All Star Week Pt 2- Blake Treinen – Oakland A’s RP

A’s All-Star Reliever Blake Treinen

Part of the joy of writing this blog is hearing the unlikely stories and the amazing journeys that many players have followed. So many names that have become major league players, even All-stars – came close to giving up, quitting or being forced out by injury or circumstance. But they push through, and their story becomes as interesting as their success.  Blake Treinen is one of those stories. The 30-year old Oakland A’s closer will appear in his first career All-Star game tonight, the result of a first half where in 40 appearances he has already set career highs in wins and saves, while posting a minuscule 0.94 era and holding opponents to a .174 batting average. And while the A’s have some significant hurdles to cross to make the playoffs, they have been turning heads with their better-than-expected season and their solid bullpen.

Treinen’s sinker has helped him puzzle the batter’s he has faced – they are hitting well below ,200 against him this year.

Treinen’s story is one of perseverance through challenges. Here is a summary.  He played High school baseball as a freshman but quit in his Sophomore season after developing diabetes.  He came back to baseball, but was not recruited to play college ball. He attended Baker University, but baseball options there were limited so he transferred to Arkansas, hoping to win a job as a walk-on. He didn’t. Home for Christmas, Treinen attended a one-day pitching clinic put on by a local minor league baseball player Don Czyz. Czyz saw potential. He contacted a former college teammate who was head coach at South Dakota State. Treinen transferred there after finding out they had just started offering the career program he was interested in. He sat out a year due to his time at Arkansas and then starting pitching for the Jackrabbits. Now he was getting noticed. He was drafted by the Marlins in the 23rd round. But a failed physical sent him home without a contract. He was crushed by this. He called his parents, his coach and the SDSU team chaplain. The chaplain assured him with Proverbs 3.4-5. Treinen kind of blew it off, not feeling comforted. His parents picked him up at the airport and were driving through the early morning hours towards home. That is when, according to this CJonline article, Blake said “There’s literally no one out there at 2 in the morning. This red Cavalier drives by and I’m telling my parents at the time that my team chaplain had given me this verse, Proverbs 3:5-6. The car drives by as I’m saying it and their license plate was custom. It read, Prov356. I’m like, ’OK, if you all don’t believe in signs that there’s a God … I’ve had too many things happen in my life that have pointed in that direction more than the idea that there’s not.”  He goes on to say “My biggest crutch throughout everything has been Jesus. Baseball is part of my testimony to my faith. All I’ve ever known is baseball and God has been with me every step. Every trial has been through baseball in some form, and he’s always seen me through.”

Here is a compilation of how effective Treinen has been this season.

And this year, a new height has been reached. Treinen had known some success with the Nationals as a closer, but he is shattering his personal bests this year and his out-pitch – a sinker that averages in the high 90s has troubled opposing hitters all year. I’m excited to see him play tonight, and to share his story of faith and determination.

Here are my takeaways from Treinen’s story.

1- What’s Your story – I’ve said many times on these virtual pages that our story is such a key part of our life. Our lives and experiences are meant for us to know that God is real and active in our lives, but also for others to see God at work through our circumstances and be drawn to Him. Treinen talks in the articles that I linked to above about having some doors slammed shut and others open up. I’m glad to share Blake Treinen’s story. Because we can see similar things occurring in our own stories.  I challenge you all to reflect on your own story and see how God has been faithful and drawing you in to trust Him in all circumstances.

Treinen is congratulated on a save for the A’s – something that has happened 24 times already this season.

2- You Never Know –  Part of what makes this story so intriguing is the “coincidences” throughout. The most jarring is the personalized license plate bearing Proverbs 3.56 just hours after Blake was offered those same 2 verses as a comfort for this challenge he was facing. Consider all the pieces of the story. He happened to be sharing that part of his story and the verses that were shared with him with his parents as the car drove by. It makes you wonder about the driver of the red Cavalier. What happened in his/her life that led them to get that particular verse printed on their license plate. Do they know the impact that it had on this passenger in the car they passed? A man who now finds himself in the baseball All-Star game. Kinda makes you think about all the different ways that you are able to share your faith with others. Maybe it will be in a deep conversation about theology and doctrine, maybe it will be in reflection of a movie that you watch with some friends that brings up topics of faith, sin, grace and forgiveness, maybe it will be a Christian themed t-shirt you are wearing or a tattoo with a bible verse or crying with a friend that has just had their world turned upside down by tragedy. There are may ways that God uses to reach into the lives of others around us. Sometimes He even uses your license plate!

