TBT- A Lasting Legacy – Frank Tanana – Detroit Tigers

Former Tigers Pitcher Frank Tanana

Last Thursday, I shared the story of Gary Gaetti, who was a member of the 1987 World Series Champion Minnesota Twins. Who did the Twins beat to go the the World Series? The Detroit Tigers 4 games to 1 which was impressive since the Tigers had taken 8 of the 12 games from the Twins in the regular season. The Tigers had been in an epic battle with the Toronto Blue Jays that came down to a head-to-head 3 game series in Detroit on the final weekend of the season. The Jays were up by one game entering the series and had just swept the Tigers in Toronto the week before. The Tigers won the first two which meant the title came down to the last game.  If Toronto won, they would force a playoff. If Detroit won, they took the crown. Enter Frank Tanana. Now Tanana had been around for a few years at this point. 1987 was his 16th year in the Majors. He was a 3 time All-Star and 3 times finished in the top 5 in Cy Young voting but he was 10 years removed from those days.  At this point of his career, he used an array of breaking balls and change-ups to keep batters off-balance.

Tanana is congratulated by Lou Whittaker after pitching a title-clenching 1-0 gem against the Blue Jays in 1987

He used that repertoire to scatter 6 hits and 3 walks in a complete game 1-0 shutout of the Jays, striking out 9 along the way. In Warren Wilbert’s book “Baseball’s Iconic 1-0 games“, chapter 2 is devoted to Tanana’s masterpiece – a pitching duel between Tanana and the Jays’ Jimmy Key. Key pitched a 3 hitter, but one of those hits was a Larry Herndon home run in the second inning. And while the Tigers would ultimately fall short of a World Series title, that Tanana game lives on as a great game at a key moment.  Wilbert says it this way. “Almost lost in the midst of a championship on the line in the season’s last game is the 1-0 gem Tanana threw. This one brought with it a championship…”

Early in his Career, Tanana and Nolan Ryan were the dominant 1-2 punch in the Angel’s rotation

So, what makes a legacy.  Sometimes it is a moment when you rise above the circumstance and achieve something amazing. I remember hearing the story of Canadian hockey hero Paul Henderson. I wrote a post about him a couple years back and despite scoring the most iconic goal in Canadian hockey history, he says that the best day of his life was not that day, but rather the day he became a Christian.  Tanana’s story is similar.  Despite this amazing game, and his stellar career of more than 2 decades, Tanana’s faith in God is where his legacy lies.

This article from mlive.com says as much.  It talks about this memorable game in `87 as the career defining moment for Tanana, yet it goes on to share how a night in November 4 years earlier is what defines his life.  Tanana says “Being a Major League Baseball player, that was my security. It was my significance. It was who I was as a man. But then I hurt my arm and came to realize that this career could be over. Then who are you? I was nobody. That wasn’t right. A man shouldn’t be defined by the work that he does.” The article goes on to say that on Nov. 6, 1983. Tanana was sitting around an Arizona hotel room when his life changed forever. He continues “I understood that I was dead in my sins. I realized I had no chance of having a relationship with my Holy God. But His son, Jesus, had lived a perfect life and paid a penalty for my sin. If I trusted my life in Him and asked Him for forgiveness and asked Him to come into my life, that I would be a brand new preacher, I would b e a brand new person. My sins would all be forgiven. On November 6, 1983, I made that commitment of trusting in Jesus. I have walked with him ever since. For nearly 33 years, God has been my rock on which I’ve built my life … I have a great marriage and a wonderful family because of Christ. I give Him all the praise and glory. That was my moment of my conversion, my moment of trusting Christ. I have been with Him ever since.”

Tanana speaking at Tiger’s faith night. He has been a regular part of these nights for 3 decades in Detroit.

After his baseball career ended, Tanana became a regular speaker at Tigers faith nights, (By my count he has been a speaker at 31 of the 36 Faith nights the Tigers have held since 1987). He and his wife are also on the Board of Pro Athletes Outreach – and organization that seeks to share God’s love with professional athletes. You can check out his story in his words in this article from TheGoal.com.

