Robinson Chirinos was always a long shot to make it to the major leagues. In 2000, he was signed as an infielder by the Chicago Cubs out of Punto Fijo, in the oil producing region of Venezuela. But, as his minor league career progressed, it became clear that he wasn’t going to make it as an infielder. After nearly a decade of work, the Cubs decided Chirinos career as an infielder was over. In 2008, they decided to try something else; they auditioned him as a catcher. The position change meant more work, more learning, more time to hone his craft in the minor leagues. The soft-spoken Chirinos kept plugging away, chasing his dream to become a major leaguer. He spent over a decade in the Cubs minor league system, but never made it to Wrigley Field. In 2011, he was included as part of the blockbuster trade which sent star pitcher Matt Garza to the Cubs from the Tampa Rays in exchange for a package headlined by future All Star pitcher, Chris Archer. He finally got his chance that year, playing 20 games in the majors.
2012 was supposed to be his year. He went into spring training, hoping to have a greater role. Not only was he hoping to seize a great opportunity professionally, but he was also growing spiritually. Chirinos recalls attending the team’s chapel service on the morning of March 11, and feeling closer to God than ever before. That morning, he became a Christian. He told T.R. Sullivan of mlb.com; “He talked to me — and that morning, I really felt Him in my heart. It was hard to run away. I’m not like other people who had people talking to them about God. It wasn’t like other people talking to me about God; it was Him. It was something I never forgot.”
But that afternoon, everything changed, as Chirinos crashed from a spiritual high to a physical low. The Rays were playing a spring training game against the Pittsburgh Pirates when foul ball ricocheted off a bat straight backward, and hit him directly in the face mask. It stung, as foul balls do, but he felt fine and he stayed in the game. When he got to the dugout, however, things started getting worse. Before he knew it, he had to be carried off in a stretcher. It was quickly discovered that Chirinos had suffered a concussion.
What started as a concussion, however, didn’t end there. He began suffering constant headaches, dizziness, nausea, blurry vision and anxiety. He could hardly walk and could barely sleep. It took months for his symptoms to subside, and Chirinos feared that his Major League career might be over before it really had the chance to start. The 2012 season came and went, and he missed the whole thing.
As Chirinos struggled through the year, however, he knew he wasn’t alone. “He is the one who gave me the strength to keep me believing I was getting better and giving me the strength to get through that, and then my family being around me and all the people who pushed me trying to get me where I am.”
Finally, with the help of a concussion expert, Dr. Michael Collins from the University of Pittsburgh, Chirinos began to heal. By 2013, he was ready for another shot at the big leagues. On April 8, 2013, his contract was purchased by the Texas Rangers. Now he had a team, but would not have much of an opportunity. The Rangers had a roster full of stars, and already had veteran AJ Pierzynski and Geovany Soto on the roster. As expected, he spent most of the season in the minors, only seeing 13 games in the big leagues.
2014 was not looking any more promising. Pierzysnki was gone, but the Rangers still had Soto and had added JP Arencibia, who was coming off a 21 home run season with the Blue Jays. The 30 year old Chirinos was considered nothing more than a depth piece in the minors. But then Soto got hurt and Arencibia was struggling. Suddenly, he found himself the starting catcher.
All was finally going well for Chirinos. Soon, however, history seemed that it would repeat itself. A foul ball struck him in the mask again. And again. And again. Before the season was over, he estimates taking about 15 foul balls off his facemask. Thanks be to God, he stayed healthy and did not suffer any more concussions.
To this day, Chirinos knows that God is with him. He regularly speaks about God’s presence in his life and often includes Bible verses on his Instagram page. One of his favorites is Mark 9:23. In this passage, a man whose son had been possessed by a demon approached Jesus, and asked Him if He could heal his son. Jesus responds to the man; “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” Chirinos has learned firsthand what it means to trust in God and to trust in His power and presence. He explains; “There is only one true hero and He is the greatest man in history; His name is Jesus Christ. He had no servants and they called Him Lord. He had no title and they called Him master. He had no army and the Kings feared Him. He didn’t win military battles, and yet He conquered the world. He didn’t commit a crime and He was crucified, died and buried. He loved me first without my knowing Him. He was buried in a tomb and on the third day rose and even today lives and accompanies me always… So I proudly say; ‘I love You my God. Thank You for being always with me, with my family… I am proud to believe in You.”*
God was with Chirinos throughout all of his struggles and will also be with you in yours. Remember that God is always with you, in good times and in bad times, and will help you in every time of need.
* Translated from Spanish