 

All-Star Week 2018 – Trevor Story – Colorado Rockies

Rockies SS and first time All-Star Trevor Story

I used to dream about being a baseball player. Did I ever really have a chance to make it? I would fall under the “longest of long shots”. But if I were to have made it, I dreamed of what it would be like. I dreamed about getting hits, stealing bases, making defensive plays. I dreamed about my debut and what I could accomplish in it. But in my wildest dreams, I couldn’t have dreamed about the reality that Trevor Story of the Colorado Rockies lived. Story, who is a first time All-Star this year, may go on to accomplish lots of incredible things in his pro baseball career, but I believe part of Story’s story in baseball will always his first week in the Majors.

Trevor Story on-deck on Opening Day 2016. His 2 home runs on opening day world introduce Trevor Story to the baseball world. His 5 more home runs over the course of the week would put him in the record book.

It had taken some time to get there. Story had been drafted in the first round of the 2011 draft. He worked his way through the minors, and with the help of a great host family, he learned about living life as a pro baseball player and as an adult.  In 2016, Trevor Story made the Rockies roster out of Spring Training. He got the opening day start against Zach Greinke, who was runner up for the National League Cy Young award the year before. That is a tough taskfor a major league debut. He grounded out to short in his first at bat. In his second, he hit a 3 run home-run. In his third at bat, He took Greinke deep again, this time for a solo shot. Story would go on to set a record by hitting 7 home runs in his first 6 games. Here are the highlights from his first week.

He would go on to hit 20 more home runs in his rookie season, finishing 4th in Rookie of the Year voting, despite playing less than 100 games, missing the final 2 months of the season with a thumb injury. Last season, he struggled at the plate, hitting .239 and leading the National League in strikeouts, although he did still connect for 24 home runs. This year, he has raised his batting average to .289. and 18 home runs. He also already has a career high in stolen bases and triples. He was named to his first All-Star team this year.

The Trevor Story home run trot has been seen 69 times so far in his career. Check out this story about his mom and his journey to the majors.

But for Story, whether he is on a record setting home run pace, or dealing with injuries and struggles in the game, he is constantly leaning on his faith in God to guide him. He says “Through the highs and lows, there’s always one thing constant, That’s my relationship with God. Its certainly not perfect but that’s the thing I fall back on and it’s the most important thing to me”. He also goes on to share the help and encouragement he takes from his teammates who attend baseball chapel with him. He says, “it’s a special brotherhood and we’re trying to keep it growing. Darren Holmes (Rockies bullpen coach) and Steve Foster (Rockies pitching coach) push me almost everyday to grow spiritually. Ian Desmond has been one of those guys for me too. It’s a special thing to have a brother like that that’s with you everyday and a guy you can lean on.” (I blogged about Desmond a couple years ago).

Here are my takeaways from Story’s story.

1- Beyond our Wildest Dreams –  I imagine that even in his most positive and hopeful dreams, even Story would admit that he didn’t dream about the start that his career had. At least one home run in each of his four Major League games. 7 through 6 games. He certainly caught the attention of the baseball world in a huge way. I have never played professional baseball. I have never hit a ball over the home run fence at any level of baseball or softball. But I have dreamed about it. I have also dreamed about many things in life – things that could happen, things that I would like to happen, and there have been countless times when the dreams I had were far exceeded by the reality that I lived because God had bigger things in mind. Do I believe that God will always give us things that will make us rich or famous, but I do believe that living for Him is the best option that we have and following Him will exceed all our expectations.

Story’s faith in God is important to him in his baseball career and in his life.