Here are my takeaways from Tanana’s story

1- Not Defined by what you do – Tanana shared that baseball was his significance and apart from it, he felt empty. He said “A man shouldn’t be defined by the work that he does”.  One of my favorite stories in the Bible has to do with that.  It can be found in Genesis 32.22-32.  We read about Jacob at the end of a stressful day, wrestling with “a Man” in his tent.  There is no clear cut winner and Jacob asks for a blessing from his opponent. I’d heard this story many times before but when I was in my 20’s I heard it from the Amplified Version of the Bible and it took on new life.  Check out what it says.

27[The Man] asked him, What is your name? And [in shock of realization, whispering] he said, Jacob [supplanter, schemer, trickster, swindler]! 28 And He said, Your name shall be called no more Jacob [supplanter], but Israel [contender with God];

Do you see it?  Jacob realized who he was from his life of deceit and trickery – it is what his name means. But God changed his name and his legacy.  He offers the same to us.  Because all of us, on our own, have similar legacies – selfish, prideful, rebellious people who take advantage of others whenever possible to suit our own purposes. But when we realize our sinfulness and reach rock bottom, He offers to not leave us there, but to change us and our story. He offers us a happy ending.

Tanana pitched for his home town Tigers for 8 seasons.

2- Share your story – God has given Tanana a platform to share his story and Tanana has accepted.  He shares yearly at the Faith Nights that the Tigers organize and in his spare time, he reaches out to others in the Baseball world with his story and the hope that knowing Christ brings. What is your story? What is your platform? Will you take up the challenge to boldly share the difference God has made in your life? He will help you and use you to bring others to Himself. What a privilege it is to be a part of this amazing plan.

Throwback Thursday: The Change-up – Gary Gaetti – Minnesota Twins

Former Twins 3B Gary Gaetti

A couple of years back, I wrote about the 1986 Mets team that won the World Series.  They were in the World Series again, playing against the Kansas City Royals who were the champs in 1985. The Infamous `86 Mets  were known for their off-field antics as much as they were for their on-field success.  The remarkable thing about the Mets was that many of them would later become Christians share stories of how following God has changed their lives. Check out my post about them here.

The next summer would bring a World Series title to the Minnesota Twins. And a similar story to those of the `86 Mets became a compelling story in the Twin Cities – the story of Gary Gaetti.

Gaetti was drafted by the Cardinals and the White Sox before the Twins drafted him in 1979 and signed him a few days later. He played his way through the minors for the next 3 seasons.  He was called up late in 1981 playing in 9 games and hitting a home run in his first major league at bat. He took over as the starter the next season and would remain a fixture with the Twins for the rest of the decade. He would play in 2 All-Star games, win 4 Gold Glove awards and of course the World Series title in 1987. He even became the first player in MLB history to homer in his first 2 playoff at bats.

Celebration time `1987. Gaetti is on the left in mid-air with Jeff Reardon (41) Tim Laudner (15) and Al Newman (26). Twins are the Champs

The season after winning it all, All-Star third baseman Gary Gaetti went down with a knee injury. During his rehabilitation, he did some deep soul searching.   In this article from the Post Bulletin, Gaetti turned away from his partying lifestyle. He says “`It wasn’t a gradual thing at all, and it wasn’t something I really planned,” Gaetti said of his whirlwind born-again Christian experience.`It all happened in the span of two weeks, maybe three weeks tops, from the time I hurt my knee to the time I came back to the lineup.” Torn cartilage in his left knee forced Gaetti onto the disabled list for the first time in his pro career on Aug. 21, 1988.`The knee injury had a lot to do with it, because it gave me some time to think about my life, evaluate what it’s all about. It was a combination of a lot of personal things, really, that led me to pick up the Bible and start reading.”When Gaetti returned to Tom Kelly’s lineup on Sept. 7, following arthroscopic surgery, the startling transformation was already complete. Gaetti entered the Twins clubhouse with a Bible in hand, and promptly vowed an end to all of the vices which over the years had become trademarks of his swashbuckling personality. No more post-game beers with Rex (Hrbek). No more celebratory shots of Royal Crown brand whiskey after home wins. No more smoking cigarettes; he was up to a pack a day. No more chewing tobacco. No more foul language. `Rat’ was dead. Just like that.”

