A special guest panel of three major league baseball players spoke to Thunderbolts Jan. 31 at the National Prayer Breakfast about their experiences of faith in Club Five Six.
The NPB was established in 1953 when President Dwight Eisenhower, along with senators, held the first Presidential Prayer Breakfast. Since that time, the purpose of the National Prayer Breakfast has remained the same — not to be a national religious meeting, but rather a time when communities could meet to support, pray and care for each other, their families and other leaders in our nation who carry great burdens.
The breakfasts all over the U.S. typically include a special guest speaker. Luke was privileged to hear from Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman; Mark Reynolds, Cleveland Indians third baseman; and Bob Howry, retired Chicago Cubs relief pitcher.
The players answered questions and helped those attending understand how their faith helped them along the way.
“Faith is the one solid thing you can count on when things are good or bad, especially bad,” Howry said. “It helps put everything into perspective.”
Goldschmidt, the youngest, and who’s been in the majors only a few years, took a while to find his faith, he said.
“Growing up my dad was Jewish and mom was Catholic,” he said. “So for a while I just didn’t care. I always knew in the back of my mind what I believed, but it wasn’t until I got into baseball that I started to act on my beliefs.”
For them, it wasn’t just faith but also finding good friends on the team to help keep them positive.
“You have to find the guys you like and have things in common with,” Reynolds said. “I find the guys who like golf and we always get along.”
Because the baseball season is demanding and they travel often, they said they could relate to Luke members and the difficulty of being away from home and family.
“It’s hard for people to understand how we live during the season,” Howry said. “Military members would understand that the best. We are away from our families for weeks at a time traveling to games, and it can be hard. You bond with the guys on the team. I couldn’t imagine how much harder it is for service members to leave their families for months and often go into harm’s way.”
They talked about themselves and their identities outside baseball.
“I play golf,” Reynolds said. “I only play baseball to support my golf habit. So when I’m on a team I tend to become friends and associate with the guys who also play golf. As baseball players, or military members as well, we need that connection, whether it’s playing video games after a game, finding time to play golf on a weekend or having a Bible study. We need those friends to keep us grounded.”
The players also talked about some of their favorite moments while playing baseball.
“I remember I was on the mound,” Howry said. “This guy from the other team steps out of his dugout and points behind me. I turned to look and here comes this guy who jumped out onto the field he’s coming right at me. Well, our bat boy, I can call him that even though he was at least 30 years old, comes running out and clotheslines the guy before he gets to the mound. That was my most memorable moment.”
They took questions from the audience and then stayed after the breakfast to sign autographs. Afterward the players received a base tour before departing Luke.