It was the fifth game in the playoff series of 2011 when I, a utility player for the Detroit Tigers, was about to step into an opportunity of a lifetime.
In the very first inning at Yankee Stadium, I hit a home run, scoring the first run of the game and giving us a lead that we never let go of. The game ended in a 3-2 win, clinching the American League Division Series! While celebrating on the field, a few of us were pulled aside for interviews.
I had never been in that position before. Here I was, a utility player, being the one interviewed on the field after the game. As the reporters asked me questions about the game, I answered with enthusiasm. In the midst of all the excitement, we rehashed the game with each other and continued to celebrate.
Within the next few weeks after our season win, I sat down to chat with my team chaplain, Jeff Totten. As we talked about life, faith, and of course, our big win, Jeff asked me a question that would continue to challenge me throughout the next year.
“Hey, did you think about sharing your faith in Jesus during that interview? That could have been a really cool opportunity.”
Jeff wasn’t trying to make me feel guilty or ashamed. He was simply asking me a question to get me to think. It wasn’t as if I didn’t want to share my faith, I was extremely proud of my faith and the Rock on which I stand. I had shared my faith many times before in public, but I realized the interviewers are not going to ask about my faith; I have to create the opportunity for myself.
Over the next year, my prayer throughout the season was that God would bless me with an opportunity to be interviewed again so that I could give glory to His name.
The following season we found ourselves in a very similar situation. It was game two, we were up against the A’s at Comerica Park and my prayer remained, “God, help me to do whatever I can to help the team win, all for Your glory.”
It was a tight game. Going into the eighth inning, we were down 4-3. I scored a run off a wild pitch which tied the game at 4-4. Now we were in the leadoff position for the ninth; I was fifth to bat with one out and bases loaded. As I sat in the batter’s cage, I prayed that God would help me do what I needed to do to help my team win the game so that I could have another chance to proclaim my faith. Before I knew it, I stepped up to bat, hit a sacrifice fly, and brought in the game-winning run!
This time, as we celebrated and the interviewers came around us, I made it a point to create the opportunity to share my faith. When the first question was asked, I didn’t waste a moment to say, “First and foremost, I want to give glory to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”
It wasn’t forced, it wasn’t fake. Sharing my faith that night was as authentic and real as it gets. It was the first thing on my heart and mind. I knew that night that if I was given the opportunity to proclaim my faith, I wouldn’t pass it up again.
Looking back at my MLB career—a utility player who had the opportunity to play in some major games with some really big moments—it was all a God thing. In that particular game, I was 0-0 with really no at-bats, and I was able to both score the tying run and knock in the winning run. God answered my prayer. Not a prayer to hit a walk-off home run or do something amazing, I simply wanted to help the team in any way that I could, for the glory of God.
As Christians, we’re called to spread the Good News and be outspoken about our faith. When God places this burden on your heart, sharing your faith won’t be something that is forced, it will be real, authentic, and Spirit-led. It’s an experience that will bring so much joy and fulfillment, so don’t wait for the perfect opportunity to come—create it!
Now’s the time.
“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” —1 Peter 3:15
Don Kelly played 10 seasons in the Major Leagues from 2007-2016. Having played every position on the field during his career, Don now serves as a Detroit Tigers Pro Scout and Assistant to Player Development.
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