MOUNT VERNON, OH – The past two months have been an amazing journey that has been such a powerful experience for me in my life. Just one week after our season ended at MVNU in pool play at the NCCAA national tournament, I set out on May 28th from my home in Westerville, Ohio for a six-hour car drive to upstate New York to a small town called Alfred. Feelings of apprehension and nerves were hitting me hard with each mile. This was going to be the longest I had been away from home by myself in my entire life. I was going to be staying with a host family that I had never met, and I was going to be playing in a highly competitive collegiate league with players from all over the United States. I was excited for the challenge athletically and spiritually. The prospect of playing with a Christian organization called Athletes in Action was very attractive for me, but I did not know how great the summer would actually turn out to be.As I stand on the other side of the journey, I look back and can honestly say this was one of the best summers of my life. All my feelings of apprehension were washed away day by day. My host family turned out to be the perfect fit. I could not have asked for a better situation, I had four host siblings who were all a blast to be with and my roommate was an outfielder from Chicago with a great sense of humor that matched mine perfectly. My host mom took great care of me and my roommate, packing us lunches to take with us on trips, and my host dad was so supportive at all of our games. The Ryan family is an amazing group of people that I feel blessed to have been able to stay with.
Playing with Athletes in Action was the best decision I could have made for the summer. I gained 23 great friends from all over the country. We participated in daily group Bible Studies hearing from three separate chaplains from Athletes in Action staff on the campuses of Colorado State, UCLA, and Ball State. Over the course of the summer, we participated in numerous community service projects as well as visiting a homeless shelter in Rochester to serve food. We participated in prison ministry playing softball against the inmates at a local prison. We visited a nursing home and shared a meal with people who normally do not receive visits from even their families. The highlight of our ministry by far, though, was the opportunity to share the Gospel with the opposing teams in the league. We shared the AIA principles that were life changing for me as an athlete
Our team name was the Alfred Thunder and we were in the New York Collegiate Baseball League (NYCBL). The NYCBL is one of eight leagues that make up the National Alliance of College Summer Baseball. It is partially funded by Major League Baseball and is a tool for development and scouting for amateur baseball players. Within the NYCBL, there are two divisions – East and West. The Alfred Thunder participated in the West Division. The schedule consisted of 44 games within a two-month span. Every day, we would play at 7 p.m. We would be picked up sometime in the early afternoon and we would head to our home church to have discipleship together.
On the mound, I had a very successful summer. On the first day of training camp, the pitchers were standing in one spot and you could say that I was the “Roy Oswalt”of the staff. I was the smallest pitcher of the staff standing at 6-1. The rest of the pitchers were in the range of 6-3 to 6-6. Despite my disadvantage in physique I tied for the team lead in appearances with 13, complete games with 2, led the team in strikeouts with 30 in 34 innings pitched, and I was selected to the NYCBL West Division All-Star Team.
Playing in the NYCBL was a great experience for me and without a doubt helped me grow as a pitcher. I am so thankful for the success I had this summer, but more importantly I grew immensely in my spiritual walk with the Lord. The discipleships with the team were by far the best part of the experience for me. One thing that I gained from this experience was the realization that God is the only thing that will satisfy the desires of my heart. I had always agreed with that statement intellectually, but I think this summer was the first time that all my inmost being realized the truth in that. God is enough, God is enough to satisfy the desires of my heart, and nothing else will ever come close. The game of baseball may fail me, my abilities on the field may fail me, but He will never fail me. He is the solid rock on which I stand. I am excited to head back to Mount Vernon to start another championship run with the Cougars in a new conference. We’ll all be back on campus in no time!