Gate watches a home run clear the fence. He would finish his career with 360 home runs.

This brought some discord to the Twins.  As you can read in this article from the Chicago Tribune.  The article says “Some teammates said his lifestyle change off the field hurt his play. “In Minnesota, (Christianity) was kind of looked down upon,” said Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Greg Gagne, who played next to Gaetti on the Twins’ infield. “For Gary, it was a difficult situation. He ran at night, partied, did whatever he wanted to do, and then when he came to Christ, he had to answer to a different person. He had to answer to God. That caused some problems in Minnesota.”

He had been part of the party scene on the Twins, and now, he was showing “Jesus is Lord” written on his batting glove for All Star game introductions (see the 2:20 mark of this video).

Gaetti would leave the Twins after the 1990 season for The Angels.  He would bounce around for another decade, playing with 5 different teams before retiring in 2000.  These days, he is a manager for the Sugar Land Skeeters. As you can read in this article from 2004 from NewsOK.com,  Gaetti still maintains a strong faith in God but his approach in sharing his faith has changed a little.  The article says “…These days, Gaetti is sort of that way with his religion: close enough and yet far enough away. He remains deeply religious but also seems to have a newfound respect for other peoples’ beliefs. “I’ve changed, but it doesn’t change what I believe about God,” … “Gaetti seems to have a deeper understanding of the bigger picture, a wider appreciation of other peoples’ sensitivities. And that’s mighty important in the not always friendly confines of a baseball clubhouse. “Do people bring their beliefs with them wherever they go? Yeah but does that mean you preach or proselytize everywhere that you go? No. There’s a time for playing baseball, there’s a time for church, there’s a time for Chapel, there’s a time for all those things. But some people are more outspoken than others.”

Gaetti was known for both his power and his defense during his 19 year MLB career,

Here are my takeaways about Gaetti’s story

1- A New Creation – 2 Corinthians 5.17 says “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” This is something that we all see when we begin to live for God, but the picture is very clear in Gaetti’s story. Before he went on the disabled list, he was a known partier. When he returned a couple weeks later, he was passing out religious literature and vowing to stop drinking, smoking and swearing. He was experiencing the change that Jesus makes in our lives. Jesus doesn’t require us to stop doing all those things to earn salvation. Our Salvation was secured when He died on the cross. Instead, He invites us to know Him and accept His offer to enter our lives and make it the best it can be. He doesn’t leave us where we are.  When we fall in love with Him and make Him the most important part of our life, the result will be a change in our behaviors, not because He requires them, but because our love for Him compels us to change the way we live.  The old life, its empty joys and motivations are dead and the new life of loving God and living in the purpose that He has made for us takes over.  What an amazing thing this transformation is!

These days, Gaetti is the manager for the Sugar Land Skeeters. He remains open about his strong faith in God.

2- Appreciating other People’s Sensitivities – The more recent articles talk about Gaetti and the change in his delivery of the Gospel message.  At first, he was very outspoken about his newfound faith and he began to rub people wrong with his changed attitudes.  And while the change was good and necessary for him, it alienated others to the point where they felt they had lost their friend.  So where do we draw that line? What does that look like?  God changes our hearts completely and resets our priorities and so there will be a noticeable difference to those around us who are not following God because we are no longer on the same journey as them. And it is important that we acknowledge God and the work He is doing in our lives. Yet we can’t force others to make a decision to follow God and can’t change their lives on our own. We can simply love them and share our story. We can pray for them and ask God to show us how to love them best? We don’t want to hide our faith from others, but we don’t want to alienate them either.  This is why prayer needs to be an important part of our daily life. We need to be constantly asking God to help us represent Him well and love others as He does. This will allow them to meet Him and allow Him to work on their heart.

