In September of 1989, as the Blue Jays were in a pennant race, I found myself at the plate in a game against the Minnesota Twins. It was my first at-bat in the majors, actually my first at-bat in a professional baseball game, since I had never been in the minors. I pulled a 2-0 fastball into the hole at 2nd. Wally Backman, playing second for the Twins, dove for the ball, but it rolled into right field. I had my first hit in my first at-bat.
Just a few months before, there was some question whether I would ever swing a bat again, let alone in a major league game.
I had come out of high school drafted in the late rounds by the New York Mets. I knew I needed to do some growing, so I decided to go to college. I went to Washington State University, and in 1988 was Baseball America's NCAA Player of the Year. I was considered a blue-chip prospect, both as a pitcher and as a hitter. The next step seemed to be the majors.
But before I could take that next take, an unexpected obstacle had to be overcome. I collapsed while working out, and was diagnosed with a brain hemorrhage. One of my blood vessels was leaking into my brain. A few weeks after that diagnosis, I had surgery to remove an aneurysm in my brain.
I was fortunate. While some people have to learn to walk and talk all over again following the removal of an aneurysm, within a few months I was back doing what I loved playing ball.
Although the season following my surgery was not statistically as good as the year before, the Toronto Blue Jays drafted me, signed me, and had me in the major leagues at the end of the summer.
I had several good years with the Blue Jays, winning the American League batting title in 1993 and being part of the Blue Jays' two World Championships.
I was traded to the New York Mets and signed with the Seattle Mariners as a free agent, coming back to the area where I had grown up.
Having the aneurysm not only impacted my collegiate career, it impacted my life. I learned I'm not in control of my life as much as I thought. I had always taken care of myself. I didn't smoke or use drugs or alcohol. I thought I would be around for many years.
And all that changed. I learned that life hangs by a tiny thread.
Looking back, I believe God spared my life, even though I wasn't a believer at the time. That came later.
My wife, Kelly, was serious about her faith. She would ask me questions, and while I told her I was a Christian, it was obvious to her that I didn't really know what I was talking about, nor did I have a personal relationship with the Lord.
That happened in 1990, when I asked the Lord to come into my life.
Nothing dramatic happened. I didn't feel like the weight of the world was lifted off my shoulders, like some do. In fact, I wasn't even sure I wanted to tell anyone I had become a Christian.
As time passed, I could see God's hand in my life. I read books which encouraged me in my faith. And now, instead of being hesitant to tell people I'm a Christian, I look for opportunities to share.
God has blessed me in so many ways: with the skill to play baseball; with recovery from an aneurysm; with my family; and above all, with His love.
As thrilling as my first hit in the majors was, and every hit since then, nothing compares with knowing the love of God.
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