Wanting to Win – Kyle Gibson – Minnesota Twins

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Twins RHP Kyle Gibson

This will be my second installment in the 2016 Baseball Season series and in honor of my hometown Minnesota Twins playing their home opener at Target Field this afternoon, I thought I would share the story of their expected starter today, Kyle Gibson. 

Gibson was a first round draft pick in the 2009 and is now in his 4th season in the majors. He has improved each season so far, and the fanbase here is hoping that he will be a reliable starter for the Twins for years to come. So far in his career, Gibson is 26-28 (including his loss earlier this year). And while we all tend to look at wins and losses as a measure of success, it is not always a telling statistic. A pitcher could be way above average, but if his team is not scoring many runs, he could pitch great and still lose the game.  In 2010, Seattle Mariners ace Felix Hernandez won the Cy Young award as the leagues best pitcher despite being tied for 18th in the league in wins.

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Gibson (with catcher Kurt Suzuki) is in his 4th season with the Twins

Like all of us, Gibson wants to win every time he takes the mound. He shares in this article from Hamiltonstrategies.com that faith in God does not make him less competitive. He says “Having faith in Christ doesn’t change my competitiveness. It doesn’t change how much I want to win or my preparation for every start. Instead, I feel like it allows me to do what God has put me here to do—to love others with His love and play baseball as passionately as possible.  Before I take the field, I pray that people see God through me. I want God’s light to shine through my actions, how I respect my teammates, and how I treat the media and everyone in the stadium. I want my legacy to be more about Christ and His love and sacrifice that saved me, not anything I have ever done or achieved on the baseball field.”

Now life of a Major League baseball player is lived under the microscope of public awareness and fan/media scrutiny. Last December, I began working at a new job. I have worked in the field for 7 years now, but there are some expectations and responsibilities that I have not had before. So there has been a learning curve and many teachable moments where I either didn’t get something done, did it in an incorrectly or inefficiently. But it was not a huge deal. I could be trained to fix it and do better next time. It was always a quick and quiet correction. Pro sports and celebrity are different. This article from myfaithradio.com talks about how Gibson deals with the public and media scrutiny he faces as a professional athlete. 

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Gibson shares with an FCA group that he has brought to a Twins Game

…you have to realize that all the criticism in the world only changes how people look at you from a baseball standpoint. I think it’s easy to get caught up in letting your career define you and letting your season define how much success you have, but I think the more you’re able to stay grounded in Christ and look to Christ for approval basically – and resting in His love – then I think you can take your mind off of simple failures here and there.

Gibson takes opportunities to challenge others to find their identity in Christ. As you can read in this article from FCA, Gibson once pitched an idea to Minnesota FCA director Glenn Martin. “He would host an FCA group at Target Field and provide each person a ticket, a behind-the-scenes tour, including an on-field visit during batting practice, and an inspirational message from him.” He wants to share with others like others shared with him in his faith journey.

Here are my takeaways from Gibson’s story

Gibson’s competitive nature strives to win each game but he plays for the purpose of letting others know about Jesus.

1- Want to Win– Gibson talks about his competitiveness and his desire to win whenever he plays. For him, faith in Christ helps him carry out his purpose. I think it is fair to say that we all want to win when we are in any competition. I know that I sure do. It doesn’t matter if I am playing checkers against a 1st grader, my natural instinct is to go for the win. Professional Athletes are trained to do whatever it takes to win a game. There are countless examples of athletes who play hurt or sick or play above and beyond expectation in the search for success.  This year, I am in a Bible Study that is focussed on the book of Revelation. We have been studying about the great battle between Jesus and the devil and how it will all go down at the end. And, **Spoiler Alert** Jesus wins. And his victory is shared with all who follow Him. So, in the battle for your life, are you willing to do “whatever it takes to win?” Because what it takes is choosing to invite Jesus to be Lord of your life. To make him the most important part of every part of your life and to “Seek first the Kingdom of God”. (Matthew 6.33) Unlike sports where the outcome of the game is uncertain until the end of the game, the outcome of Jesus defeating Satan and establishing his never-ending kingdom is certain. And a place on the winning team is waiting for you if you choose to follow God.

2- Giving Back –  Kyle Gibson has sought to bring FCA groups to the ball park and invest in the members there with his story and his challenge to put God first. Where has god placed you? How can you give back from what He has given you. Maybe you became a Christian at a young age because of amazing Sunday School teachers that you had, could you teach a kids Sunday School class? Maybe it was a youth group where God became real to you, could you be a youth group leader or even a volunteer from time to time for special activities? Maybe God showed you His heart for serving others on a mission trip, is there a missionary, mission group or ministry at your church that you could support prayerfully or financially? God has a great plan to constantly show us more of who He is. Ask Him for opportunities to grow to know Him more and follow wherever he leads. You will not be disappointed!

