Modern Monday – Make me an Animal – Josh Fields – Los Angeles Dodgers

Dodgers relief pitcher Josh Fields

Trade Deadline has passed!

Did you favorite team buy or sell at the deadline?

I am fascinated by trade deadline day in any sport. It is something that is very much a sports-only phenomenon. I try to imagine something similar in other contexts.  For example:

Target: Hey WalMart! This is our year and so we really are interested in adding some important pieces. We are interested in your store manager. We’d like to bring him in to work for us.  What will it take to make that happen?

WalMart: Well, he is available, but its going to take 3 of your top 20 up and coming cashiers, 2 Seasonal workers and a pharmacist to be named later.

Sounds pretty far fetched to me, yet in sports, that’s what we have. Competing entities swapping their “staff” to each other. What a unique world the world of sports is.

Josh Fields (bible in hand) in the minors with the Red Sox. God used a demotion to the minors to help Josh gain perspective on what is important.

Today, I am going to share some of the story of a player who has been part of 2 trade deadline deals in his career, including the one that sent him from Houston to Los Angeles last season when Josh Fields was traded to the Dodgers for a minor league infielder.  Originally drafted in the first round by the Seattle Mariners, he also was dealt on Trade Deadline Day in 2011 when the Mariners shipped him to the Red Sox along with Eric Bedard. After joining the Dodgers last season, he pitched very well. He resigned with them in the off-season and he has been very solid for the best team in baseball this season. He is 5-0 holding batters to an average of under .200.

As you can read in this article from the Portland Press Herald, Fields says a prayer before throwing his first pitch. He says “‘I always take off my cap and say a little prayer before I take the mound, just try to remind myself why I’m here. I’m not here to gain glory for myself.’ Fields calls his mindset “an eternal perspective” as he talks to God before he throws a pitch.”

So does he pray for? wins? strikeouts? No, instead, he says “One thing I always pray for is ‘God, make me an animal out here.’ I want to dominate these guys. I want to go after them as hard as I can — 100 percent — and not back down.” and while this article from yard barker.com, talks about a demotion to the minors in 2014, that time was used to help Fields reset his perspective on what is important and also to learn a new pitch that has helped him remain largely  successful since.

As you can read in this LA times story, Fields made some changes to his delivery and

Fields has been a key part of the Dodgers bullpen this season. Postseason appearance seems likely

Here are my takeaways from Field’s story:

1- Make me an Animal – That is the prayer that Fields prays before appearances. He doesn’t pray for wins or strikeouts, he simply asks that God would make him an animal. That he would give everything he’s got and that he would not back down. I think that is a prayer that we could ask God for ourselves. That we would not back down from opportunities to honor Him. That we would give all we’ve got to our service to Him. Fields also said that he reminds himself why he is there – not for his own glory but for God. I am challenged to give God my all.

Fields has twice been traded at the trade deadline. His goal for baseball is to build solid relationships with others and be open about his faith in God.

2- Traded – I started this post talking about yesterday’s trade deadline. And how strange it is to be dealt from one team to a competitor. From one day being a star of one team to the day, trying to overtake that team and win with the new team. I was thinking about how to connect the concept of “trade” to our spiritual life. Immediately, my mind went to the late 90’s worship tune “Trading my Sorrows” by Darrell Evans. I can see so many mission trip participants singing this song and acting out motions as they led services on these trips. And while I did get tired of the song, the concept is biblically sound. Psalm 30.11-12 talks about mourning being turned into dancing. Ephesians 4.21-22 talks about trading in the old self and putting on the new. And Romans 12.2 talks about not conforming to the ways of the world but being transformed by the renewing of your mind. So there is a trade there. We trade in the uniform of sin, pride, rebellion and selfishness and put on the righteousness of Christ. He gives us the “new self”, he transforms our mind so we can resist worldly ways, He transforms us by changing the way we think when we set our minds to follow Him. And later in Romans 12, it tells us that “All things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to his purposes”. So even in the midst of our sorrow, he is working to bring good. It is on us to allow him to do that. Let’s not get caught up remembering the old, let’s trade it in for the new and better that comes from following Christ.

 

Throwback Thursday – Jekyll & Hyde – Aubrey Huff – Tampa Bay Rays

I visited the Jekyll & Hyde club in 1997. 

My first time in Manhattan, I had the fun experience of eating at the “Jekyll & Hyde club.  The food was quite good, but the experience was very cool. It is a spooky restaurant that is set up to reflect the well known story by Robert Louis Stevenseon “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”.  You are probably familiar with the name and characters of the story, but in case you are not, it is the story of Gabriel John Utterson a lawyer who is trying to solve a mystery where a murderous villain (Hyde) is a personality that comes out when Dr. Jekyll drinks a serum. It has been re-interpreted and performed countless times. And it has also become a familiar term for a person who seems to embody good or at least normalcy in one moment, and evil depravity the next. And while the Stevenson book is a work of fiction, if we are honest, we can relate to the story more than we would like to admit.

