Tommy Kister never wastes an opportunity. A senior pitcher at The Master’s College, Kister has spent the past three summers competing with Athletes in Action’s baseball teams, impacting others both on and off the field.
Kister first played for the Xenia Scouts, an AIA affiliate, in 2011.
“I didn’t have the greatest season [freshman year at Master’s],” Kister says. “Going into the summer I got an opportunity to close, and I just really wanted to make the most of it.”
Kister hoped to rekindle his love of the game.
“I wanted to regain my confidence and enjoy the game again,” he says. “[Freshman year] I thought I was letting everyone down, so that summer I just wanted to have fun out there.”
“Win or lose, it doesn’t matter what happens”
Matthew Richter, assistant general manager and assistant coach for the Scouts, has watched Kister grow as a player.
“[His first season] he established himself really quickly as our closer,” Richter says. “He set our record for saves that summer and also pitched in the Great Lakes League All-Star Game.”
During that first summer season Kister realized he was playing for himself, forgetting his faith.
“My first year, God really showed me how baseball was an idol in my life,” Kister says. “My main focus was to go out there and try to play my best to win for my sake and for my team’s sake, rather than putting [my faith] on display.”
Since then, his motives have changed.
“Win or lose, it doesn’t matter what happens as long as I am out there competing for Christ and giving Him thanks through my play,” Kister says. “That really changed how I go about playing the game.”
“I was getting frustrated with my game”
Kister continued to gain experience on the mound. He pitched relief during his sophomore year at Master’s. Then he spent the 2012 summer season in Alaska playing on AIA’s highest level team, the Chugiak-Eagle River Chinooks. The adjustment was hard.
“I was getting frustrated with my game,” Kister says. “I was not having success. And God showed me that I was slowly letting baseball become an idol again in my life.”
The struggle pointed him back to his faith.
“I was coming off a really good year of summer ball in Ohio and a really good year at Master’s,” Kister says. “God used my time in Alaska to humble me and remind me that I need to rely on Him through this hard time.”
Kister returned to college his junior year as a more experienced player. He closed again for the Master’s team, and helped them reach the NAIA World Series.
“I’ve come to learn that my faith is everything”
As Kister geared up for another summer with the Scouts, his coaches wanted to transition him into a starting pitcher role.
“[Freshman and sophomore year] he was just a two-pitch guy,” Richter says. “To be a starter, he really needed a third pitch that he could use as a weapon. He developed a change-up [to add to his slider and fastball].”
Kister eventually became the Scouts’ number one pitcher, a position he enjoyed.
“It was just fun for me because I hadn’t started since high school,” Kister says. “I was excited to be able to do that again. I just wanted to make the most of it and have fun with it.”
During his second season with the Scouts, Kister went on to lead the league in almost every pitching category. As a result, he was named the 2013 Great Lakes League Pitcher of the Year.
He was also invited to pitch in the Cape Cod Baseball League, the number one collegiate baseball league in the country.
“He was almost a novelty [in Cape Cod], the way he was using his pitches,” Richter says. “He was very effective for them as well.”
In spite of his success, Kister says his identity is no longer rooted in how well he plays, but rather in what he believes.
“I’ve come to learn these past couple years that my faith is everything,” Kister says. “Apart from Christ, I am nothing.”
“When he talks, everybody listens”
With a new outlook, Kister feels compelled to share his faith with others.
“God has blessed me to have a heart for people,” Kister says. “I truly believe that [Christians] have a knowledge of the greatest thing in life, and people really need to know that.”
Scouts general manager John Henschen thinks that Kister’s consistent actions and attitude add weight to his words.
“He’s a rock,” Henschen says. “He’s a quiet leader. He uses his words wisely. When he talks, everybody listens.”
Kister believes his actions have the ability to start conversations.
“[My actions] will help set me apart from people so that they will see the difference,” Kister says. “It opens up that opportunity for me to share with people about my faith.”
“There are so many people out there who are searching for that true joy and that true satisfaction,” Kister says. “My heart hurts for them because they’re not finding it, because they’re not looking toward Christ. They’re looking toward [other] things.”
If you would like to know and experience a personal relationship with God, like Tommy Kister, go here.
Kister wasn’t always eager to talk about his faith, but credits his time with the Scouts for equipping him to share his beliefs more comfortably.
“Playing [with them] definitely gave me a good foundation of how to explain the [Christian faith] to someone and how to break it down, especially with baseball players,” Kister says. “[I learned how to] give my faith story, how to relate it to them and how to be confident in it, too.”
With a baseball schedule spanning the time from January through July, Kister continues to rely on his faith to provide him with the strength needed to compete.
“I’ve come to see that when I try to do things on my own, I fail,” he says. “I get tired. I need Christ in my life to persevere through the trials and everyday life. I need Him to be with me.”
By AIA writer Colleen Browning