The Search Begins – Danny Duffy – Kansas City Royals

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Royals pitcher Danny Duffy

Well, Major League Baseball opening day is here. The season opens with a rematch of last Fall’s World Series. It is the start of the race to see who will be crowned champs at the end of the year. And while the Baseball season more than any other pro sport in North America is a marathon not a sprint, meaning that it will last for a long time and if quick adjustments are made then early mistakes can be overcome. And so the grass is set, the lines painted, the infield dirt raked and each team is filled with hope. The search begins for the new champion.

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At age 21, Duffy walked away from baseball to find purpose for his life. He returned a few months later to continue progressing. Now he is a World Champ.

And here at Living Up to My Name, we start our annual journey around the majors with the defending champs and their left handed starting pitcher Danny Duffy. Drafted in the 3rd round of the 2007 draft, Duffy made his Major League debut in May 2011. It was great for fans of Duffy to see considering that he had walked away from baseball in 2010 at the age of 21. He was a highly regarded prospect that had been invited to the Major League camp for the experience. During that camp though, Duffy told the team that he was going to take a break from baseball. As you can read in this article from MLB.com that Duffy was battling injuries, but that was not the reason for his leave. As you can read in this article from cjonline.com, Duffy used that time away from his game to do some searching. He wanted to figure out a purpose for his life. H would return 3 months later, ready to rejoin the Royals organization. He would stick with baseball, even through Tommy John surgery and rehabilitation, even though more injuries sat him on the bench during the Royals trip to the World Series in 2014. And in 2015, he appeared in 30 games with the Royals and would be part of the playoffs this time, pitching in 3 games in the World Series as the Royals won for the first time in 30 years.

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But more than just a return to baseball. Duffy credits his faith in God as the force that sustains him through his life.

So what did Duffy find on his search for self? He doesn’t talk much about it in the articles that I have read, just hinting at maturity issues but one thing that did come out is that Duffy has grown in his faith in God.  He discusses it in this article from kansascity.com. From the article “Duffy keeps a small notebook and inside he transcribes the passages from the Bible that speak to him. He taped a verse from the Book of Jeremiah and another from the Book of Matthew inside his locker. He studies St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians. He can recite the message of his favorite passage, from Colossians 3:23, when Paul urges the reader to throw his heart into his work in the name of the Lord.

“I know what I’ve got inside of me,” Duffy said last month, before he went on the disabled list with biceps tendinitis. “I’m starting to get more comfortable talking about it. I’m leaning on it heavy right now. I feel I’m really comfortable, just really comfortable. I just want to use the gift that He gave me.”

He reconnected with his religion near the end of last season, when he injured his left shoulder, suffered a stress reaction in his ribcage and spectated for most of October. He says his faith sustains him.”

Check out this video interview of Duffy celebrating the World Series Championship

Here are my takeaways from Duffy’s story
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Duffy the World Champ, celebrating the victory against the Mets last fall.

1- The Search for Self –  Duffy took some time away from baseball to sort out his priorities and figure out his purpose in life. This is not something that is unique to him. We all struggle and battle with the questions of purpose at some point (points) or other. And until we know that God is real and wants us to know Him, we struggle to find meaning and purpose. There are lots of options that we look to – work, family, money, things, fame are some examples. But the joy and satisfaction that those things bring are fleeting. Duffy is back in baseball with a renewed sense of purpose. He shares bible verses, he shows care and concern for others and most importantly, he is learning and growing in his knowledge and faith in God. Those are some great habits to form. I pray that we will all continue to grow in our knowledge and faith in God.

2- Effort in the Learning – The kansascity.com article shares about how Duffy keeps a journal where he writes verses that speak to him. He has bible verses posted in his locker. He is memorizing passages from the Bible too. Learning about anything takes time and effort. How important is it for us to grow in our knowledge and understanding of God? I know that one of the biggest challenges that I have daily is putting in the time and effort to connect with God. But when I take the time and put in the effort to connect with God, the results I see are noticeable. I have more patience, more of a servant heart to other people and more aware of God at work in and all around me. It is when I don’t make the effort that I default to selfishness and impatience. What are we willing to do as Christians to give God the place of importance that He so deeply deserves in our lives.
Happy Baseball season everyone!