2- Constant – And even when things are not working out perfect for our fame and success, He continues to guide us and lead us if we allow him to. We can depend on Him. When we are unable to navigate the difficult times in life on our own, He is eager to help. When we are hurting, or forgotten, He comforts us and reminds us of His promises. When we forget about Him, rebel against Him or try to go through life alone, He is always there, waiting for us to call out to him again. I picture the book of Judges. I used to teach lessons to kids from Judges called the A,B,C,D,E,Fs. The way it worked for Israel in the time of the Judges was they would Abandon God, Bad things happen, they Call out to God, a Deliverer is sent, and Everything is good again, For a while, until the cycle starts again. We live life in a similar cycle. But God is constantly there, constantly working and dependable. Trevor Story talks about this constancy that he has experienced with God even though his part in the faith relationship is not perfect. There is a good lesson in that. We are imperfect in our part of the faith relationship, but God is perfect, he is faithful and he is always there.

Faith on Display at World Series – 2017 – Astros vs Dodgers

It is World Series time! And as a lifelong baseball fan, it is one of the highlights of my sports year. And this year, the games have been especially entertaining. And with game 4 today and game 5 tomorrow it is possible that the end of the baseball season will come this weekend. The Dodgers are hoping to send it back to LA next week. Do you have a cheering interest? If not, Let me share this video from CBN that focusses on 3 players from each team.

 

I have featured many of these players before – here are the links to the posts I’ve written for the players involved.

Dodgers

Clayton Kershaw – One of the earliest posts on my blog – shares about Kershaw’s efforts to help out an orphanage in Africa.

Josh Fields – Earlier this season, I wrote a post about Fields, being traded and giving it his all every time out.

Astros

Carlos Beltran – Last season, at the All-Star break, I shared a little of Beltran’s story and coping with tragedy.

Jose Altuve –  at 5’6″ Altuve impresses every time he takes the field. Here is the post I wrote about him and his work and effort to realize his dream of playing baseball.

And some more information about Curtis Granderson and Will Harris both of whom have participated in Baseball Chapel videos.  Check them out below!

If you want more, check out the posts I wrote on Carlos Correia and Lance McCullers Jr.

Enjoy the rest of the Games.

 

Modern Monday – a review of Rob Maaddi’s “Baseball Faith”

Baseball Faith by Rob Maaddi 

Baseball season is winding down and my goal of blogging ever Monday and Thursday has fallen a little short as well. That being said, I am only four teams away from blogging about someone on each of the 15 National League teams.

Earlier this year, I bought a copy of Rob Maaddi’s book Baseball faith. In this book, 52 players, past and present reflect on their faith in God. Maaddi gives each of them 4 pages, a photo, career highlights and stats, a favorite bible verse and a brief summary of faith in God as it is seen in their lives. I referenced the book earlier this summer with my post on Ender Inciarte. So to finish up the season and to give some credit to Maaddi for his book, I offer this four-pack of players stories from “Baseball Faith”

Marlins Catcher J.T. Realmuto

1- J.T. Realmuto – Florida Marlins (key verse – James 4.7)

Submit yourself then to God. Resist the Devil and he will flee from you.

Realmuto talks about the struggle to remain humble, especially in baseball where fame and recognition from others are part of the deal. He says “...it’s extremely important to be humble and understand that all of this is just a small part of what we do…We need to stay humble, stay low-key and not buy into all the fame and the things of this world.” How does Realmuto accomplish this? “Reading the Bible every day and getting into the Word fulfills things throughout your body and your soul that you can’t get anywhere else”

Takeaway –

The devil is sneaky. He will hit us up with both ends of the spectrum. He will tell us we are the best and that other should bend over backwards for us because we are so cool. And then the next breath, he will tell us we are worthless and useless, unlovable and awful human beings. Staying in the Word is important because it will help us identify the lies of the devil and fill our hearts and minds with God’s truth. And one key truth is in the verse that Realmuto shared – With God’s power alive and active in us as believers, when we resist the devil, he will flee from us. Keep your eyes focussed on God and let His truth fill you.

