Sports Spectrum Magazine Summer 2021

Arizona Diamondbacks' Steven Souza Jr. embraces role as spiritual leader

Trades in baseball happen all the time. From the outside looking in, one wouldn’t think there is much to the change. Travel is expected anyway. They came up playing in different cities in the minors anyway. They still get to play the game they love and get paid a lot of money to do so. But what we don’t see is the transition. The life they know, the peace that comes with stability, and the guys they have played with are now enemies on the field.

For Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Steven Souza Jr., this was just the case.

“It’s definitely strange,” he said. “I was placed in a role over there (with the Tampa Bay Rays) that was a leadership role. Now, [I’m] on a different ball club, where you’re like the new kid in school again.”

In February, the Rays 2017 team MVP was shipped to Arizona in a three-way trade. Souza had been honored with the Don Zimmer Award in 2017 with Tampa when he hit .239/.351/.459, and established career highs with 148 games, 78 runs, 125 hits, 21 doubles, 30 home runs, 78 RBIs, 84 walks and 16 stolen bases. He became the eighth player in franchise history to hit 30 home runs or more in a season. In addition, his combination of homers and steals is unmatched in franchise history, and was reached by only four others in the majors in 2017.

But for the 2018 season, he would be a snake — a Diamondback — and that was hard on the outfielder, not only because of what he did on the field, but because he was excited for what was going on in the Rays clubhouse off the field.

“I was really excited to watch God do some things in that (Rays) clubhouse,” he said.

Much like God is with our faith, baseball is a game that will humble you quickly. For Souza, being traded meant an admission to himself that God was still revealing the “I” syndrome that many can fall prey to. We start to make it about us instead of what God is doing, and Souza admits he was no different.

“After the trade, there was a little bit of pride in here. Instead of watching what God did in Tampa, it was what ‘I’ did in Tampa. And I was going to do some more stuff there,” he said. “So God kinda of broke me from that. Obviously, starting off the year getting hurt, nothing went the way that I had planned. God revealed that there’s still some pride in baseball that I have.”

Souza started off the 2018 season on the disabled list with the D-backs, another heartbreaking blow after the trade, but God wasn’t done molding Souza and preparing him for what would be.

“Through this disable stint, through the season, it’s been a loud call of, ‘You need nothing else but Me.’ Jesus just reminding me, ‘You need nothing else but Me.’ If you don’t play another day, you need nothing else but Him. That’s been my wife’s and my calling this year: ‘We need nothing else but Jesus’ and everything else He hands us is just a blessing.”

Now, Souza is one of the spiritual leaders in the Diamondbacks’ clubhouse. God might have called him away from Tampa, but he put him right where He wants him — leading the clubhouse in the desert and impacting lives for Christ.

“Its amazing. I would have never expected something like this to happen. We’ve got 12-18 guys coming every day, praying before the game,” he said. “More than that, we are meeting off the field. We are talking about it. We are holding each other accountable. We are a community. We are trying to be the Church that was in Acts. In the Bible, they came together for the meals and then they went out, and that’s what we are trying to do here.”

For more on Souza, check out his first-person Increase articles here

RELATED STORIES:
— Diamondbacks’ Robbie Ray says Christ has sustained him through his baseball journey
Braves rookie of the year candidate Ronald Acuna Jr. puts his faith first
Erik Kratz’s crazy baseball journey brings him to Milwaukee and a playoff push
Astros rookie pitcher Josh James thankful to God for his MLB opportunity