The All-Star game in just a couple of days away. Let’s take a look at the faith story of another of the participants in Tuesday’s game- Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitcher Mark Melancon. Originally drafted in the 30th round by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2003, Melancon opted to play college ball. He played for the University of Arizona and after a solid career in college he was drafted again in 2006, this time in the 9th round by the New York Yankees. He started out in A ball. He sat out 2007 recovering from Tommy John surgery. When he returned to baseball in 2008, he pitched very well in the Yankees system, working his way all the way up to AAA. He would spend most of 2009 in the minors, but did make his major league debut, and even though he was not on the Yankees post-season roster, he was given a World Series Ring when they won the championship. But in 2010, it became a time of transitions for Melancon.
The Yankees sent him to the Astros in the Lance Berkman trade. The Astros moved him to the Red Sox. The Red Sox traded him to the Pirates for Joel Hanrahan (and fellow 2015 all-star Brock Holt). In Pittsburgh, Melancon finally has found a home. In his 2+ seasons in Pittsburgh, he has an ERA of 1.61 and 78 saves, including a major league record 29 by the All-Star Break (and counting) and a team record 27 in a row. He has not allowed an earned run since May 11 – a stretch of 27 appearances.
Check out this video from Pirates Faith Night where Melancon discusses facing adversity (starting at the 4:22 mark). Also on the video is Jay Bell (former Pirate player/current coach) sharing about what his faith means to him.
Melancon talks about facing adversity. There is failure all around the game of baseball. He says ” if you don’t have Jesus Christ in your life, I don’t know how you do it.” The Pirates Chaplin also talks about Baseball Chapel, the organization that provides chapel services for all the Major League teams and umpires – home or away – and all the minor league affiliates, too. I’ve written about them before, but will gladly mention them again, because they play such an important role in the lives of the baseball players who desire to grow in their relationship with God.
Here are my takeaways from
1- Set up to Fail – baseball’s season is a long season. along the way, there will be stretches when things go your way and stretches when things do not. Failure is a strange thing. We strive to be successful and have an idea of what success is. When we fall short of our target of success, we can rack our brain trying to figure out how to fix it. Life is full of failures, too. In fact Romans 3.23 tells us that we have all failed. “Everyone has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” We have all made bad choices and gone against the perfect standard that God requires. That means that we are doomed. What an awful, hopeless thought. Gladly, God doesn’t forget us in that place. He loved us so much that he sent his son, Jesus, so that anyone who would believe in Him would not know true death (being separated from God) would be offered life instead. Romans 6.23 says “The reward for sin is death, but the gift that God freely gives is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord“. How exciting to have hope in the midst of our failing and shortcoming. We don’t have to be doomed to death. We can instead know true life. How can we know this. Romans 10.9 says “If you declare that Jesus is Lord and you believe that God brought Him back from the dead, you will be saved.” This is our hope. This is what we can know for sure. God made a way for us to know true life by living for Him and following His path for our life.
2- Compassion for the Hopeless – Christian Musician Steve Taylor in talking about one of his songs – Jim Morrison’s Grave – he talks about Kurt Cobain, lead singer of rock band Nirvana who sadly took his own life on April 5, 1994. Taylor says “when anyone takes an unblinking look into the well, if they don’t find living water, they’ll find nothing but a black hole… Some wonder what causes so many people to commit suicide. I wonder what causes so many people not to. Everyday I’m convinced afresh that apart from God, nothing makes sense.” Melancon expressed similar thoughts. he talked about not knowing how people survive without Jesus. The truth is that as Christians, we know a lot of pain, hurt and failure. But our hope is in Jesus’ promise of a life without pain and sorrow with Him in Heaven. With that in mind, let’s be aware of those around us who do not know Jesus. Let’s love them like He would, and let’s be His presence in their lives and circumstances. Because without Him, this world is lost. But with Him, there is a hope that surpasses all of the hard things life brings.