Nationals minor league infielder Brandon Snyder

2-  Brandon Snyder – Washington Nationals (Key verse – Matthew 6.34) “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day  has enough trouble of its own

The son of a former Major League pitcher, Brian, and former first round draft pick (#13 overall 2005) Brandon Snyder. The 30 year old has 120 pro games on his resume mostly as a pinch hitter or defensive replacement. He discusses Matthew 6.34 saying that as a baseball player, you often think about tomorrow and what you have to do to keep your career going, to become a better player. He says “If you realize that you can give it to God, not worry about tomorrow and let Him lead you, that takes a lot of anxiety away and lets you be yourself. ”

Takeaway – Above I mentioned a couple ways that the devil tries to mess with us. Worry is another one. He will try to show us all the things that could possible go wrong and tries to paralyze us with fear so we are less effective in our witness. Jesus knew that would be a ploy of his enemy. And so during his time on Earth, to help us with this, he invited us not to worry. The verse before this one reminds us to seek God’s kingdom above all else and focus on the things He is doing. He promises to provide for our needs and work in our lives.  It is a challenge, but God is our provider. Take some time to see how He has been at work in your life, that He is always faithful, and accept this invitation not to worry about the things that are not in your control anyway. Instead, trust the one who IS in control to take care of you and meet your needs.

Mets lefty Steven Matz

3- Steven Matz – New York Mets (key verse 1 Thessalonians 4.11-12)

And to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.

Matz, a lefty who the Mets chose in the 2nd round of the 2009 draft set a team record for most RBIs in a major league debut with 4. Not bad for a pitcher! Over his 3 year career, he has had some great games (taking a no-hitter into the 8th inning against the Padres) offset by some injury woes.  But he is still young and has shown a lot of promise. In regards to his key verse, he says  “…(at) this level, there is a lot of demand for your attention and sometimes you want to blow people off. But this verse tells me to mind my own business, work hard and be humble.

He continues “When I realized it wasn’t a matter of being a good person or a bad person, that’s when I became a better person because I realized I didn’t have to work my way or earn my way (to heaven). Once I recognized that (Jesus loves me)…my mindset has been completely different.”

takeaway – This is where baseball and life of faith differ. In baseball, there is a constant need to prove yourself. A baseball career can be over in the blink of an eye if the statistics are not good enough. If you are fortunate enough to make it to the majors, you have to work every day to keep you place because someone is looking to take your spot away from you as they strive to fulfill their own dream. I am so glad that God doesn’t work that way. Not only do we not have to earn our way to forgiveness and salvation, we CAN’T earn it. The bible tells us that the absolute best that we can do is nowhere near good enough. Isaiah 64.6 tells us that all of our righteousness (efforts to do right) are like filthy rags. We have the work of being obedient, but the only way we reach right standing with God is through the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

Phillies slugging third baseman Maikel Franco

4- Maikel Franco – Philadelphia Phillies (key verse – John 14.6)

Jesus answered “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”

Maikel Franco is a power hitting third baseman that the Phillies signed as an international free agent in 2010 when he was 17. He made his debut in September 2014 and like Matz, put his name in his team’s record book becoming the first Phillies player to record back to back 5 rbi games.  He took over as the regular third baseman for the Phillies in 2015 and has hit over 50 home runs in his 360 career games. He shared John 14.6 saying that he likes this verse because “God is everything to me. When you have a good relationship with God, it’s amazing because everything is going to be fine. Even if you have a tough moment in your life, you have to thank God for everything…God is the path to truth and life, If you believe Jesus died for your sins and give your life to Him, He is the way to heaven… In tough moments, you can’t do it alone. Pray to Jesus and give Him control. He is the Way”

Takeaway – What struck me from Franco’s words was the thankfulness. Thanking God for everything when you are having a tough time? That is not our instinct. We tend to blame him, question him and mistrust Him. But if we can choose instead to thank Him, knowing that He does have a plan for us and that it is for our ultimate best, we will see our trust in Him grow. He has given us so much. He has taken care of us in so many ways. He is with us in hard times, He is able to turn our hardest things into positives. He really is ALL we need. He is everything.