Faith at the World Series – Mets Versus Royals

One of the things that I have learned since I started this blog is that CBN (Christian Broadcast Network) does a feature on Christian playing in the World Series and in the Super Bowl.  This years video has just been released, but there is a problem with the “embed” code.  I will continue to look for it, but you can click on this link to check it out until I am able to embed it.

From the Kansas City Royals, they focus on:

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Royals Infielder Ben Zobrist

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Backup Catcher Drew Butera

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Pitcher Luke Hochevar

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Pitcher Ryan Madson

Infielder Ben Zobrist – Zobrist was the focus of my blog post in June 2011.  I am really excited to see him get a chance to win a championship title.  My post was about how he came to faith in God at a young age and sees it as his responsibility to represent Christ in all he does.  He speaks on the video that despite the fame and attention that they get, they are no more important than anyone else and at the end of the day, he is just a husband, a dad and most importantly, a follower of Christ.  He and his wife Julianna are expecting their third child in the next couple of weeks.

Relief Pitcher Ryan Madson – Madson was the focus of a blog post this past July.  It is amazing that Madson finds himself in the World Series right now.  Before this season, Madson last pitched in the majors in 2011.  After suffering through injuries, and finding himself on the verge of retirement, mentoring a high school prospect.  From there came the itch to try a comeback. Kansas City gave him a chance and he responded by having one of his best seasons, setting personal bests with E.RA, and WHIP.  He has been a key member of the Royals fantastic Bull Pen.  What an unlikely story.  World Series title would be great icing to this cake!

Pitcher Luke Hochevar – I have been hearing and reading about Luke Hochevar for a few years now, but I have not yet written about his faith story. Here is a link to a Baptist Press article about him.  He has played an important role in the Royals post-season bullpen.

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Royals GM Dayton Moore

Catcher Drew Butera – Another player that has been on my radar for a couple of years, Butera used to play for my hometown Twins.  He has also spent time with the Dodgers and Angels. He is the son of Sal Butera who played for 5 different teams in the `70s and `80s.  Here is an article from National Catholic Register where Butera discusses his faith in God among other things.  I remember having his dad’s baseball cards in my collection.

General Manager Dayton Moore – He was not featured in the video, but I did blog about him in July 2012, so I thought I would add him to this feature.  He is largely responsible for putting this great team together.

And as the Royals look for their first World Series in 30 years, they are battling the New York Mets who have not won a championship in 29 years.  Let’s take a look at the members of the Mets who are featured in the  CBN video.

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Mets Closer Jeurys Familia

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Outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis

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Infielder Daniel Murphy

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Outfielder Curtis Granderson

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Rookie Pitcher Steven Matz

Kirk Nieuwenhuis – Nieuwenhuis was the focus of my blog at the end of September.  He discussed the importance of having others who can help us in our faith walk.

Daniel Murphy – Murphy has been the Mets post season hero this year.  Here is the post that I wrote about him last season after he stirred up the sports talk radio world by choosing to be with his wife at the birth of their first child, skipping the Mets opening day game.  He became a hero of mine then and this post season has been fun to watch as he has lit up opposing pitching (at least until he met up with the Royals stingy staff)

Curtis Granderson – This is the first time that I have come across Granderson’s belief in God as he discusses how everything is from God.

Jeurys Familia – Same thing for Familia.

Steven Matz – Matz has been on my blog radar since last summer.  Here is his twitter account where there are some occasional expressions of faith in God.

This could be the last night of the baseball season.  It has been a good one.  Enjoy the end of the World Series. Once more, here is the Link to the CBN feature

 

World Series Special – Part Two – New York Mets 1986

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“The Kid” is one of my favorites ever. His smile and passion for Baseball made it hard not to cheer him on.

I mentioned last time that I think the Royals Cardinals series is the first one I remember watching with interest.  The very next year, I was very engaged in the World Series.  I had become a fan of the Boston Red Sox and wanted to see them win.  It was looking good until a certain play that we won’t mention that led to an improbable game 6 win for the Mets.  They would win game 7 too and break the hearts of Red Sox fans again.  But I was conflicted.  I was a Gary Carter fan from his days with my other favorite team – the Expos.  So I was glad to see him come away a champion.

Let’s take a look at some of the members of the 1986 Mets and their stories of faith in God and the difference He has made in their lives.  There are some amazing stories here!

Catcher- Gary Carter

Carter struggled against the Houston Astros in the NLCS, but picked up his game in the World Series.  He hit .276 with 2 home runs.  You can read the post I wrote about him shortly after his death in 2012.  He was my first ever favorite player and I am glad to share the story of the great man of God that he was.

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Aguilera was the winning pitcher in the famous Game 6.

