I pitched my 15th consecutive save in that game, establishing a new major league mark for consecutive appearances. Another record fell from the Indians' books as I saved 37 games for the 1988 season. And in 1990, I raised that mark to 43 saves while appearing in my third consecutive All-Star Game.
The road to the major leagues was long and rocky. But there were enough successes along the way to convince me to keep on pitching. I threw my first no-hitter at age 12 and pitched several shutouts through high school and on into college where I no-hit the No. 1 junior college team in the nation, placing me on the NJCAA All-American Team for 1978.
After signing with the Milwaukee Brewers that summer, it didn't take long to learn just how difficult professional baseball was. Every year was a test against better and better "all-star" teams from all over the country. This is where the rocky part began.
I grew up in a Christian home and gave my life to Christ at a junior high church camp. But minor league baseball became a real struggle for me spiritually. Peer pressure set the direction of my life and values. My spiritual growth was inconsistent and weak. The pressures of moving from team to team drew me back to fit in with my teammates and their lifestyles.
In 1982 I got my first taste of the major leagues. It was only for three weeks, but it was enough for me to know the it was worth every day I had to spend in the minors. In August of that year I suffered a shoulder injury that would take the better part of two seasons to recover from. This is where the long part began.
Two months later, a major turning point came in my life: marriage, I was committing my life to someone while being committed to baseball and trying to recover from a career threatening injury. But my wife Debbie and I realized that the only way we would see success in these commitments was in our personal relationship with Christ. So we started our lives together rededicating them to Him. Growth and consistence soon began.
In 1985 I signed with the Indians and made the last spot on their AA team as a walk-on. It was very difficult for Debbie and me and our 6-month old son Dustin, but baseball and part-time jobs in the winter kept us going. The next spring was similar. I won the last spot on the AAA team in Maine but went on to lead the league in pitching earning a September call-up to Cleveland.
Though I made the Indians major league roster in 1987, I was sent back to triple-A ball in late April. Feeling bitter and disappointed, we drove from Cleveland to Buffalo, NY. At that time, Debbie suggested that we memorize some scripture together. I was in no mood for it, but with Debbie's persistence we worked on 1 Peter 5:6-7: "Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you."
Over the next few months God began to use those verses to show us that we had no control over the circumstances in our lives, but we could control our response to them. I decided to accept what God would do, and I would just go about using the talent He gave me, have fun, and quit worrying. We pursued our relationship with the Lord, spent time in the scriptures, and learned to trust Him wholeheartedly.
With new success in Buffalo, I was recalled after two months to finish the 1987 season in Cleveland. After 10 years in the minors, the '88 season was one to remember with both the records and the All-Star game appearance.
Tough times will come again -- personally, in baseball or for our family. God sees all of my future and He will direct it if I put Him first in my life. If you would like to have this peace and confidence about your own life, you can through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It's a promise from Him.
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