Through the month of March, leading up to MLB Opening Day on April 1,
Sports Spectrum is highlighting 21 Christ-following players to watch in 2021.
Jack Flaherty is as dynamic a person as he is a baseball player. Ever since he burst on the scene with the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2017 season, he’s never been afraid to show his personality on and off the field.
It’s what’s made him one of the most exciting young players in the game of baseball.
He’s also one of the best pitchers in the game, and he’ll anchor the rotation for a Cardinals team starving to get back to a World Series. While veterans Adam Wainwright and Carlos Martinez remain, it’s the 25-year-old Flaherty who will get the Opening Day start and be looked upon to be the ace of the pitching staff.
“It feels like the season’s here,” Flaherty told MLB.com this week. “It feels like the spring has gone real quick. I mean, I think we’re out of here in a week, which is crazy to think about. But yeah, ready to go.”
After struggling in the first half of 2019, Flaherty broke out in the second half and finished with a career-high 196.1 innings pitched, a 2.75 earned run average, and 231 strikeouts. He finished fourth in the Cy Young voting.
He regressed in 2020 some, which could have been due to the lengthy time off the Cardinals faced due to COVID-19 protocols. The Cardinals were on pause and in quarantine for so long that at one point, he had to turn his hotel room into a bullpen:
Let’s not pull a Joe Kelly and miss pic.twitter.com/exgkqNlE4H
— Jack Flaherty (@Jack9Flaherty) August 2, 2020
Flaherty finished with a 4.91 ERA over 40.1 innings in 2020, and logged just three starts that were six innings or more (if you include his postseason start). Still, manager Mike Shildt told reporters they believe Flaherty is closer to his 2019 production than 2020.
“We evaluated last year, but relative to how it boded for Jack this year, it was an evaluation that we appreciate how he went about it, and he grew from it,” Shildt said last month. “Now he’s got an opportunity to move forward. And he’s our guy. … My confidence in Jack never waned at any moment last year.”
Flaherty does it all while relying on his faith in God.
In July, he was on the Table Forty Podcast with Matt and Leslee Holliday, and he shared about his upbringing and faith. He grew up Catholic in Southern California and attended Catholic school from kindergarten until eighth grade. Faith has always been a part of his life, and he credited his mother for instilling that in him.
During the 2019 season, he realized his relationship with God was not what it should be.
“You know, I sat myself down one day last year and kind of looked at my routine, looked at everything, and I was like, ‘I haven’t read even one Bible verse in the last four or five months,’” he said on the podcast. “‘I haven’t been living with the same morals and the same values that I’ve lived with my entire life.’”
Just a couple weeks after that, his good friend and fellow pitcher Tyler Skaggs died unexpectedly. It’s continued to be a journey for Flaherty to process the grief, and before every start he honors Skaggs by drawing “TS” behind the pitcher’s mound.
His faith guided him and continues to guide him through the grief.
“You just kind of get away and you get off track,” Flaherty said. “It’s about finding your way back and finding your way back to your faith and the way that you live, and the decisions you make, and the way that you act, the way that you treat people. Just every little thing.”
1 Corinthians 10:23-24 pic.twitter.com/yQl5J9jFy5
— Jack Flaherty (@Jack9Flaherty) July 6, 2020
Flaherty credited teammate Adam Wainwright with being a major influence on him as a man and in his walk with Jesus.
“That relationship with the Lord is the biggest part, and continuing to develop that relationship and just understanding different things about it and that the Lord is with you every step of the way,” Flaherty said. “Even if you may come off that path and you find your way back to the Lord, He’s going to be there with you. That relationship is something that continues to build and continues to grow and continues to change.”
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