Relief Pitcher Rick Aguilera

Aguilera appeared in 2 games in the World series.  He was not great in the series, pitching 3 innings and posting a 12.o0 ERA, but he was the winning pitcher in the now classic game six win. He would go on to win another World Series with the 1991 Minnesota Twins.  He is a member of the Twins Hall of Fame. Check out thegoal.com to read what he has to say about following God.

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Doc Gooden dominated baseball for many years.

Starting Pitcher Dwight Gooden

One of the best in his era, Gooden burst on the scene as a 19 year old in 1984 winning the Rookie of the Year.  He not only avoided a sophomore slump, but his second year is one of the most dominating season by a pitcher in recent history. 24-4, 16 complete games, 1.53 ERA. And the next season, he was part of the 86 champs – his first of 3 World Series rings in his career.  Despite his dominance, he never won a post season game (0-4 in his career including 2 losses against the Red Sox in `86).  He had some well known off field issues with drugs and alcohol.  Gooden is now cleaned up and sober.  He has written a memoir that I will read soon.  But for now, here is a video of Gooden talking about his book and his recovery.  At about the 15 minute mark, Gooden talks about the important role God plays in his daily life.

 

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Mets Superstar Outfielder Darryl Strawberry

Outfielder Darryl Strawberry

Another story of fame and fortune taking its toll on a young player, Darryl Strawberry also has battled addiction and poor choices.  He was an 8 time All-Star, 4 time World Series Champ, He was rookie of the Year in 1983.  He struggled in the `86 World Series, hitting just a hair over .200.  He would go on to win 3 more rings with the Yankees mostly as a bench player.  But at his peak, he was one of the most feared hitters in baseball.  He led the National League in home runs once and hit more than 25 in a season nine times.  Since his retirement and through his struggles off the field, Strawberry has turned his life around.  He is now an ordained minister and along with his wife Tracy, has started  Strawberry Ministries, which exists “to restore lives and relationships”.  They have a rehabilitation center to help people battle addiction and share the change God has made in their lives. Here is Darryl sharing his story with CBN

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Mets backup catcher Ed Hearn

Catcher – Ed Hearn

Gary Carter was a super star, but being a catcher is hard on the body so every team needs a back up catcher.  That is the role that Ed Hearn played  as a rookie for the `86 Mets.  He was the only player on the roster that did not get an appearance in the World Series.  After the `86 season, Hearn would play only 13 more games in the Majors.  According to his Wikipedia page, he is the only player in baseball history “to win the championship in A ball, AA ball, AAA ball, and in the Major leagues in 4 consecutive years with the same franchise”.  His retirement from baseball came due to illness.  As you can read in this story from the Utica Observer Dispatch, Hearn’s time away from baseball has been filled with pain, pills and medical intervention helping him deal with 3 kidney transplants and other medical problems.  He talks about his his faith in God and reading the bible are vital to his battle with his health. Check out these videos of Hearn speaking at churches and conferences.

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Barry Lyons lost his job as Gary Carter’s backup to Ed Hearn early in the 1986 season. 20 years later he would lose almost everything as a victim of Hurricane Katrina. But from the loss Lyons found purpose in life.

Catcher- Barry Lyons

Ed Hearn was not the only “other” catcher on the Mets roster.  There was also Barry Lyons.  Lyons also made his Major League debut in 1986, playing in 6 games with the Mets.  He did not make the post season roster and in fact did not register a hit for the Mets all season, but was given a World Series Ring.  Lyons played on 253 games over 7 Major League seasons.  After his career ended in 1995, Lyons settled in Biloxi, MS – his hometown. However his World Series ring and much of his memorabilia would be destroyed along with his house in Hurricane Katrina. That event and its aftermath, including the suicide of his brother would lead Lyons into a very dark time in life.  He turned to drugs and alcohol, but they did not solve the pain he felt.  As you can read in this article from NY Daily News, he went to a faith based rehab center and it changed his life.  He now speaks about that changed life wherever he can.

