A few years back, I wrote a blog post about New York Yankees reliever Mariano Rivera. Part of his story was that one day, as he was throwing with a teammate, practicing his cut fastball (aka cutter) the baseball just began to move unpredictably. It was the pitch that made Mariano Rivera an All-Star and Hall of Famer. Teams would know that the cutter was coming and they still couldn’t hit it. Now Rivera is a legend and maybe the best that ever played the game. But the goal for all pitchers is to be unhittable – to make batters miss, even if they know what is coming. Robbie Ray has been pretty successful at making batters miss. He will be the focus for the Living Up to My Name post for today.
Ray was drafted by the Washington Nationals in the 12th round of the 2010 draft. He worked his way through the Nationals system, and in 2013 he was traded to the Detroit Tigers as part of a package of players sent to get Doug Fister. He would start the 2014 campaign with the Tigers AAA team in Toledo. He was brought up to make his debut in May, and pitched in 9 games with the Tigers that year. Another trade brought him to Arizona where he is now in his third season as part of the Diamondbacks rotation. After a rough start to the year, he has really turned things around and has earned an All-Star spot – the first of his career. He is 8-4 with an era just over 3. He has also struck out 128 batters in 100 innings.This article from CBN calls him a fastball specialist. Like Rivera, you know what you are going to get with Ray, you simply have to figure out how to hit it. And many fail at this. Ray is one of only 12 pitchers in baseball history to average 11 strikeouts per nine innings over the course of an entire season. He says “I’m not an aimer. I’m more of a hard nose, in your face kind of pitcher. I’m coming at you and with my best stuff all the time. I’m not a guy that’s gonna nibble on corners. I’m not looking to trick you. I’m coming at you with what I got and that’s it!…Last year I felt like there were starts where I could tell the guy ‘hey this is what’s coming’ and he still wasn’t gonna hit it.” Check out Ray sharing his thoughts on pitching in the majors below.
Included in that piece was Ray sharing the importance of faith in his life as a baseball player and as a dad. He says “I think its just trusting Him daily. What really put it in perspective for me is when I had my first son. And I realized the relationship I have with my Heavenly Father is a lot similar to that. He can disobey me but I could still love him. And so I know every time I mess up, every time I do something wrong – that God still loves me.” As a member of the Tigers, he was an active participant in some Faith Days. You can check out his faith story from his days with the Tigers here.
Here are my takeaways from Ray’s story:
1- This is what I got – Ray is a fastball specialist. He may mix in a few different versions of the fastball, but ultimately, his weapon is the fastball. He admits that he isn’t a finesse pitcher, trying to catch the corner of the plate and keep you guessing about what is coming. He just simply brings fastball after fastball and dares batters to hit one. And frequently, they are unable to do so. Let’s compare that to our Christian faith. Some people get caught up worrying about how to present the gospel message in a relevant way that will draw people outside the Christian circles. We try to find clever new ways to sneak the message in. Even when I worked in youth ministry, it was a tricky line to walk to plan a fun event, but still have some spiritual aspect to the night. Lately, I’ve realized that we don’t really need a trick or a hook. Jesus is the hook. He alone is relevant, and the best message we could share with others. Let’s be like Robbie Ray with his fastball. “Here it is. This is what I’ve got. I’m not going to hide it, or try to trick you”. It is my story, the way that I have seen God work in my life. I’m just going to present it to you. What you do with it is up to you and your willingness to let God speak to you.
2- Father/child relationship – I am constantly amazed how many lessons I learn from being a dad. I really resonated with what Robbie said in the video about the perspective he gained from becoming a father. I have 4 daughters and I thought as I heard his words that it would be horrible if they thought they could do something that would make me stop loving them. That breaks my heart to think that. A favorite book that my daughters always liked was the kids book “I’ll love you forever” but Robert Munsch. That is what I want my kids to know. No matter their behavior, their rebellion, whatever they do, I want them to hear my voice out loud or in their head saying “I’ll Love you forever, I’ll Like you for always, as long as I’m living my baby you’ll be”. But yet when it comes to God, our perfect, flawless Heavenly Father, we imagine that we can fall out of His love. He is perfect and He is filled with perfect love for each of us. He created us and made us just the way He wanted us to be. He also made us with the choice of whether we would follow Him or turn away from Him. But His love remains perfect. He will Love us forever and Like us for always, as Long as we’re living our Savior he wants to be. – Not quite as catchy as a rhyme, but so very true! Do you believe it? Will you allow Him to show His love to you no matter what choices you’ve made in your life. I promise you it will change your life for the best.