Modern Monday – Heart of a Champion – David Ross – Chicago Cubs

Former Cubs catcher and 2 time World Series Champ David Ross

Are you ready for some baseball?  Ok, so I’m a little late for opening day but I am here now and ready to take on my 2017 baseball series on Living Up to My Name.  I really enjoyed last football season when I did half of the NFL with current players and half with historical players, so I am going to bring those flavors to the baseball season this time around.  I will write posts about former MLB players associated with teams in the American League, and I will feature current players from National League teams.  So welcome to the 2017 baseball season, enjoy the coming months with stories about Christian baseball players and the way God is at work in their lives and circumstances.

And the beauty of making my own blog rules is that I can tiptoe across the lines as I see fit.  And that is what I will do with the first post. I am going to start with the Champs, but David Ross is no longer a member of the Chicago Cubs.  He has retired from baseball and as such is technically not a current player BUT, he has been a member of a World Championship Chicago Cubs team (2016) (and also won with my favorite team, the Red Sox in 2013) And so, I will let myself start this season with his story.

He is a likable guy with a greying beard and a kind persona.  He became known affectionately as “grandpa” to the young Cubs roster, and as you can see in this video, he was not simply a roster-filler, but played a role in their winning the title, hitting this home run in game 7.

Ross was drafted out of high school in the 19th round of the 1995 draft but opted to go to college at Auburn.  He was drafted again in the 7th round of the 1998 draft and would go on to play for 15 years with 7 different teams.

David Ross and his dancing partner are moving on the finals on Dancing with the Stars

And what a way to end a career, hitting a World Series home run, winning the World Series in Chicago for the first time in over a century. And tonight, he made it to the finals on Dancing with the Stars.  There is a lot of fun in those experiences, and that must have been refreshing after going through a harrowing birth of their third child, Harper.  Check out the story in this video from City First Church (it starts at the 22:30 mark)

The Ross Family, David and Hyla, and their 3 kids. Harper is front and center.

Harper was born 2 months early – David was on the road with the team- wife had some bleeding and checked herself in to the hospital.  Bed rest was ordered. Ross played that night and then he was given a leave from the team. His teammate and friend Jon Lester ordered a private jet for him to join his wife.  The baby was found to be in partial abruption, and an emergency c-section was ordered.  Baby Harper was born, weighing 3 pounds.

Ross is then asked what this experience did that do to your faith.  Ross said this experience reminded him that “we are not in control – God is in control. As good as things appear to be, they can be taken away”.  He goes on to add “I’m not perfect, I’ve got a bad mouth – my kids remind me to watch my language.” He strives to be a good example to his kids and to others that he may meet. He says he is constantly checking himself asking “What kind of example am I leading. What kind of light am I shining – I don’t ever want to dim God’s light – I try to let him shine through me as much as possible… We are not going to be perfect. we are all going to make mistakes. But keep striving to be the best – that comes with God’s help in our journey.”

Ross, the vocal leader for the Cubs, gets a hero’s sendoff after game seven last hard.

Here are my takeaways from Ross’ story.

1- Don’t Dim God’s Light – We are not able to hinder God from his work because he is not dependent on us, but as Ross said, we can block his light from shining in our lives.  When we are focussed on ourselves, His light doesn’t shine through us very strongly.  Isaiah 42.8 tells us that God will not share his glory with others, it is for Him alone. So how do we keep the lens polished so that his light shines through us strongly.  That comes from asking for His help and surrendering our selfishness to Him and for His purposes.

2- How do you Lead – I remember when I first started working in youth ministry, I loved coming up with crazy (hopefully fun) activities that may challenge comfort zones and “coolness” factors.  But when I prepared these lessons and activities, there was one guideline that I held to strongly.  I would not ask the students in my youth group to do anything that I was not willing to do myself. If they called me on it, I would model the desired behavior. In the video, Ross talks about leadership.  He said “Leaders don’t try to lead, they lead by example”. That is an important lesson in work places where you may be a leader. Value your staff and take every opportunity to guide them and model your expectations. It is also a great reminder in life for us  to lead like Jesus who was the ultimate example of servant leadership. He will help us love others and show them the difference He can make in their lives.

So as David Ross adjusts to life after baseball, and the rest of us cheer him on on Dancing with the Stars, remember the challenges that he shared in this video, and allow Christ to show us the truth about who we are and remind is that our bad choices do not necessarily doom us.  Surrendering to Jesus is the one way to allow His light to shine through you wherever you may go.

