Ryan Vogelsong – Isaiah 41:10, 13

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Pitcher Ryan Vogelsong – photo by Dirk Hansen

Life is full of ups and down; highs and lows.  Just ask Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Ryan Vogelsong.

Vogelsong was drafted in the 5th round of the 1998 amateur draft by the San Francisco Giants.  Two years later, he made his major league debut at only 22 years old.  His young career was off to a great start.

The 2001 season, however, didn’t go so well.  After compiling an 0-3 record and a 5.65 ERA, Vogelsong was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates in the deal that brought All Star pitcher Jason Schmidt to the Giants.  The year finished worse than it had started, as Vogelsong only managed to last 6 innings over his 2 starts, compiling an 0-2 record and a 12.00 ERA.  He spent most of the next two seasons playing minor league ball in Pirates organization.

In 2004, Vogelsong got another chance to prove himself.  But, in 31 appearances (26 starts) he compiled a 6.50 ERA.  For the next two seasons, Vogelsong pitched out of the bullpen.  That appeared to be the end of his major league career.  He spent the next three seasons pitching in Japan, and split 2010 between the minor leagues and Venezuelan league.

While he was in Venezuela, Vogelsong met two very important people; San Francisco Giants hitting coach Hensley Meulens and Giants minor league instructor Guillermo Rodriguez.  The two coaches saw a changed man and a better pitcher than the pitcher who last played for San Francisco nine years earlier.  Rodriguez called the major league organization and encouraged them to bring him on board as an emergency starter who could be stashed at Triple-A.

Sure enough, in April, 2011, Giant’s pitcher Barry Zito suffered an injury, and emergency backup Ryan Vogelsong was called up.  He never looked back.  He went 13-7 with a 2.71 ERA, which earned him a spot on the National League All Star Team for the first time at age 33.  He’d go on to pitch out of the Giants rotation over the next 4 seasons, winning 2 World Series rings with the team.  His Giants career came to an end in 2015, at which point he signed once again with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Vogelsong’s Christian faith played a key role in helping him keep it together through the trials and tribulations of his career.  He has a profound trust in God and deep love for the Bible.  At the Giant’s annual Faith Day in 2014, Vogelsong chose to talk about the Bible;

“It’s so funny to me that we have this great book, the Bible, and it tells us exactly what we need to know.   If you pick it up and you read it and take time to understand it, it tells us so many things in there about what we need to do.  And He tells us, all we have to do is pray and be thankful and He’ll give us whatever we need.  And it might not be without trials and tribulations and ups and downs. But at the end of the day, if we’re faithful and we believe, it’s gonna be there.

You know, we have all these apps now you can pull up an app and figure out how to cook a turkey for Thanksgiving dinner.  You know, there’s book, how to do this and how to do that.  I just think it’s funny because the Bible’s been doing that forever!  You know, it’s been the guide [to] tell us what to do forever.  And I put a couple of verses down here that I go to a lot when things aren’t going good, when things are going good.

And there’s a couple that I go to pretty much before every game.  Before I walk out on the field, one of the last things I do is pick up my phone.  My teammates probably think I’m texting my wife or something, but I’m reading Bible verses.  And it’s funny because, all these, what I’m saying is all these verses are in the Bible.  All you have to do is look them up.  They’re right there.

The first one that I love; Isaiah 41:10; So do not fear, for I am with you.  Do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you.  I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.  I mean, that speaks to you that He’s gonna be for there and hold you up no matter what.

Then, Isaiah 41:13.  For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you.  Do not fear I will help you.  Anything that you’re going through, anything, He’s there.  All you have to do is trust and believe and ask Him for your help.

Then, Philippians 4:13.  I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.  2012 World Series, people, I prayed that every single day.

Then the one – the best one of all, Luke 1:37. For nothing is impossible with God.

What other book do you need to read that can lead you to where you want to be?  He is there for you.  He’s waiting for you.  He’s waiting for you to empty your life to Him so He can help you and take control and guide you…

Pick up that Bible and read it and let your heart open up because He will guide you.  He guided me and I’m so happy I opened it up again.”

 

If you would like to watch the video of Vogelsong’s speech at the August 16, 2014 Fellowship Day at AT&T Park, follow the link here

 

Chris Coghlan – Ephesians 2:8

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Chris Coghlan of the Chicago Cubs.  Photo by John

Chris Coghlan’s life was an ugly mess.

It hadn’t started that way.   Chris was born in 1985, in Rockville, Maryland, to loving parents Tim and Heather Coghlan.  His dad was a police officer.  His mother was a teacher.  They were both hard workers.  Chris had good relationship with his brother, Kevin, and his sisters Katie and Kelly.  When Chris was 9, he moved with his family to Florida.  They were a regular, blue collar family, who loved each other and enjoyed life.

On June 5th, 2001, that all changed.  One evening, Chris was out, having just finished exams, and came home to find a large group of family and friends gathered in his home.  One look at his mother’s face, and he knew right away that something was wrong – that something had happened to his father.  He soon heard the tragic news that his father had been killed in a car accident.

From that moment, his life because an ugly mess.  His once happy home was now filled with tears and sadness.  He didn’t want to be there, so he found a place of refuge; the baseball field.  He recalls in an interview with I AM SECOND, that he would hide out there for hours, just “hitting, and fielding, and hitting, and hitting, and hitting.”  But that couldn’t fill the void in his heart.  When he turned 16, he started drinking.  He started feeling entitled and acting selfishly – like the world owed him something.  He began making bad decisions.  He recalls; “My dad had always taught me what was right and wrong, but I felt like this excuse that everybody felt sorry for me; that I could do whatever I wanted because I had the best excuse.  My world sucked at that time, so I just kept playing baseball and I kept doing the same thing.”

