| (The first segment chronicled John Oleruds journey from college Player of the Year to rising star with the Toronto Blue Jays, followed by sub-par seasons and a trade to the New York Mets. To read the first segment, click here)
Escape to New York
There are many horror stories about New York, and how difficult it is to play there. John had heard them all.
New York was never a place I was interested in playing in. I had heard all the bad stories about the media, the fans, getting mugged.
My wife, Kelly, said, Lets try living in the city. We can look at it as an adventure. If we dont like it, we can always move out.
They loved it. They fell in love with the city, and John thrived with the Mets. There were coaches there I worked well with he says.
And the game became fun again. Sandwiched between very good years in 97 and 99, when he hit .298 and .292, with power and production, was 98. He hit .354, stinging the ball seemingly at will.
Along with the productive bat, John played first base with grace and style, not only physically but mentally prepared for any ball that came his way.
Then came his decision
He was a free agent. His contract had expired. The Mets wanted him. And he was happy there happier than he imagined he would have been.
But the Seattle Mariners were also interested, and John grew up in Seattle.
It was difficult, he says, probably in an understatement. I liked everything about New York. But Seattle was home for both of us. My son, Garrett, could be around his grandparents.
There were more unknowns with Seattle. I didnt know the coaches, and we didnt know how wed do being around family again.
We decided to go with the Mariners, based mainly on family considerations.
Its been good.
My daughter, Jordan Marie, was born the first year we were in Seattle. She was born with a chromosome abnormality. Shes missing one and has an addition to another. Thereve been a lot of health things weve been working on.
The support here has been huge; Im sure we could have done it in New York as well, but the support here has been outstanding.
So has the baseball.
Johns numbers with the Mariners have been consistently excellent, and the Mariners have been winning. 2001 was fun John says. Thats the year the Mariners won 116 games. Ive had good years here he says. There are a lot of guys here that are fun to watch and easy to root for.
Prior to the 2003 season, John signed on for another two years with the Mariners.
Difficult as his decision was to leave New York and move to Seattle, John knew he was making the right choice.
It was one of the times I was really praying to know Gods will. I felt a sense of peace in knowing Seattle was the right place. There havent been that many times I have felt that peace so strongly, but I did about coming to Seattle.
Johns awareness of peace came through his relationship with Christ, a relationship that started in earnest in 1990 and continues today.
I wasnt a believer growing up. We didnt go to church that much. I just wasnt serious about it.
Having an aneurysm at age 20 wakes you up to spiritual things. I was blindly going around thinking nothing bad could happen. I didnt use drugs or alcohol; I wasnt doing stupid things. I figured Id be around for another 40 or 50 years without any problem.
The aneurysm opened my eyes to the fact Im not in control as much as I thought I was. Even though I wasnt a believer at the time, I feel like the Lord spared me.
It was Kelly Olerud whose approach to her faith caught the attention of her husband. She was serious about her faith, says John. She would ask me about my faith and she knew from my answers that I didnt really know what I was talking about. She asked me if I had ever prayed to receive Christ. I hadnt.
In Toronto in 1990, John began to take his faith seriously. Of course, he was quiet about that at first as well. Scandals were abounding in the world of professional Christians, and John didnt want to tell anyone he had become one. I didnt want to look like a hypocrite, he says.
Johns approach to his faith was the same as anything else he was quiet on the outside, but analyzing everything on the inside. He read books about Christianity. He studied the Bible. He wanted to make sure of the accuracy of what he was being told.
I grew up with math and science, he says. Religious stuff was considered to be myth. I started reading apologetics (writings that provide evidence for faith), and to see there was hard core evidence for faith was a real encouragement for me.
There was no flash of lightning for John, nor an epiphany that changed his life. It wasnt an instantaneous thing. I didnt feel a great weight lifted off my shoulders, or anything like that. I never had that feeling.
As Ive gone along, I can see how the Lord has been at work in my life, how Hes impacted my life.
Theres a lot of pressure in baseball. Sometimes things go well and sometimes they dont. Knowing that God is sovereign and that He loves you is a great relief. That doesnt mean you dont still get stressed out, but it puts it all in perspective.
My daughter, Jordan, has taught me a lot about how God looks at suffering. Shes been sick a lot. Shes been through a lot. She cant communicate well. Sometimes she doesnt even know we are there.
Thats the way God is with unbelievers. They dont pay any attention to Him. They dont know Hes there. And yet He still loves them and wants them.
The Quiet Man is no longer quiet about his faith. Ive gone from not wanting to tell people about my faith to looking for opportunities to share, he says.
The Quiet Man, going about his business with a cool proficiency, the consummate professional, strong and seemingly silent. But inside beats the heart of a champion, a warrior, a heart of faith.