A Timing Thing – Ian Desmond – Texas Rangers


Rangers OF Ian Desmond

Ian Desmond is one of the last remnants of a by-gone era that was an important part of my sporting world. He is one of few remaining players connected to the Montreal Expos. He was drafted in 2004, and moved with the team to Washington D.C. and worked his way through the system, making his debut in September 2009. He had a great start to his career, with 6 hits and 4 rbi in his first 2 games. He would finish with a .280 average, 4 home runs and 12 rbi in 21 games.

Over the next 6 seasons for the Nationals, Desmond would play in over 130 games each year, three times hitting more than 20 home runs and stealing more than 20 bases. He won 3 Silver Slugger awards as a shortstop and went to an All-Star game. But last off-season, he left Washington and signed as a free agent with the Texas Rangers. This year, he again returned the the All-Star game this time as a center fielder.

As you can read in this article from the Nationals website Desmond says his breakout season was due to him choosing to follow God with his life.  He says “I felt like God had more important issues to deal with than my baseball career. [In 2012], I put my faith in him and said, “Hey, get my athletic ability to do whatever you want. Hopefully, I can glorify you.” It has been great. That took a lot of pressure off my shoulders. Going 0-for-4 wasn’t so bad. I realized it was part of the process and this is the way He wanted it to be.”

Texas Rangers' Ian Desmond (20) tosses his bat as he watches hit home run ball in the seventh inning at Globe Life Park on May 15, 2016 in Arlington, Texas. The Rangers won 7-6. (Richard W. Rodriguez/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/TNS)

Desmond has been a solid 20 hr- 20 sb guy in his MLB career


This was a change for Desmond who earlier in his career was all about putting in the work. He didn’t have time for God in his rise to the pros.  You can read about it in this article from Sports Spectrum Desmond said “I filled that void in my heart with baseball and so many other things… On my journey to the major leagues, my Sundays were generally filled with cage work. I had chaplains coming up to my locker asking me if I wanted to attend the chapel, and I always said, ‘No, I don’t have time for that.’ I got my mind set on making it to the major leagues, and when I was at the major league level, I didn’t want to let that dream slip away.” The story continues, highlighting that he began reading his bible and attending chapel services. But an injury threw a wrench in his routine. He thought it important to work on his training and recovery instead of going to chapel. This time, though, he couldn’t go through with it. He says “The chaplain came into my locker, and I said, ‘Tim, I don’t think I can make it today. I have to go get treatment.’ So the chapel started, I went to the training room, and I was overtaken with goose bumps, like, ‘Man, what’s going on?’ I walked back into that chapel room and Tim looked at me, we made eye contact, and that was the moment I knew that God was in control and I didn’t need to get treatment, and He was going to take care of me.

This year, Desmond got to play in the All-Star game. He has joined a Rangers team that is poised to make the playoffs for the second straight season and the 4th time in seven seasons.  I am excited for playoff baseball to get here.

Here are my takeaways from Desmond’s story:


This season, Desmond played in his first career All-Star game. Looks like he’ll see the post-season, too. He is playing with God as his top priority.

1- No Time for That – Desmond grew up in a Catholic family and knew about God. But when it came to baseball, God went to the back burner. Baseball was most important in Desmond’s life. And when he turned professional, his work on his game and his physical skills became even more consuming – so much so that invitations to chapel services were declined. Eventually, Desmond would chose to follow God and make him the number one priority in his life. What I like about this story is 1- that it is a lot like my story – I grew up attending church but did not really have time on interest in living for Him. But when I came to the decision that I needed to live for Him, He was still there and ready for him. When Desmond decided to put God first and seek Him, God was ready to meet with Ian and help him grow and see God’s goodness.  He offers the same to each of us as well. No matter how often or how strongly we turn away from God and put other things ahead of Him, when we do choose to turn to Him, He is there to meet us and welcome us to Him.


Desmond is one of a handful of current players connected to the Montreal Expos – My boyhood favorite team.

