Baseball is a refining sport, both in one’s athleticism and in their character. Early on in my career I know I was a more selfish — focusing on my own success, career and dreams. It’s easy to look inward, only working on reaching your own personal goals.
The longer I was in the game, the more this self-focus lessened. However, I don’t necessarily think that was only due to the length of time I was in the major leagues; a big part of it had to do with where I was at spiritually. I see many young rookies who come into the major leagues more polished, confident and mature in their faith in Christ, and they don’t struggle as much with this mentality. For me, it was something I had to learn along the way.
As I grew more spiritually, I became less and less concerned about myself and more aware of others around me. Although, I also know that gaining more financial stability and security in my career caused my worries to subside. There’s no escaping the fact that it’s easier to let go of the worry of providing for your family when you’re living in plenty. If I had been released early in my career and not able to play the game as long as I did, I hope my worries wouldn’t have increased; I hope my trust in God would have remained strong.
I was extremely blessed to have played as long as I did and to have made the money I did. But I can’t help but wonder, “If I had been tested more, would my spiritual growth have been a much slower process?” There came a point in my career when I realized that none of it was going to be “enough.” I always thought, “If I could just make it to the big leagues…” But when I did, it wasn’t good enough. Then I thought, “If I could just make a million dollars…” But money didn’t fully satisfy me either.
My parents always told me material things won’t make us happy, but it wasn’t until I had it all that I began to believe them. Now I’m repeating the same message to my kids. Over time and through different experiences, we all will discover that things don’t satisfy. Only Christ’s presence in our life can.
“Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them — not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve.” — 1 Peter 5:2
Recently in my men’s Bible study, we’ve been focusing on character and what it means to be a leader. A good leader knows the importance of both serving and following. We looked at some of the best leaders in our modern age and tried to determine what stood out about their character. We asked the question, “What does greatness look like?”
Our first realization was that their greatness was not dependent on their success or the amount of money or friends they had acquired. Those things might define “greatness” in the world’s eyes, but not in ours. What gains the most respect and has the deepest impact on others is someone’s selflessness and humility. Personally, I can’t think of a more powerful witness for the Gospel than someone’s willingness to serve someone else without expecting anything in return, just as Christ did. Selfless humility is one way we can witness to others without having to mention the Gospel. It’s the Gospel lived out.
Even after baseball, I find myself in many leadership positions. I want to be a better leader to employees and family by having an attitude of humility. I don’t pretend to sit here and have mastered humility while being completely satisfied. To be honest, I’ve been awful at maintaining any sort of consistency with reading my Bible this year. I wake up and want to work out, then I get busy working on the ranch while telling myself I’ll dive into God’s Word at night. When evening comes, I find myself exhausted and telling myself I’ll double up the next day, but it doesn’t usually happen. I put things of this world — even good things — above my time with God.
When I look back at times in my life when I’ve been locked in and regularly reading God’s Word, I’ve found that God has a way of letting everything else fall into place. Then even if I find myself in a hard situation, I have a peace because I’m connected to the Father. So even though fundraisers, ministries and family time is extremely important, I can’t put what should be first and foremost — my relationship with Christ — on the back burner.
I know when I’m connected with Christ and growing closer to Him each day, everything else will pale in comparison.
— Adam LaRoche
Adam LaRoche is a former MLB player and a regular contributor to The Increase, providing monthly articles and opinions.