gained from becoming a father.  I have 4 daughters and I thought as I heard his words that it would be horrible if they thought they could do something that would make me stop loving them. That breaks my heart to think that. A favorite book that my daughters always liked was the kids book “I’ll love you forever” but Robert Munsch. That is what I want my kids to know. No matter their behavior, their rebellion, whatever they do, I want them to hear my voice out loud or in their head saying “I’ll Love you forever, I’ll Like you for always, as long as I’m living my baby you’ll be”. But yet when it comes to God, our perfect, flawless Heavenly Father, we imagine that we can fall out of His love. He is perfect and He is filled with perfect love for each of us. He created us and made us just the way He wanted us to be. He also made us with the choice of whether we would follow Him or turn away from Him. But His love remains perfect. He will Love us forever and Like us for always, as Long as we’re living our Savior he wants to be. – Not quite as catchy as a rhyme, but so very true! Do you believe it? Will you allow Him to show His love to you no matter what choices you’ve made in your life. I promise you it will change your life for the best.