2- Workout – The Sports Spectrum article also mentions another important lesson. Desmond noted that “spending time on his physical health was vital to recovery, so was the time spent on his spiritual health in prayer and fellowship with his brothers in Christ. Trusting God in the midst of injury is a major step in spiritual maturity.” I once heard a speaker use the analogy that “faith is like a muscle – it only gets strengthened through use. If you don’t use it, it withers away” We are invited to have faith in God. That means trusting Him and His plan even if it goes against our comfort, or our ideas. But God is always faithful and when we exercise trust in Him, our faith will grow and strengthen. Lets put in the work of trusting God and let’s see how He makes all things work out for good for those who love Him and are called according to his purpose (Romans 8.23)

Living Up To Expectations – Kaleb Cowart – Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim


Angels 3B Kaleb Cowart

Expectations can be both positive and negative. For a baseball player, they mean that people see your skill set and because of that, have  a belief that you could be a superstar. What a boost that could be, I mean who doesn’t like it when people go on and on about how talented you are and what level you could achieve. But then the negative comes along when things don’t go smoothly, when bumps in the road derail the forward momentum. Terms like “star-in-the-making” and “can’t-miss” are used to discribe you.

Kaleb Cowart knows about expectations. He was the 2010 National High School Player of the Year. He was a first round draft pick in the the 2010 MLB draft (18th overall). As a first round draft pick, there are expectations of a quick journey through the minor leagues and an above-average-to-star level player that contributes for years to come. So how has Cowart’s journey gone? He has played in 19 games so far this season, and 53 over the past 2 seasons.  He is hitting a little above .200 with a couple home runs and 8 rbi.  He has seen time at first, second and third base.


Kowart receives the 2010 Gatorade High School Player of the Year award in

For Cowart, he has not lived up to those expectations, but as you can read in this article from desertnews.com, Kaleb did well in the field, but struggled at the plate. The article talks about last season when Cowart had a great season with the Salt Lake City Bees. It was refreshing to see the pieces falling into place after more struggles than expected. Cowart shared that the key to his life and baseball career is his faith in God. He says “I think we’re all here for a reason, And I’ve been blessed to be able to play baseball. If I can bring just one person to Christ, whatever I do will be worth it.

You can also check out this post on the forum freedomcardboard.com where Cowart again talks about his faith and how he became a Christian at age 9.

Aug 18, 2015; Anaheim, CA, USA; Los Angeles Angels third baseman Kaleb Cowart (41) on deck in the fourth inning of the game against the Chicago White Sox at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Cowart is back up with the Angels right now.  He enjoys sharing his faith with teammates and fans.

And now as September is here and the Los Angeles Angels are looking at prospects to see what the future might hold, Cowart is getting another look. I am hoping that it is a successful final month for him. But more than that, I am excited to see how God will use him and his desire to point others to God.

Here are my takeaways from Cowart’s story:

1- Expectations

I talked about the expectations that exist for top round draft picks in sport. I imagine that with the pressure and the microscope you would be under, it must be challenging to live up to those expectations. And even those of us who are not elite athletes, have expectations placed on us that are harder some days to live up to than others. And so often, when we don’t live up to the expectations placed on us, the criticism is harsh. It is refreshing then to know that even though God’s standards of perfection are real – all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. He didn’t expect us to be perfect and flawless. He instead made an alternate plan to meet us wherever we are and offer us freedom, love and acceptance.


Cowart has spent more time than expected in the Minors, but he is trusting God on the journey wherever He may lead.

2- Our Purpose – 

Cowart said in a couple of articles that I read that he knows his purpose is to positively affect the world by living for God and loving others. When asked what advice he would give to his fans, he answered “Keep God first in your life no matter where life takes you.  We spend so much of our life trying to discover what our purpose is. We chase money, fame, status and success. We strive to meet the expectations of others and that can leave us with feelings of emptiness or dissatisfaction. Jesus summarized the purpose for life in Matthew 22. In verses 37-40  when asked what the greatest commandment is, He says “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

There it is, all the law and the words that the prophets shared to guide people in their lives can be summed up by “Love God and Love others.”  That is our purpose in this life. Let’s live that out today!