Summer 2024

Yankees closer Clay Holmes finding freedom as 'living sacrifice' for the Lord

Only one player in Major League Baseball has pitched more than 12 innings this season and not been charged with an earned run through Monday’s games: New York Yankees closer Clay Holmes. The 31-year-old has struck out more batters (21) than he’s allowed to reach base (20) in 17.1 innings, and his 12 saves are tied for the most in baseball.

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He’s already halfway to his career high of 24 saves, which he notched last year. Holmes picked up his most recent save by leaving the bases loaded in Friday’s 2-0 win over the Tampa Bay Rays, which was his first appearance in six days.

Holmes has become one of the best relievers in baseball through years of diligent work, and also by leaning on his faith in the Lord. The son of a pastor, Holmes said on the Sports Spectrum Podcast last year that most of his childhood was spent at church, at school, and on baseball diamonds.

The Pittsburgh Pirates selected Holmes out of high school in the ninth round of the 2011 draft. He made his MLB debut in 2018, appearing in 11 games. The next season, his first full one in the majors, did not go as Holmes had hoped. He posted a 5.58 ERA and found himself struggling to balance baseball with his identity in the Lord.

“I just remember that as kind of when I started to wrestle with just the whole identity thing,” Holmes said on the podcast. “Baseball and God, and this relationship of, like, I know I say I believe these things, but what actually is going on with my … desires? What do I seek with all this?”

Two years later, he reached a similar point. Holmes was in San Francisco to play the Giants after a rough outing against the Arizona Diamondbacks, and found himself thinking about his purpose while doing some photography near the Golden Gate Bridge.

“I just want to experience God working His power in my life,” he said of that time. “There’s gotta be more to life than just hanging my hat on the identity of this baseball thing. … When I think back on that time, it’s almost like Romans 12:1-2 comes to mind, just being a living sacrifice.”

That series against the Giants was the last one Holmes would play for the Pirates. The next day, he was traded to the Yankees. Holmes arrived in New York confident in God’s plan for him.

“I just felt like God was preparing me for some things that were about to happen. … I just had this sense of peace, like, God’s kind of at work here and wherever I’m at, whether it’s Pittsburgh or baseball or not, I had this peace,” he said on the podcast.

The fresh start did wonders for Holmes, who made the All-Star team in 2022 and has a 2.25 ERA as a Yankee. He is pitching with peace and leaving the rest up to God.

“You just realize that freedom of when you become that living sacrifice, there’s a freedom that comes with it that allows you to just display the talents and the uniqueness that God’s given you, and the identity you have in Him, in a way that’s much greater than you can do on your own,” he said on the podcast.

The 27-15 Yankees begin a three-game series against the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday night. First pitch is at 7:40 p.m. ET.

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