In some ways, the very traits that made me a good ballplayer kept me from being the best person I could be.
I had so much pride and ego. I loved to compete. I loved to rise to the occasion. And if people would tell me the things I couldn't do, I took that as a challenge and did everything I could to prove them wrong.
I had always been an athlete. I played baseball and basketball and football in high school, played freshman basketball at the University of Kentucky, and had a baseball scholarship.
I didn't have extraordinary skills. I could make a good team better, but I was not good enough to carry a bad team. I just made the most of my skills. My pride and ego wouldn't let me do otherwise.
I lost my scholarship at Kentucky and enrolled in a Junior College, with no baseball program. I heard about a tryout the Cincinnati Reds were holding, borrowed a glove and shoes and was offered a contract through the tryout.
I went to spring training in 1975 with no chance to make the Reds. But I had a great spring, made the club, and played 11 years.
It was such a rich experience. I know now I was blessed beyond belief. I was on the Reds championship teams in 1975 and 1976. Later I won a Gold Glove while I was playing for the Mets.
I had always thought of myself as a Christian. In fact, I took pride in it. I became a chapel leader, but I was really only a Sunday Christian. Monday through Saturday I lived the way I wanted. I wasn't a good witness as a chapel leader, and I wasn't a good witness as a ball player.
I got married when I was with the Mets. My wife wanted to be part of my life, part of my baseball experience, but I didn't know how to handle that. I had always prided myself on being able to take care of everything on my own, in my own way. And I had difficulty dealing with someone trying to help me. We fought a lot, and it was mostly me.
Finally, in 1984, my wife signed us up for a Pro Athletes Outreach conference. I didn't really want to go, but she had already sent in the money. When I went, I listened to what some of the speakers were saying, and for the first time, I knew my pride and ego were in the way of being the kind of man God wanted me to be, the kind of man my wife needed me to be, and the kind of man I desired to be.
I bowed my head and prayed, Jesus, I want you to be Lord of my life. I'm not sure what that means, but I know what I'm doing now is not working. I felt an immediate peace and joy roll over me.
Since that time, I have learned so much. My wife and I have a wonderful relationship. And I feel a great sense of purpose and contentment.
There is still room for me to grow. Every now and then my pride and ego still get in the way. But the Christian life is much like baseball it takes effort and practice and progress. I'm learning to walk as a follower of Jesus. And I'm growing in my faith and in my love.
I used to think of myself as an athlete. That's how I measured my worth. My ego was all tied up in winning and losing and how well I performed.
Now I know who I really am. I am a child of God, loved by God, redeemed by the cross of Jesus. He is at the center and I have peace.
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