This is part 12 in my blog series about Christian Baseball Players who are living out their faith in the public eye and unashamedly declaring their faith and love for Christ in hopes that others may be drawn to Him or encouraged in their relationship with Him.
It is easy to see professional athletes only for the value of the entertainment that they offer. Once they cross the lines into the field of play, they have our attention and our allegiance, but we seldom give much thought to their lives off the field. If we do hear about them off the field, often it is to report an indiscretion or scandal that they are involved with.
We don’t often think about their life being hard. Most of us have had big league dreams, just like each major league player has. I know that I, for one, don’t often think about the hard things that put those dreams in doubt, or the heartbreak that failure, or in some cases success, brings. The latter is at the heart of the story I share today.
Today, we are off to Cincinnati to visit with Reds outfielder Chris Heisey. By his own admission, in high school, he was not good enough at baseball to be considered for a Division 1 NCAA scholarship. So he opted to stay close to home and attend Messiah College, a Christian liberal arts school. Click here to read about Heisey on their web-site. (scroll to the bottom of the page)
Messiah College was close to his home, so his mom and dad could come and watch him play. Then when he began pro ball, he was in constant contact with his dad, Craig, who was his proudest supporter.
But in October 2007, Craig Heisey lost his battle with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease).
The journey to the majors was not yet complete, but the rest of the way would have to take place without the contact with his father. Heisey found this to be a difficult thing to deal with, (as we all would). But knowing that his father had a genuine relationship with God and modeled what a healthy Christian faith looks like, he was comforted and at peace even with the loss of his dad. The saddest part would be in April of 2010, when he was called up to the majors for the first time and he was unable to share the achievement with his dad.
He was called up to replace an injured player, and has not been back to the minors since. He was successful in his role of pinch hitter last year, tying for the most pinch hit home runs (4) with Matt Stairs (who, as an aside is from my birthplace – New Brunswick, Canada). This year, he has again made the team out of training camp and has been pinch hitting again, and also starting some games.
Heisey is still living the dream that he has (and many of us have) had since childhood. While he didn’t get a chance to share the dream with his father, he did learn about being a good Christian role model, and father. Along the way, he has learned to lean of God for support when hard things come along, and he has also learned the important lessons of humility and hard work. It has helped him keep a perspective of all that he has been entrusted with, and how to use his place and his story to tell others about God and to bring hope in the face of hardship. Great lessons for us all.