Summer 2024

THE INCREASE: A Welcome Distraction – Mark Appel

When I’m not on the baseball field, I still enjoy competing. Whether that’s through games with friends, competitions with my brother, or lining up my two fantasy football teams so I can trash talk the guys. This year, it was so much fun to watch the Astros win the World Series. It was a really unique and special experience for me because I have played with a bunch of those guys while I was with the Astros’ organization.

Did I wish I was there? Yes. To be honest there have been times when I struggle with the “what-if’s.” “What if I didn’t get hurt?” “What if I wasn’t traded from the Astros?” I was sitting there watching the game thinking that there could have been a really good chance that I would have been able to compete in that game and be a part of the team that took home the big win! But Obviously the Lord had different plans for me this year. Watching the Astros team didn’t make me bitter, instead it made me even more motivated to work harder this offseason so I can help the Phillies get there next season.

This win was also really special because it seemed like the whole city of Houston was suddenly on a high. People everywhere were proudly wearing Astros gear, excited that their team had made it all the way. In fact, this was a very welcome distraction from the devastation of Harvey.

I wasn’t in Houston during the storm; I experienced most of the tragedy from far away. I came back after the worst of it, when everything seemed to be subsiding. Thankfully, none of my family members’ houses were affected by the hurricane, but many of our friends’ and neighbors’ places were. In fact, it seemed so random to see who was and wasn’t experiencing great devastation. There could be one house totally unaffected on one side of the street, but then across the street a house only two feet lower in elevation might have been completely flooded out. It was hard seeing so many photos and hearing horrifying stories but not being able to be there to help.

Along with the heart-breaking stories came testimonies of the community rallying around each other to help in any way they could. It’s such a neat thing to watch neighbors step up to help each other our in their time of need. People from other cities came down to help out only to make sure immediate relief efforts were in place, but also lining up long-term plans for recovery. When I came back home there were still some places under water, and there were a number of people on the side of the road holding up signs that read, “Harvey victim, lost everything.” It was really hard to see. But even in the midst of the struggle, I could feel the camaraderie of the city. Everyone was working hard for a greater purpose than themselves. I know the churches throughout the region have been doing a phenomenal job reaching out and showing Christ’s love to those in need. It’s encouraging to know that Houston has such an incredible infrastructure of ministries for people who lost their homes and jobs.

During these times of hardship, the Church has an incredible opportunity to share the Gospel through meeting the needs of their neighbors. This is a wide-open door for evangelism, but more so, one for discipleship. There are people across the street who you can help rip up drywall. As you help them through this healing process, you can let them know that there’s a God who has not forgotten them — a God who will not abandon them. You can show them the love of a God who brings comfort and peace even in the darkest times, and this God has a name: Jesus. These are times of opportunity to introduce people to the Lord and being new relationships that could grow to become Kingdom-glorifying relationships.

“Do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” — Hebrews 13:16

Mark Appel

Mark Appel was the number one overall pick by the Houston Astros in 2013. He is a regular contributor to The Increase, providing monthly articles and opinions.

The INCREASE is now part of The Sports Spectrum Network. For more stories like this, visit