Huff’s 13 year career started in Tampa Bay where he spent 7 seasons and almost 800 games.

Aubrey Huff played 13 years in the Majors on 5 different teams.  He was originally drafted by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the 5th round of the 1998 draft after a Hall of Fame career at University of Miami. He made his debut in August of 2000 and would play more than 1600 games in the majors. He was a Silver Slugger award winner in 2008 with the Orioles and a 2 time World Series champ (2010 and 2012) with the San Francisco Giants. It is a great story of persevering through some gigantic obstacles. When Huff was 6 years old, his father was killed trying to be a peacemaker in a domestic dispute while working as an electrician. Read about that story in this article from mlive.com. His mom raised him and his sister as a single parent. She had a batting cage installed at their house so Huff could work on his skills.

And while Huff put up some great numbers as a baseball player, he battled some things off the field that threatened to ruin his career, his marriage and even his life. During his career, he formed an addiction to Adderall. It helped his baseball career improve, but the effects of taking this drug, and then quitting it tool their toll. This is where he related to Jekyll and Hyde. Learn more about it in this video from CBN.

During Huff’s World Series days, he was battling addiction to Adderall – an addiction that almost cost him his marriage and his life.

In the video he talks about his introduction to Adderall and the positive effects it seemed to have for him. It also relates how addictive it was . He says “I had every intention to quit it during the off-season. And I found myself in the offseason taking it the very first day. When I didn’t take it in the morning, I felt depressed, bored, anxious, and irritable.  It made me a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It turned me into somebody I hated.” He also talks about the day when the cravings ended, thanks – he says to God’s help. He said “I remember getting on my knees and praying, crying to God, I got to get off this stuff, Lord, please Jesus, I need you. I cannot do this anymore. I take the pills I dump them down the toilet at 4:00 in the morning and flush them. And I woke up the next morning. I thought for sure I’d want a pill. I didn’t want one. The next day I didn’t want one. From that moment on, I never had a craving to take another Adderall in my life.”

Huff details his addiction and how God helped him find the path to recovery.

But that was not the end of his struggles.  His wife had filed for divorce, and while the craving for Adderall had ended, he began feeling anxiety and panic, culminating in him holding his gun to his head, on the verge of suicide. He continues “I realized my dad was murdered with this same caliber weapon. And I’m like wow — put it down! I started crying to God. You were supposed to be here with me. I thought you were in my life. And this thought came to me. He’s like ‘Aubrey, if you want my perfect peace, you have to give up control and have faith in me’. And it was that day where I realized I’ve got to start living for Him. Not just pretending!”

God restored Huff, reconciled his marriage to Baubi and even led him to co-write a book about his story, addiction and recovery.

Here are my takeaways from Huff’s story:

1- Jekyll and Hyde –  Huff shared about how Adderall changed him into “someone he hated”. He talked about how he had these 2 distinct versions of himself. – Brash, cocky, confident and focused while on Adderall, and bored, depressed, anxious off of Adderall – however, he was not in control of it. His addiction was in control. I see strong similarities in our spiritual life. We battle every day between glorifying God and glorifying ourselves. We have a natural inclination to worship something or someone, and battle everyday to keep that worship from being aimed at ourself. And while our addiction may not be to Adderall, our addiction to control over our own lives and putting ourselves first is equally as strong and as lethal. Huff saw God help him in his addiction and we need the same in our addiction to self. We need God’s intervention. We need to surrender control to Him.  Only He has the serum that takes away our evil depraved side.

Huff with his wife Baubi and their 2 sons celebrating a championship. God intervened and preserved their marriage.

2- Gain by Giving Up – Control is a funny thing. We think we have it, we hold onto it like it is actually in our hands in the first place, but in reality, we are not really in control of very much at all. We trick ourselves into thinking that we have say in how things are going to go and what life is going to bring our way. When Huff put down the gun he had aimed at himself, He called out to God. He recounts “ He’s like ‘Aubrey, if you want my perfect peace, you have to give up control and have faith in me”.  Since things are out of our control anyway, it makes the most sense to learn to trust the one that actually is in control. God has a plan for our lives and invites us to trust him AND give up control to Him. He can and will show up in amazing ways to guide us. He will also be with us in the hardest times. I know that I need to ask him daily to help me give up control to Him. I invite you to do the same.

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.