 

Modern Monday – Brighten the Day of those around you – Ty Blach – San Francisco Giants

Giants Lefty Ty Blach

About a year and a half ago, I took on a second job, working at Trader Joe’s. I remember one of the interview questions was something to the effect of “what does a good day look like to you?” I thought about it for a moment and what came to mind when I thought about having a “good day” was that I would be able to make better the day of everyone I was in contact with. I don’t know that I achieved that many times in my 18 months of working there – I’d like to think that I did, but it is something that I know I wanted to strive for.  And I think that it is a valid goal to set for every day life, not just in the customer-centered world of retail.

Earlier this week, Ty Blach made life for his Giants teammates better by pitching 8 strong innings against the Oakland A’s striking out 6, and giving up only 2 runs, 1 less than he drove in with his first career home run, which you can watch in this video.

Black came to the Giants as a 5th round pick in the 2012 draft after 3 years as one of the “most dominating left-handed pitchers in Creighton History“. He made his Giants debut with them last September and made the team out of Spring Training this year, starting off in the bullpen before taking a spot in the rotation when Madison Bumgarner got hurt.

Blach has shown promising signs for the Giants who have struggled as a team this year.

As you can read in this interview with Unashamed Athletes, Blach places importance on following God and living to impact the world for Him. He says “I say a prayer before every inning that I pitch in order to help me keep my eyes on God and play for Him. I also like to read a few chapters of the Bible before each start that I make so that I have His word fresh in my mind while I’m on the field. Off the field I try to lead a life pleasing to God. I am always trying to be upbeat and positive and see if there is any way that I can brighten the day of the people around me.” When asked his favorite verse, he says “My favorite verse is Matthew 6:33. It says “Seek first the Kingdom of God and all of His righteousness and all of these things will be given to you” When I was a kid I got an autograph from Terry Shumpert who was a utility infielder for the Colorado Rockies. Under his signature he had this verse written. Ever since that day, that verse has never left me. It reminds me that in everything that I do, I should put God first and God will help take care of everything else. I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Shumpert a year or so ago and I told him about the autograph and the Bible verse that he put with it and the impact it still has on me to this day. He made an impact on me with that Bible verse and I too hope to make an impact on someone’s life when I include Matt 6:33 on my autographs for fans.”

Blach hopes to be a positive influence to the world around him and honor God in his play and his life

By the end of the interview, he encourages all to be open about their faith, even if it is scary at times.  He says “It can be difficult and you may feel unaccepted by some people in society today, but you will come to find out that there are a lot of people in the world who are very accepting of God’s love. Someone may just be needing a ray of hope in a tough time or someone else might be just as afraid to show their faith just like you. No matter what the case, God has put you in this world to make an impact on the people around you so don’t be afraid to live for Him. ”

Here are my takeaways from Blach’s story:

1 – Positive Impact – Blach said he hopes that he can brighten the day of the people around him. I said something similar in my job interview. In reality, it should be a goal for each of us, and an easy enough goal to reach as a Christian. You see, we have hope, we have joy offered to us, we have Spirit of the Creator of the Universe living inside of us and the promise of heaven awaiting us. We have a lot of joy to share. Let’s take stock of all that God has done in our lives and let’s be open and grateful. Let’s ask Him to show us the needs of the people around us and how the path He has had us walk can help meet those needs. and Let’s let His love flow through us to those who still need to learn about it. We have the Joy of the Lord as our strength (Psalm 28.7). It is easy to get so caught up in the challenges of this life, but if we reset our focus and thoughts on Him, we will see that He is at work and has been faithful to all He promised us. Let those thoughts be what guides us to make a positive impact to the world around us.

2- Seek First – This ties nicely into the first point. Seeking God’s Kingdom, putting Him first will help us keep the proper perspective and allow us to demonstrate the joy He provides. That verse in Matthew is directly after a call not to worry about how our needs will be met, instead we can put our minds on the things of God and following His path for us. And He will take care of the rest of the details. They are not in our control anyway, so why try to pretend they are.  And Part 2 of this thought is how God’s word is powerful and will not return void (Isaiah 55.11). A reference written as part of an autograph a young boy got from a baseball hero. And it continued to encourage that boy as he, himself grew into a Major Leaguer. He now signs his autograph with the same verse. Something seemingly simple, yet God works through it. I know I don’t want to miss anything that He is doing. I pray that we will all be reminded daily to “seek first the kingdom of God…”