My baseball journey began in a strange place - under the family room table.
My dad had decided that playing a year of little league would be good for me. He told me that I had to play for a year, and if, after that year, I didn't want to play, I could quit.
I wanted nothing to do with it. So I crawled under the table and refused to budge. But my dad never gave up. And almost 20 years later, I took the mound at U.S. Cellular Field, pitching for the world champion Chicago White Sox.
You may think it's a long journey from underneath a family room table to the mound in Chicago, but that's nothing compared to another journey I took - the journey from religion to faith.
My baseball career followed an interesting path. After high school, I had no offers from any major college. So I went to a community college where my game came together well enough to receive offers from 10 major schools.
I chose the University of Oklahoma, where I was an All-American as a pitcher and outfielder my senior year. It was there I met the woman of my dreams who would become my wife.
Looking at my life from the outside, you would think I had everything a guy could want. I was an All-American, I had been drafted and was playing ball for a living, I had a beautiful wife, I had a great family. What more could a guy want?
Well, I was missing the most important thing, and didn't even know it. I just knew I was empty.
I had grown up in the church. In fact, it wasn't until I started playing ball that I stopped going to church. And even though I wasn't going to church, I always thought of myself as a nice guy. I even went to Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) my senior year at Oklahoma. But it was all a masquerade.
It was like I was hiding under the table all over again - this time from God. I didn't want to change. I didn't want to give up anything I thought I was entitled to. I was having too much fun. I thought I could do it all on my own. And besides, I was a good guy. What more could God want?
And yet, I knew something was missing. I knew something wasn't working. It was like I had a hole in my heart, and every song at church seemed to be aimed directly at me.
Then, in May of 2002, after my 3rd arm surgery, which, for a pitcher, causes some concern, I felt even more lost. I called my pastor and we met at a Starbucks. He asked if I wanted to pray to receive Jesus right there in front of everyone. It was amazing!
I had always thought that I needed to know the whole Bible backward and forward in order to be saved. I thought that being a good person was the way to get into heaven.
Now I know the truth. I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and while I'm not perfect, He loves me and fills me with His greatest gifts - peace, joy and love.
I'm glad I crawled out from under the table when I was a kid. But I'm even more thrilled that I stopped hiding from God.
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