The year was 2011, and Steven Matz found himself and his baseball career in limbo. Recovering from Tommy John surgery, Matz was experiencing a slower-than-expected return to the mound early in his professional career. He was feeling lost in his personal life, too.
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“There was a lot of uncertainty in my career,” Matz said. “Baseball was my god back then. It was everything to me.”
It was during that season of life that he found the Lord. Matz shared about that experience on Saturday as one of several Cardinals players who participated in the 30th annual Christian Day at the Ballpark in St. Louis.
Now more than a decade later, Matz says baseball is no longer “everything” to him. His faith in God is.
“To realize there was more than just baseball, there is Jesus, there’s eternal life, and there’s the purpose He has for you, it’s changed the trajectory of my life,” he said.
Though it’s not as serious as the elbow injury early in his career, Matz is currently working to return to the Cardinals rotation after being on the injured list since May 23 with a left shoulder impingement.
He’s in his first year of a four-year contract with the Cardinals after signing this offseason as a free agent, but he’s been limited to just nine starts due to injury. He’s compiled a 3-3 record with a 6.03 ERA in those nine starts. With the Cardinals just a half-game back of the Milwaukee Brewers in the National League Central Division, they’ll need Matz to be the pitcher who went 14-7 with a 3.82 ERA in nearly 153 innings last season for the Toronto Blue Jays, as he enjoyed a strong second half.
It hasn’t been easy being hurt so early on with a new team, he said, but his faith in God has given him a new perspective that he didn’t have earlier in his career. He’s spent time on the injured list in every season since being called up to the major leagues in 2015, including a stint on the 60-day IL in 2017 while pitching for the New York Mets.
In his first trip back to Citi Field as a Cardinal, Steven Matz was strong!#STLCards x @STIHLUSA pic.twitter.com/6DcSUamqVr
— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) May 18, 2022
The injuries, along with the pandemic and other events around the world the last couple of years, have weighed heavily on him and brought him to focus on the words of John 6.
“Jesus gave a really hard teaching to a lot of people, a lot of His disciples, and a lot of them just walked away. They walked away from the faith,” Matz said. “He looked back at His 12 closest disciples right there and He’s kind of like, ‘Well, what about you guys?’ Peter kind of summed it up. He’s like, ‘Where else do we have to go? You have the words of eternal life.’
“That really rings true to me, especially in these last two years — a lot of uncertainty, a lot of different things going on in the world. Jesus has the words of eternal life and there’s a lot of hope in that.”
Perhaps the biggest uncertainty for Matz is one he’s about to enter into — fatherhood. His wife, Taylor — who is a singer with her brother and sister in the Christian music group CAIN — is expecting their first child, a daughter.
But Matz says his faith in God is shaping his approach to fatherhood. He recognizes that the way his daughter views her Heavenly Father will be deeply impacted by how she views her earthly father.
“Man, what a responsibility that is — the things I say, the things I watch, how I act, how I handle adversity, how I handle blessing,” he said. “I think it’s a great responsibility, but I think it will ultimately grow me and my wife in our faith.”
Matz gets his first start of the second half of the season Saturday night with the Cardinals visiting Cincinnati.
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