Before the draft in 1995, I prayed about my future. I decided that if I was drafted in the 5th round or earlier, I would sign. If I was drafted after the 5th round, I would interpret that as a sign God had something else in mind.
When the Florida Marlins called and said they were thinking about signing me in the 8th round, I made up my mind to play Junior College ball. It was exactly what God intended, because it was during my one year playing at the Junior College level that I met my wife, Amanda.
I ultimately signed with the Marlins, and made my way through the farm system, arriving in the Major Leagues for the first time in 2001. Amanda was there for my first big league appearance, against the Reds. It was her first experience in a big league ball park, but she had made up her mind not to attend a Major League game until I had been called up.
My first start, against Milwaukee, was memorable. I hit two batters in the first inning. I also struck out the side.
I was not raised in a Christian home. When I reached the age of 16, and could drive myself, I started going to church. My friends went to church, and it was something I wanted to do. I made it a habit to get up, and went by myself. I filled out a card, indicating I wanted to join the church. When the pastor asked if I understood what was required to become a member, I told him I thought I probably needed to sign something and give him some money. He told me there was a lot more to it than that.
He talked about having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and he led me through the Scriptures, and in his office, I got down on my knees and prayed to receive Jesus as my Savior and Lord. I floated out the door. I hadn't really been a bad person, but knowing I had a relationship with God through Jesus made me feel wonderful.
I reached a spiritual crossroads in 2000. I was pitching at AA, and had a pretty decent year. But baseball did not seem as fulfilling. I had more joy talking to people about God. I began to wonder if I should quit playing ball and devote myself full time to some ministry. As I prayed, I realized I could combine the two. I got busy with God, and put Him on the pedestal baseball had been on. I talked to my teammates about God, and baseball became a ministry God's work, not mine.
The highlight of my life did not come on a baseball field, but in my living room, when I led my Dad to the Lord. Later my mother accepted the Lord as well, and I was privileged to be in the baptismal waters with both my parents. They are secure in His love, and nothing has made me happier than that.
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