Summer 2024

Former No. 1 overall pick Mark Appel back in baseball with contentment in Christ

Mark Appel is not in the Philadelphia Phillies’ minor league camp looking for redemption.

“I’ve made peace with who I am, what’s happened in my life, what’s happened in my career,” Appel told the media earlier this week. “There’s no bitterness, resentment or regret. I’m here for the love of the game.”

>> Subscribe to Sports Spectrum Magazine for more stories where sports and faith connect <<

Drafted first overall by his hometown Houston Astros in 2013, Appel was supposed to become a star. Instead, he is one of the few No. 1 picks never to make it to the majors.

After battling injuries and struggling in the minors with both the Astros and Phillies, Appel decided to step away in January 2018.

“I would say that the hardest thing was also maybe the easiest thing,” Appel said on the Sports Spectrum Podcast in 2018 of adjusting to life without baseball. “It just was getting out of the routine.”

Born into a family of believers and baptized at the age 10, faith was always part of Appel’s life.

“Christianity was all that I really knew,” he said on the podcast. “It was very cultural in Texas and I kind of ran in the circles of kind of the Christian lifestyle.”

Appel also shared how he relied on his faith as he failed to live up to the expectations placed upon him. After a particularly rough outing in High-A, he went to the locker room while the game was still going on and started throwing baseballs at a wall to relieve stress. Eventually, there were no more baseballs to throw.

“I sit down and I just sense this, like, calmness, this peace, both in the room and in my heart,” Appel recalled.

In that moment, he was reminded of Paul’s words in Philippians 4:11-13: “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.”

Sitting in the locker room, Appel learned a valuable lesson.

“There is contentment to be had in Christ, and Christ is the one who will give me the strength to be content in the circumstance,” he said. “It was just kind of this eye-opening lesson and revelation that God just kind of reminded me and showed me His truth in Scripture.”

Appel had surgery to repair his shoulder shortly after stepping away from baseball and has been quietly rehabbing ever since. Now 29, he is ready to give it another shot.

His journey has served to deepen his relationship with Christ and provide an entirely new perspective on it.

“I think initially when I was saved, the Gospel was something that was, ‘OK, this is kind of my “get out of jail free” card, this is my forgiveness — forgiveness from sins and my eternal life that’s been gifted to me,'” Appel said on the podcast. “Now, instead of it still kind of being about me, it starts to just really be only about God and His glory.”

— 21 MLB Players to Watch in 2021
— Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto: ‘The No. 1 thing I am is a follower of Christ’
— NEW PODCAST: Jeremy Hefner – New York Mets Pitching Coach
— Former MLB star Andy Pettitte relying on God, grieving loss of wife’s parents to COVID
— NEW PODCAST: Kevin Burrell – Chicago White Sox Area Scouting Supervisor