Who I Am
As a professional athlete, a lot of times people don’t know who you really are. Fans may think they know you based on what the media reports or from the two-minute clip they see of you after a game. It can get frustrating answering the same questions again and again to the media. Instead of people knowing the real you, they know only what the media makes of you.
It’s important to me that people know who I really am. As a Christian athlete, I want people to know what is the most important thing in my life and that is the message of eternity. This is a great opportunity for me to share the Gospel through my life — the life of a Christian athlete.
I’ve played long enough now that it’s easy for me to transition into the offseason. While I may be disappointed with how the season ends, I look forward to having time with my wife and four kids, traveling and spending time together at home. During the season, pro athletes are not as connected to our families as we wish we could be. The offseason is a chance for me to be a more involved husband and father.
My kids have learned that during baseball season they should expect me to be away every other week. A few weeks ago, while we were still in the offseason, I was with my son and we were getting ready to go to an event as a family. When he saw me put on a suit he looked at me with sad eyes and said, “Oh … Daddy road trip.” It broke my heart but I was happy to be able to tell him, “No, you’re going with me this time.” That is the hard part of the business. There are a lot of great things about being a professional athlete but the travel — being away from our loved ones — is a struggle for us. But it makes the offseason an exciting time; we get to do all the things we look forward to doing as a family.
Off to Spring Training
I go into spring training every year trying to be in the best physical and mental condition that I can be in, ready to be the best teammate I can be. It’s important to build the atmosphere of camaraderie; we’ll need it to carry us through the season. As one of the veterans on our team, I try to set this tone for our team both in the locker room and on the field.
The team goes into each year hoping to achieve something great. I’ve played on some really good teams and I’ve been able to make it to the World Series three times now. The greatest times are when your team is able to come together with the same mission: to win a championship. This gets the focus off of self and prevents some of the rollercoasters of emotions that you can fall into when you’re focused on chasing your own stats or your own successes. Focusing instead on how you can help your team achieve that common goal is really gratifying and meaningful. This focus, and the relationships you build upon throughout the season, are the memories you cherish forever.
When The Season is in Full Swing
It’s definitely a big transition to jump back into the regular season. You go from seeing your kids every day for six months to traveling without them most of the time. The first month is always difficult and can be very emotional. But I’m so blessed to have the amazing wife that I do! Leslee is so supportive and always encourages me in my career, while taking such good care of our kids when I am not able to be there. We have always made it a priority in our family to spend time together. During the season, we make sure that we do not go a whole week without seeing each other. Even when my schedule is at its craziest, Leslee will pack up the kids and travel with me whenever she can.
During the season I’m thankful that I can surround myself with a great group of guys. One of the coolest things when I was on the Cardinals was my friendship with Adam Wainwright. We were always connected, keeping our doors open for each other so that we could help each other in our spiritual growth and be there for each other during the hard times. He and I, along with a few of our teammates, shared in Bible studies together while we were on the road. We had a built-in community of believers where we were able to foster growth in our faith and accountability.
It can be tough to get past a lot of the stereotypes of what it means to be a professional athlete. When I first made it to the major leagues, that was especially hard; there seemed to be a notion that if you were a Christian athlete you were “soft.” But some of the greatest competitors in the major leagues today are Christians and are very vocal about their faith, men such as Adam Wainwright, Matt Carpenter and Trevor Rosenthal (just a few who have encouraged me in my faith). At the end of the day, being a Christian in the major leagues is just like being a Christian in any other area of life. When you live out your faith, people will start to ask questions, and when you have the chance to share the Gospel, you jump on it.
People think that because professional athletes have a lot of money and are recognized on TV that we have it made, but we have struggles just like everyone else — we deal with temptation, emotions and the worries of life. Worldly success doesn’t mean we don’t face a spiritual battle every day. Because He paid for our sins, we are all called to live more like Jesus and trust in Him in our everyday lives.
— Matt Holliday, MLB outfielder
“For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body — Jews or Greeks, slaves or free — and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” — 1 Corinthians 12:13
The Increase, part of the Sports Spectrum Network, is a community of Christian pro athletes sharing their personal stories of the decrease of self and the increase of Christ (John 3:30). Visit TheIncrease.com for more stories and videos.