It is All-Star week in the Major League Baseball season, and as I looked over the rosters, I had a hard time picking whose story I should share – so, I decided to share 4 stories that piqued my interest. There are 3 first timers whose stories I’ll share, and a second time All-Star who plays in the city where I currently live.
We will start with my current home team.
Jose Berrios – Minnesota Twins – SP.
At age 25, Berrios is the unquestioned ace of the Minnesota Twins rotation. He is currently in his 4th season with the Twins – and his numbers have improved each season. He made the All-Star roster last season, and pitched a scoreless inning.
This season, he was the opening day starter for the Twins, winning the game and striking out 10. This season, he also embarked on a strikeout challenge donating $50 per strikeout to help children as they battle cancer in his native Puerto Rico. And as you can read in this article from Pioneer Press, he works out with Josue Rivera, a trainer from Puerto Rico each offseason (at least up until 2016) to help him with the physical and mental sides of the game, as well as spiritual mentorship. The article shares “Conversations between Berrios and Rivera typically range far beyond baseball and conditioning. “Every morning before every training session, he talks to me about real life,” Berrios says. “He says you have to align your spirit and your mind with your God. He created us and you have to give the glory to him and ask, ‘What can I do?’ Then everything will be great.”
Berrios, a father of 3, became a Christian in January 2014. He will pitch in his second All-Star game on Tuesday Night.
Whit Merrifield – Kansas City Royals – IF/OF.
Up next, we have an experienced thief. He has led the American League in stolen bases in each of the past 2 seasons posting totals of 34 and 45. He led the American League in hits last season, and is doing so again this season. He even finished 17th in MVP voting last year – yet this year, he is a first time All-Star. It was not a meteoric rise to the majors for Merrifield. You can read in this article he wrote called “paying my dues” that there were some bumps in the road between delivering the walk-off hit to win the 2010 College World Series and finally getting called up to the Royals for real on May 18, 2016. In the midst of the waiting, Merrifield learned some lessons that he shares in the article, and in this interview. Here is some wisdom he shares:
“God’s plan didn’t call for me to stay in that moment (winning the CWS) forever. If I was going to get to the big leagues, I needed to be humbled first.”
Advice for young players “So for all of you young players out there struggling to make it, just remember to keep pushing, because you just might like what God has on the other side.”
When asked about his faith, Whit said “I do things to glorify God and I feel like I need to. Just like you try to make your parents proud, I’m trying to make Him proud, and do things the right way.”
And when asked why he draws a “G” in the dirt before each at-bat “It stands for God. I started it in … my junior year of high school. Before that I had some big-time anger issues. It’s a long story, but it comes down to that was when I guess I got saved… I do it, and it reminds me that there are bigger things out there than this at-bat that I’m about to go through.”
I particularly resonate with this last one – as a boy, I had plenty of issues with getting really mad when we didn’t win a game or when I would get out. Whatever we are going through seems like the biggest thing in the moment but often, with perspective, we see that it rarely carries the importance we give it in that moment.
Austin Meadows – Tampa Bay Rays – OF
Another first timer, Austin Meadows was N.L. Rookie of the Month in May 2018 and played well for almost 50 games with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He joined the Tampa Bay Rays last season at the Trade Deadline in a package traded for Rays ace Chris Archer. And while Archer and the Pirates have struggled this season, Meadows has been a gem for the Rays. He has hit .289 with 30 extra base hits. He was named to the All-Star team last week – and with this being his first season of regular playing time, it is his first All-Star game trip as well. As for his faith, he shares it’s importance in this Blessed to Play podcast episode. He shares about the importance of meeting with and encouraging other believers on the team during the season when being part of a regular church body is challenging. He shares the importance of the team chapel services. He also talks about the responsibility he has as a role model and wants parents to be confident that if they buy a jersey for their child that bears his name and number, that they will be happy with the person he is, not just the stats he puts together.
I’ve been a jersey collector for much of my life. Since starting this blog, I’ve decided that I will also only wear jerseys of players who I can proudly represent based more on their off the field values and beliefs than on their on-field success. So I appreciate what Meadows says about considering these things when he sees a kid wearing his jersey.
Daniel Vogelbach – Seattle Mariners – 1B
Another player that is playing his first full season in the majors, Daniel Vogelbach joins the other first time All-Stars in this post (there are 31 first time All-Stars in this year’s game). Vogelbach is 26 years old. He was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 2nd round of the 2011 draft. He played in their minor league system until a 2016 trade sent him to the Seattle system. He made his debut as a September call-up that season. He played parts of the next 2 seasons with the Mariners but has already appeared in more games in the majors this year than he had in his career up before this season. But I don’t know that anyone expected what Vogelbach has provided this year for Seattle. 20 home runs, and 60 walks (tied for 6th in the majors). According to his Twitter account, “God, family and baseball in that order” are his listed priorities. One of his tweets in particular caught my attention. It serves as a great reminder that we are not in control. He wrote “Faith is not about everything turning out okay, Faith is being okay with how things turn out. Gods plan is greater than ours”
Trust in God’s plan instead of desperately holding onto our own plan will make things much more manageable. This is a lesson that I learn and re-learn frequently. I appreciate the concise reminder of this truth in Vogelbach’s tweet.
Enjoy the game everyone – look for the NL version on Tuesday.