Chase Whitley – John 3:16

 

Chase Whitley.jpg

Tampa Bay Rays Reliever Chase Whitley.  Photo by Keith Allison

 

It’s the end of July.  That means it’s the heart of the Major League baseball season.  For many of you it’s summer vacation time.  And for others of you, this time of year is best described by 3 little letters; V.B.S.

Vacation Bible School

For Christians across the country, it’s a week of decorating, dressing in goofy costumes, preparing snacks, and coming up with creative object lessons and classes.  If you’re like me, it’s a week in which your normally healthy diet is replaced with Oreo Cookies and pizza.  Sleeping gets replaced with feverishly planning for the next day.  The whole time you hope and pray it makes a difference.

It made a difference for Tampa Bay Rays reliever Chase Whitley.

Whitley told Unashamed Athletes; “I accepted Christ as my Savior when I was 9 years old at Vacation Bible School.  The message was on the verse John 3:16;For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.”  “I felt God tell me at that very moment it could be the difference between me going to Heaven or Hell.  When the message was over, I went down and accepted Christ as my Savior.  I thank God that He saved me at such a young age.  With Christ as my side, He battled the temptations of adolescence for me.  When the temptations got too much for me, there is no better person to fight off the Devil than the God of the Universe.”

But can hearing a Bible Verse at Vacation Bible School as a child really change your life?

God had helped Whitley resist temptation as an adolescence, but the challenges weren’t nearly over yet.  After graduating High School, Whitley enrolled in junior college, where he had freedom for the first time.  Would he embrace the faith his parents taught him?  Would he follow their paths or choose something different?  Would he do the right thing or would he go wild?  He found himself really wrestling with those questions for the first time.

But God was still at Whitley’s side, helping him fight off the temptations.  “I could have gone wild, but thank be to God, He used this time to develop my faith in Him.  I am so thankful He did.  I began reading His Word daily and grew more in those two years than ever before.”

The temptations, though, kept coming.  After two years of growth in junior college, Whitley transferred to Troy University, where he faced more temptations.  But again, God surrounded him with good Christians and he dedicated himself to baseball and Bible study and walking in God’s path.

In 2010, Whitley was drafted in the 15th Round by the New York Yankees.  He moved to Staten Island to begin his career.  “Being from a small town, Staten Island was a major test for me.  I was completely outside of my comfort zone being in one of the biggest cities in America.  However, God gave me a peace and direction while I was there to be a missionary through the game of baseball.  I don’t beat people over the head with my faith, but if God creates an opportunity to share, I pray I will always have boldness and wisdom to speak up for His Name.”

Proverbs 22:6 says; Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old, he will not depart from it.”  Whitley is a great example of that.

So, whether you’re a parent, a teacher, or a sleep-deprived VBS volunteer, think about the story of Chase Whitley.  The work you do makes a difference.  God makes the seeds you plant grow.  The impressions that God makes through you can last a lifetime!

Nick Goody – Luke 1:37

 

Nick Goody

Cleveland Indian’s reliever Nick Goody.  Photo by Erik Drost

 

Like many people, Goody grew up in a Christian home, but God was far from some the center of his family’s life.  He explained in an interview with Athletes in Christ; “Church was not something we did often, but we all believed in god and in works He did… baseball consumed my life and I was fine with it then because I did not know better.”

Only it wasn’t long before baseball became challenging.  “High School freshmen year, tryouts were a disaster, and I was almost cut from the team.”  Thankfully, the coach’s dad saw something in him, and encouraged the coach to keep him around.  Goody had a good high school career, though not quite good enough.  He watched as his friends received Division 1 scholarships to schools like UCF, Miami, and Virginia.  They weren’t interested in him.  So, Goody enrolled in South College of Florida, where his life would soon change forever.

Goody earned a job as the starting shortstop as a freshmen.  He got off to a hot start, but soon things fell apart.  He found himself in a long hitting slump, and was benched for, what he called, “a week break.”  That week turned into two.  Two weeks turned into three.  His coaches gave up on his bat, and tried to get him to turn into a pitcher.  He hated pitching.  He wasn’t happy with his school.  He didn’t have faith in his coaches.  He was ready to give up and go home.

But one night, his coach, Barry Batson, invited him to a Bible study in his home.  Goody went – perhaps more for the free meal than anything else.  While he was there, Goody prayed to God, asked for forgiveness, and asked God to direct his life.  He recalls; “I felt this huge weight being lifted off my shoulders.  I could see changes in my life happening, relationships with people were better, and I felt like I was a part of something bigger.  I was not caught up in a terrible baseball season, my attitude changed and so did my game.  I went from being the starting S to a bull pen guy and found some success, baseball was fun again.  Life was good.”

After receiving Christ, Goody’s life changed quickly.  By the end of his freshmen year, he received a scholarship to play at LSU and was also drafted in the 22nd round of the 2011 draft.  He had always hated the Yankees.  He prayed about it and finally chose to attend LSU.  He faced struggles as he adjusted to the talent in the SEC, but credits his faith as helping him get through it.  When the Major League Draft rolled around in 2012, Goody heard his named called again.  This time in the 6th round.  By the Yankees, again.  This time, Goody signed and attended major league camp.

One day, after camp, Goody’s life took another challenging turn.  Goody drove to Orlando to spend his girlfriend’s birthday with her.  On the way to dinner, he was part of a 4 car accident.  His truck was totaled and he tore 3 ligaments in his ankle.  The whole time he recalls staying calm, trusting that God was in control.  He recovered from the ankle injuries, but then his elbow started acting up.  He found that he had a partially torn UCL, and would have to chose between rehab and Tommy John surgery, which has about a year to a year and a half recovery time.  Goody committed it to prayer, while driving home one day, and asked God for a sign.  As Goody recalls; “I needed His help and, I kid you not, the next car that drove by me license plate had a big ole TJ written on it.  I called my trainer the next day and told him I was getting the surgery.”

The surgery was a success.  Goody recovered and, by the 2015 season, he made his major league debut with the Yankees.  In December of 2016, Goody was traded to Cleveland Indians.

Nick’s favorite Bible passage is Luke 1:37, which reads, For nothing is impossible with God.”  “I never really knew what that meant or truly believed it until I had to… I’m living proof that God can change your life.  I’ve seen Him work in my life and in others.  The signs God has given me and the prayers that have been answered cannot be explained.  Other than that the big man upstairs is watching over us.  I am not saying I’m perfect or have never messed up because I do daily.  But God has blessed me… and I find comfort knowing… there is a plan for all of us and it is exciting to know it’s exactly what God wants.”