On the inside, Coghlan was an ugly mess.  But on the baseball field, everything looked beautiful.  Coghlan was a star on the field and he was rewarded for it.  In 2003, he was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 18th round of the draft.  He opted not to sign, and instead to accept a scholarship to the University of Mississippi.  He put together a pristine baseball resume; SEC All Freshman team in 2004.  SEC All-Conference second team in 2005.  NCAA 3rd team All-American in 2006.   Then, in 2006, Coghlan was drafted again – this time in the 1st Round by the Florida Marlins.  His dream had come true, and he thought he had everything he wanted.  His success continued, earning him his first invitation to Major League camp for Spring Training in 2008.  Everything seemed beautiful.

It wasn’t.

One night, Coghlan was out late drinking.  He says that – even though he was a professional baseball player with a bright future in front of him, he was so insecure that he had to get drunk just to approach a girl.  He was terrified of being rejected.  He came to camp the next day hung over, reeking of booze, and feeling awful.  Unable to concentrate, he was goofing around, and tried to throw a curve ball – a pitch he doesn’t know how to throw.  The ball sailed out of his hand, flew 90 feet or so away, and hit All-Star Second Baseman Dan Uggla in the cup.  He got yelled out.  He suddenly couldn’t field.  He couldn’t hit.  The next day, he got sent down to the minors.  The one word he used to describe himself was this; “empty.”

Chris Coghlan’s life was an ugly mess.  But God was about to do something beautiful.

Coghlan was walking through the clubhouse one day during minor league camp when he saw teammate Daron Roberts doing something unexpected.  He was carrying a Bible.  “I asked him, I said, ‘what are you reading,’ but I knew he was reading a Bible – I just wanted to see if he was realling going to tell me “yes, I’m reading a Bible.’   He said, ‘are you a man of faith?’  And I said, I’m not.  I believe that there’s a God, but by no means and I living for Him.”

Later that day, Coghlan was out on one of the back fields.  He had chosen not to wear his cleats.  His coach called him out on it, but Coghlan wasn’t about to go run all the way across the fields to get his cleats.  But then, Daron Roberts did something else unexpected.  He ran all the way back to the clubhouse, got Coghlan’s cleats, and ran them all the way back to him.  Coghlan was baffled.  Why would someone he didn’t even know do something like that?  He knew Roberts was different.  He just didn’t know why.

Robert’s act of kindness led to a brief conversation about family.  That conversaton led to an invitation to dinner on St. Patrick’s Day.  That St. Patrick’s Day dinner led to a cup of coffee at Starbucks.  That cup of coffee led to a two hour conversation about the Word of God.

Many Bible Verses were read at that Starbucks.  One of them was Ephesians 2:8.  For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this not from yourselves, it is a gift of God, not by works so no one can boast.’  Coghlan explained in an interview with Bruce Darnall; That was a huge turning point for me.  Everywhere in this world the message is you have to earn your way to ‘wherever.’  So it seemed just too easy for this great gift of heaven that God promises, but I wanted it.”

That conversation changed Coghlan’s life.  As Coghlan explained in his I AM SECOND interview; “I realized at that time that I wanted God.  I wanted Jesus.  I wanted Him in my life.  I was tired of chasing the wind.  I was tired of chasing these temporary satisfactions that I was having and realizing that every night I really had an empty feeling.  I had an empty feeling inside and I was trying to fill this void with these earthly things – with baseball…  And I wanted God and I wanted Jesus…”

Chris Coghlan was a changed man!  On May 8, 2009, he made his major league debut.  By the end of the season, he was named the National League Rookie of the Year!

Chris Coghlan’s life had once been an ugly mess.  Now?  In a way, it still is.  Coghlan explained to Blessed 2 Play; “I still have sin.  I still have things that I desire for my flesh…  It’s not a testament of what I’ve done…”   He added in an interview with Tom Rust at Face to Face; “To God, it’s not about performing.  And that’s what I love about God.  I just thank Him that He loves all of us so much that He doesn’t love us based on our performance.  Whether I get 3 hits or whether I do something wrong or sin, or whatever it is,   It’s not a performance based love.  And unfortunately, as humans, we love on performance, and that is what is so great about God’s grace and love is that He doesn’t work on that same frequency.

Coghlan came to learn that God loves us, not because of how  beautifully we may live, but in spite of our sin.  He explained to Bruce Darnell; “There is a price to be paid for our sin, and Jesus Christ paid the price on the Cross.  It is a free gift of salvation…  You can do nothing to pretty yourself.  God loves you right where you are.  Let God do the work in your heart…  The Lord has just done mighty things in my life by chiseling away at my heart, revealing sin to me.  I just prayed for new convictions.  It has been a tough journey, but I feel that is the Christian life.  I am grateful that I am one of His!” 

As sinners, each of us is an ugly mess who can do nothing to pretty ourselves. But, by His death on the cross for us, Jesus has washed away all of our filthy, dirty, ugly sin, and has made us beautiful in God’s sight!  No matter how ugly and worthless you may feel on the inside, that’s how you look to God!  God’s children are described in the Bible this way in 1 Peter 2:4; rejected by men, but in the sight of God, chosen and precious.