Good News Tucson Magazine's Blog

The Premiere Christian Magazine for Southern Arizona

Sports as a Way to Christ

Brent Strom

People are a composite of their experiences.  They are molded by events, love, lack of love, peers, strength of conviction and a list that could go on infinitum.  If, as professionals, we have speculated that the ages of 6-14 are of particular importance in the development of a person, then count me as fortunate to have found SPORTS at an early age.
The word sports as an acronym could possibly stand for the following:

S  for  Sacrifice
P  for  Persistence
O  for  Obedience
R  for  Respect
T  for  Teamwork
S  for  Spirit

I mention this because without sports, my life, as I know it today, would not be the same.  It provided an anchor from which I could explore other things, but its draw, its strength, always kept me out of harm’s way.  With a mindset that “this is so important to me that I am not going to do anything to jeopardize my sporting life.”  This was before I really knew Him, knew Jesus Christ.

Behaviorists have indicated that the ages of 6-14 are the most important phase of child development. It is a time when attitudes and perceptions are formed.  It was during this time that my sister and I, though raised exactly the same, went on separate paths.  One to the pinnacle of success in a chosen field and the other to a life of drug use, prison and continuing struggle.

I read a book in 1970 by Jim Bouton titled Ball Four. The final sentence read “All those years I thought it was me holding onto the ball but in reality it was the ball holding onto me.”  That was true of me. But there is another Book that I could have turned to, just as my sister could have, that would have saved both of us.

My sister didn’t have that anchor.  God provided baseball as my anchor until I really found Him.

What would have happened to me if I hadn’t shown the athletic talent to command respect and adulation at an early age?  It was this intoxicating feeling of being superior in something that caused me to pursue it.  It was addictive.  The more I got, the more I wanted. Practice was enjoyable.  Competition and winning was my drug of choice. Heroin and cocaine were my sister’s. Fast times, early pregnancy, theft and twenty years as an absentee mother to her two children were the result.

I make the comparison because of the grace of God. The gift he gave me was manifested and shown through athletic achievement. My sister apparently didn’t find her gift. But as my Christian life evolved, it is quite apparent that sheer luck recognizing that it was God who bestowed this gift of athleticism upon me created a path. But it was a rocky path, dependent upon a bounce here, a bad call there, a win, a loss and not until now did I realize that it would have been much easier had I loved God’s word as much as I did a game.

But in looking back now, I can, with the help of faith in Jesus, come to realize that He was responsible for guiding me through this venue.  It took some time to get me to come around but now, looking back, it is apparent that SPORTS and its acronyms are elements that every athlete uses in excelling in his or her event. They are the same elements that Jesus modeled for us.

  • The great athlete sacrifices and gives through effort and dedication.  Jesus did that for us.
  • The great athlete has persistence.  Jesus modeled persistence all the way to the cross.
  • The great athlete obeys. He obeys the coach and the laws of his body, mind and spirit.  Jesus obeyed His Father’s commands and disciplined His body for what was ahead.
  • The great athlete gives and garners respect.  The athletic field is one place where one cannot hide. Your weaknesses are exposed; your insecurities confront you each game. Jesus commanded respect. He was a man’s man. He also respects us, enduring incredible pain.
  • The great athlete makes his teammates better. It is not about him, it is about the team.  Jesus had a team and he loved them, despite their lack of loyalty and faith.  He wants you to be on His team.
  • The great athlete has a spirit that moves people. People marvel at his grace, his movement.  Jesus not only saved us, but when we work with Him, His spirit, alive within in us, is poetry in motion.  As the Bible says in I Corinthians 2:9, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”

Throughout my life I have been grateful for the opportunities to see the relationship between my chosen path in life and Jesus’ example.  I continue to strive to be the man of God He has created me to be.

Brent Strom pitched for the New York Mets, San Diego Padres and Cleveland Indians.  He has served as pitching coach for the Tucson Toros, Houston Astros and Kansas City Royals.  Brent has served as the minor league pitching coordinator in the Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals organization. He currently serves as the St. Louis Cardinal’s minor league pitching instructor.


March 2, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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