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Howard Johnson (20) awaits Ray Knight and the winning run in the Classic Game 6

Third Baseman – Howard Johnson

HoJo came to the Mets in 1985, just one year removed from winning a World Series ring with the `84 Tigers.  But despite playing in 116 regular season games, he would record only one post season plate appearance – reaching on an error as a pinch hitter in the final game.  In `86, he saw more plate appearances (5 over 2 games) but remained hitless in his World Series career.  He would play in the majors for 13 seasons.  He was a 2 time All-Star and 3 time 30-30 man.  But off the field, Johnson’s career began with a choice to honor God through faith.  As you can read in this article from the  St.Petersburg Times from June 1980, Johnson made a focus of his life studying God’s word and leading the team chapel meetings.  He talks more about his journey in this story from the Chicago Tribune 

 

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Teuffel (11) and others watching the action from the bench

Second Baseman Tim Teufel

Here is some trivia for you.  What does the word Teufel mean in German?  Answer – Fiend, demon devil. Ironic that someone with that last name is mentioned in a post about Christian Athletes. He played in 2 games in the World Series, batting .444 and hitting 1 home run.  Check out his story from TheGoal.com.  In it we can read about how in 1991, Teufel understood the gift that Jesus was offereing.  He accepted Christ as his Savior.  He is back with the Mets this year as Third Base Coach, hoping for another World Series Ring.

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One of the most famous moments in World Series History. Mookie Wilson says he would have beaten it out even if Buckner fielded it cleanly.

Outfielder Mookie Wilson

The man who hit the famous Buckner Ball, Mookie Wilson came into the game as a pinch hitter.  He hit .269 in the series, with 3 stolen bases.  Check out this story from NY Times which Mookie talks about how even if Buckner caught the ball, Mookie would have beat him to the base.  He also talks about the struggles of Major Leaguers to make the right choices and about becoming a pastor.  You can also read this article about the relationship that Mookie and Buckner have now on the speakers circuit reliving their famous moment and also sharing about their common faith in God.

The Series is under way.  What magic will this year hold?  How will those involved be linked to each other and baseball history? Only time will tell.

 

 

World Series Special – Part One – Kansas City Royals – 1985

Numbers and trivia have always interested me.  And so I may be the only person on the planet that cares, but I find it enormously interesting that this season’s World Series will pit against each other 2 teams who last won the World Series in back to back years in the mid 80’s  (Royals in `85, Mets in `86) And so in tribute to their history, check out part one of my three part series on this years World Series as I look at the faith stories of some members of the 1985 Royals today.  Tune in next time for a look at the `86 Mets and then later this week as I point to the stories of the men on both teams that will play against each other this year.

First, to the `85 Royals.

Catcher – Jim Sundberg

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Sundberg slides in under Darrell Porter’s tag to send the 1985 World Series to game 7

Over his career, he would be named to 3 All-Star games.  He was a 6 time Gold Glove winner and is a member of the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame.  He hit .250 in the `85 World Series, with his most notable moment being the winning run he scored in game six on a perfect slide to beat the throw from Cardinals outfielder Andy Van Slyke (whose son Scott I blogged about last season).  Sundberg’s run sent the series to game seven which Kansas City won 11-0.  In game 7, they took an 11-0 lead by the 5th inning.  They knew the victory was won, they simply had to wait until the final out for the true celebration.  Here is Sundberg talking about how that game is like our life as Christians.  We know the victory is won, we are simply anxiously waiting the final out so the real party can begin.

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Dan Quisenberry and his “Down Under” delivery.

Relief Pitcher Dan Quisenberry –

He was the winner of the above mentioned game 6.  He pitched in 4 of the 7 World Series games.  This was not his first trip to the World Series.  He pitched in all 6 games of the 1980 World Series with the Royals, winning 1 and losing 2 as the Royals were defeated by the Phillies in 6 games.  He was known for his unique pitching style – he was the first “submarine” pitcher that I remember seeing in my lifetime.  And he was quite successful with it.  He was the first player to record 40 saves in a season, he led the American League in Career saves from 1987 until 1992 when he was passed by Jeff Reardon.  He was a 3 time All-Star and a 5 time Relief pitcher of the Year and in 1998, he was elected to the Royals Hall of Fame. After baseball he became known for his poetry and his witty quotes.   And as you can read in this article from Miscbaseball.com, he was a man of strong faith in God which helped as he battled and ultimately lost the battle with Brain Cancer in 1998.  Teammate John Wathan recounts the story of the news of his diagnosis.  He said ““One of the things I will remember most is back when he was diagnosed, someone asked him if he ever thought to himself ‘Why me?’ And his response was ‘Why not me? I’ve got just as good a chance to get through this as anyone else because of my faith in God.’ Through this whole thing, Quiz never once felt sorry for himself.” And while he was not able to beat the cancer, he was outspoken about his faith in God until the end.

Here is a look at his famous delivery.

I remember watching a couple games from the 1984 World Series and the Tigers winning it all.  But the first Series that I really remember watching all the way through was the 1985 series.  It has been a great trip down memory lane for me as I looked into this series and discovered these stories.  Up next will be looking into the stories of several of the New York Mets and seeing how God has worked in their lives.