As baseball teams report for spring training, fans are hoping that their team will become the next World Series champion. But for many of the players, they are just trying to make sure they secure their spot on the roster. Every move and hit is being scrutinized. While it can be a stressful time, for players like Edgar Gonzalez, they have learned how to turn to God during the ups and downs of the sport. Gonzalez comes from a baseball family. His father played on the Mexican national baseball team and his brother Adrian plays for the LA Dodgers. This past year, Gonzalez managed the Mexico national baseball team in the World Baseball Classic. We interviewed Gonzalez five years ago and talked with him about the lessons he has learned from baseball that drew him closer to God including taking a fastball to his head and his time playing in Japan.
“For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe.” 1 Timothy 4:8-10
Gonzalez reflects on how a fastball to his head drew him closer to God.
“I always tell the story that I would pray. I wasn’t very strong in my faith at that point, but I prayed, ‘God help me get to the major leagues. You do whatever you want for my life.’ Looking back, it was the wrong prayer. But he gave me the major leagues, and once I got there, I got too complacent. I wasn’t doing my part of talking to him and spreading his word. I got hit in the head by a fastball, and then as soon as I came back I separated my shoulder. It was an injury-riddled year and I think at the end of the day, I sat down and said, ‘Whoa. What’s going on with this year?’ Actually at the end, something good came out of it because I started getting close to God. Even though it was a tough time for me personally, I don’t think that’s what really matters to God. What matters to God is how much closer you get to Him. It was a good thing for me. I didn’t think that when I was going through it, but I do now.”
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air.” 1 Corinthians 9:24-26
Gonzalez opens up on his spiritual journey and how his time playing baseball in Japan helped him to read the Bible more.
“For baseball teams, you go to a field and you do your game. You have some time before the game and that’s probably how I started getting closer to God. I was getting closer to Jesus Christ because there’s so much time to think about everything. After some games they [other team members] would have Bible studies too, so I would go. I grew up Catholic and right now, you can say that I’m a Christian… I am a follower of Christ. I had always considered myself a follower of Christ, but not until I went to Japan in 2010, did I mature the most. I couldn’t even understand the TV, so I [took the time] to sit down and read. When I started reading, that’s when Jesus started really working on my heart more. It’s more important to me how much a person reads and really gets into the Word [Bible] because when you don’t it’s harder to feel God’s love. That’s the way he talks to you. Going through the ups and downs of baseball struggles is what gets me closer actually. I know those times are ultimately in God’s plans. Every singe time I struggle with something, I go to him and pray.
Spend time reading. Take time this month to read through a devotional or faith-based book. Turn off all distractions including silencing your phone and TV. It can be helpful to block off or schedule time as we can often get caught up in the business of life. Ask your pastor, small group leader, or mentor for some suggestions for books. Your church might even have a library. As you read, write down things that encourage or challenge you. Pray and ask God if there are things in your life that need to change to become more like Him.
Reflect. Whether it is a victory or loss, God wants to teach us something through every experience. Sometimes it can be hard to think about past experiences, but pray and ask God what He wants you to take from that time. Ask Him if there is a person or group that you can help with what you learned.
Be a coach. Whether you play a sport or are in the office, there are people all around us that need a mentor or coach for their spiritual lives. You don’t have to have it all together to be a mentor. You just have to be a couple steps ahead of the person. Pray and ask God to show you someone that you can mentor. Your church might even have a mentorship program that you can sign up for, where you can be mentored and then in turn mentor someone else!
To read our entire interview with Edgar Gonzalez click here.