There's no question that it takes a lot of talent and hard work to become a professional athlete, but some times I think that I was born to be a major league baseball player.
I grew up in the same Cincinnati neighborhood that was home to Pete Rose -- one of baseball's all-time great hitters. In fact, my father played with Pete many times.
After my dad coached me through little league and grade school ball, I went on to play at Oak Hills High School where I became an All-State Honorable Mention selection as a third baseman and shortstop. The player who beat me out of All-State honors was none other that major league star shortstop Barry Larkin!
Following my prep career, the Milwaukee Brewers drafted me in the fifth round of the June 1981 draft. Although I was an infielder, the Brewers told me right from the beginning that they would turn me into a pitcher because of my size (6'5") and arm strength. As the old saying goes, the rest is history.
I spent four-and-a-half years in the minor leagues before I made my first big league start in 1998 against the Boston Red Sox, and that was a game I'll never forget. There I was on the mound in Milwaukee County Stadium facing such stars as Wade Boggs and Jim Rice with my family sitting in the stands. The highlight for me was seeing the satisfaction and delight on the faces of my wife, mother and father since they had stood behind me and supported me the whole way.
Since that time I have experienced many high points and low points in my major league career. I was nearly forced out of baseball with shoulder and elbow injuries, but I bounced back from those adversities and pitched better than ever. Things turned around very quickly for me, and I'm thankful that I was able to stay in the game.
Prior to that comeback I experienced an even greater turnaround -- one that changed the direction of my life. One particular day in 1988 I remember feeling very secure about my future, I was two weeks away from signing a contract that would pay me $900,000 over the next two years. I was practically on top of the world enjoying all the benefits of being a pro athlete. Nothing could be better, I thought.
Then, at my wife's invitation, the pastor of the church she attended dropped by our house. During our conversation he began to share some things that "blew me away."
I soon discovered that what I had in baseball, material wealth and fame was only temporary happiness, not lasting contentment and peace.
The pastor pointed out to me in the Bible that the key to real joy in life was a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Before he shared this I thought I had all the right answers about the meaning of life. I told him that I believed in God and believed that Jesus was the Son of God, and that I knew where I came from and knew where I was going.
Then the pastor asked me, "If you died right now and were standing before God, and He asked you why He should let you into heaven, what would you say?"
I told him, "Well, I'm basically a good person, I try to do the right things -- like giving to charities, and I try to be a good example."
As we continued to talk, I quickly realized that it wasn't enough just to know God intellectually. You see, none of us can get to heaven by being a good person or doing good deeds. The Bible says, "All our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment." (Isaiah 64:6) "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23)
Eternal life is God's free gift to those who know Him personally through Jesus Christ, and He is the only way to heaven. "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6) "And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." Acts 4:12)
Once I committed my life to the Lord, I not only had the assurance of eternal life in heaven, but I also had a real sense of peace and joy in my heart. Through Jesus Christ, I now have the strength to face the storms of life that might come my way. The Bible says, "I can do all things in Him who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:13)
Perhaps you are unsure about your eternal future, or maybe you are worried about uncertain times ahead. You need to know that God cares about your life, too. He loves you just as much as He loves me, and He wants to give you meaning, purpose and direction in life. Why not invite Jesus into your life today.
If you would like to know more about Jesus and what He can do for you, just click the button on the left side of your screen to change your life.