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.
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.
“…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
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!