New Cardinals manager unafraid to share his faith
Tuesday, Jan 10, 2012
By Brian Koonce
ST. LOUIS, Mo. (BP)–Mike Matheny has only been on the job at the manager of the St. Louis Cardinals for a few weeks, but the former catcher is no stranger to the team nor to the area’s Christian community.
Matheny has spoken about his faith several times in his role in Christian Family Day at Busch Stadium. But his most recent appearance was giving his testimony and presenting the gospel in 2007 at “Manly Night” at West County Community Church, a Missouri Baptist Convention congregation in Wildwood, Mo.
Matheny, a man whom star first baseman (and new Los Angeles Angel) Albert Pujols, a member at West County, has called his mentor in Christ, left the Cardinals for the San Francisco Giants before retiring in 2007. He told the crowd of men and boys at West County that he treated every dugout he entered like a mission field.
“I grew up in a strong Christian home,” the three-time Gold Glove winner said. “I was in church more than I was anywhere else. I grew up very comfortable with ‘church.’ I knew where to sit, when to sing and what to say.”
But at a revival service, Matheny heard the gospel in a new setting from a new guest preacher, and he wasn’t comfortable as the Holy Spirit tugged at his heart.
“He asked, ‘Who is Jesus Christ to you?’” Matheny said. “I had heard it before, but that day it rang in my head.”
He became a Christian that night.
Matheny said he’d led a relatively good “closet Christian life” through his college years, playing baseball for the University of Michigan.
“I was a coward with my faith,” he said. “I can’t imagine how many people needed someone like me to stand in the gap and be a witness, to be a man, but I wasn’t. Looking back it makes me sick that I just sat there and basically denied him.”
After school, Matheny was a bubble player whose ascent to the big leagues was very much in doubt. But he succeeded and was drafted into the Milwaukee Brewers’ system. He said God had a plan in it, and it wasn’t just to catch a fastball.
During his first game, which took place on a Sunday, he was invited to attend a chapel service.
“This guy had every opportunity to tell a few good stories and make himself look cool to all these young athletes, but he decided to do something that changed a lot of lives and that was to tell the truth,” Matheny said. “He was bold.”
It was then and there Matheny decided to step to the plate not just as a baseball player, but as a Christian and make baseball his mission field, from the 20-hour bus trips to the filthy locker-rooms. For his first game out of the minors, he arrived at the clubhouse three hours early.
“As I looked around the room, it hit me like a brick wall: here are a bunch of guys who have more money than they could ever spend, who have more fame than they ever wanted, had every toy you could possibly dream of, all in the palm of their hands,” he said. “It became obvious to me that they were all miserable, absolutely miserable, simply because we’re all born with a God-shaped hole and we can’t fill it on our own. Someone needed to tell them and I decided it would be me.”
First published in the The Pathway, the news journal of the Missouri Baptist Convention.
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