For today’s pro baseball player feature, we find our subject on the proverbial bubble. Cleveland Indians first baseman/outfielder Matt LaPorta. Drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 14th round of the 2003 draft as a high schooler, he decided to go to University of Florida instead. He stared for the Gators (he was an All-American in 2005 leading the nation in home runs) and was drafted again, in the 14th round again, this time by the Boston Red Sox. He returned for his senior year, and after another good showing, was drafted a third time, this time by the Milwaukee Brewers with the 7th overall pick in 2007.
Since then, LaPorta has been working his way through the minor leagues and had several tastes of Big Leagues.He has had great highlights – like playing on the bronze medal winning US Olympic team in Beijing in 2008, However, he has yet to secure a regular spot on the Big League roster. After spending most of the past 2 seasons with the Indians, he didn’t make the team out of spring training this year. In this Cleveland.com article, you can read about his brief stay in Cleveland earlier this month. We read that he is focusing on having fun and playing the game, and trying not to worry about what others (media) are saying about him. He is close, but is still working through the difference between AAA and the Big Leagues. His lifetime MLB batting average is .237, while in 4 years in AAA, he is batting .311.
One article that I found about LaPorta mentioned that his “walk-up” song with Columbus is “I Will Follow” by Chris Tomlin. Every time he steps up to bat, he advertises his faith to everyone at the game. You can read in the Lantern(OSU newspaper) that it is by design – as a reminder of his purpose in life and his faith in God.
“I play (the song) because my strong faith in God and my belief in him,” LaPorta said. “Basically the song is saying wherever God goes and wherever he’s at, that’s where I want to be.”
His faith is something that is deeply rooted in Him – the foundation on which his life is built. As you can read in this article from Athletes in Action, his faith was important from a young age and even as a rookie with the Brewers, he was taking on a role of spiritual leadership – starting a Bible study during spring training. Now with the Indians organization, you can read in this article from sharing the victory magazine, that he is close to another Outspoken Christian on the Indians – pitcher Justin Masterson (who I blogged about last season)
There is a lot to like about Matt LaPorta. I hope that he gets a chance to bring his loud bat and even more outspoken faith to Cleveland soon. But, regardless of when that happens. LaPorta will continue to be a light shining for God wherever he happens to be playing.
Here is his walk-up song:
Here are some thoughts that I want to share from LaPorta’s story.
1- Who do we live for? – LaPorta mentioned a refocusing on having fun playing ball. He also talked about not caring what the media is saying or what is going on in the minds of others. He can’t control those things anyway, so why let them take his focus away. I remember some advice that was given to me once. A good friend said that people will talk about you behind your back – and they will think even worse things. You can chose to worry about it, trying to guess what they are secretly thinking and saying about you to others, or you can understand that you can’t control these things. All you can do is be a good friend with a selfless character. LaPorta talked about how he had to overcome these concerns of what others were thinking. In his chosen profession, there will always be critics, and most of them will be vocal. It is vital to be able to block out all the negative that people can throw at you. The same can be said about our lives. There will always be people that will gossip or think badly about us. I can say this because we all struggle and battle to control our mean thoughts and our gossiping tongues. Since we all struggle with these things, let’s give grace to others for the hurtful things that they can do, and let’s keep our eyes focused on pleasing God and living our lives to hear him say “Well done, faithful servant”
2- I Will Follow -Walk up music. Something that seems simple – what music do you want to be identified with? For some, it is whatever top 40 song they are listening to the most, some probably give some consideration to what the fans will think and use it to grow or solidify their fan base. And some, like LaPorta, choose a song that has some special significance to them. For LaPorta, he is telling anyone in the stands who he is and what he stands for with his walk up song. God can use anything to reach others with his message of love and forgiveness. Tim Tebow wrote scripture references on his eye-black. LaPorta’s heart beats for God – and even in something as small and seemingly insignificant as his walk-up music, he is choosing to share a message about God. Do I point others to God in the big and small things that I do? I am around people who don’t share my faith in God most of the week. What do they see in me?
Some challenging things in here. LaPorta is working his way to the Bigs. But no matter where he is playing he is living, playing and pointing others toward Christ. I pray that those who play with him, against him, or watch him from the stands, are drawn to Christ through LaPorta.
You can learn more about him and the Matt LaPorta Foundation here.