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.”
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:
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.
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)