Answering God’s Call
To be called I had to go through a process and it’s been the hardest thing me and my wife have ever faced. There were a lot of sleepless nights. So many failures and a lot of times I asked why? “Why do I have to go through this? Why me?” There were a lot of times I wanted to walk away. I felt that I was so bad at this game that I clearly didn’t belong. But, that’s the commitment we all made. Making the commitment to follow Jesus was the easy part. The hard part is when life demands that you honor or faulter on your commitment. Following is supposed to be hard. Luke 9:23 says “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must deny yourself, take up your cross daily, and follow me.” Jesus doesn’t sugar coat it, he doesn’t say follow when it’s convenient, or just at church. Jesus said daily, carry your cross. A cross that historically weighed around 300lbs. This commitment to follow is supposed to be hardest thing you ever do. I would argue that if you’ve had a comfortable Christian walk your entire life, then you’re probably doing it wrong. I was already broken and it wasn’t until God finished completely breaking me that I realized what needed to be done before I could do what God called me to do.
1. Know Your Identity
For the last 10 years I was “The Head Baseball Coach” and my entire identity was wrapped into that. When my career first started, I was very good at my job and turned programs around, won playoff games, won tournaments, and created teams that were well respected. However, when your identity is in worldly things and it doesn’t work out, you’re going to be miserable. The one thing I was supposed to be good at I wasn’t anymore. No one looked at me saying what a Godly man I was, they were more worried about my record and so was I. When this idol you created lets you down, you’re left feeling unfulfilled. I went from having one of the best records among coaches in New Mexico to one of the worst. I’ve watched peer after peer pass me with milestones and championships. It got so bad that I endured 3 straight no-hitters against my team. Twenty-one innings without a single hit. During which we had a streak of twelve straight innings where we didn’t even get a runner on base. I didn’t know how to go home and face my wife. I wasn’t fulfilling what I thought my identity should be, so I worried she would be embarrassed of my failures. After a third straight season of over twenty losses and only four wins I broke down. I got down on my knees and cried out, “I give up!!”. “I can’t do this anymore. Just tell me what to do and I’ll do it.” After that prayer I waited for God’s response. I felt this identity crisis gnawing at me. My former pastor Matt Thackerson at Lovington talked about knowing your identity on Sundays. I felt like the message had been everywhere, I had just been ignoring it. Know your identity. I was miserable because I valued the wrong things. I was miserable because what I chose to put my identity into had failed me. I was miserable because my identity wasn’t in Jesus who would never fail me. Always know your identity and make sure others identify you as a follower of Jesus.
2. Seek God First
There are times that we all have problems and we do the wise thing of seeking advice. How often do we go to social media or Google first to look for an answer? Often times we have a friend who is smarter than us and we go straight to that person for advice or ask them to fix the problem. Where is the spiritual growth in that? Ask God First. Proverbs 3:6 reads, “In all ways acknowledge him and he shall direct thy paths.” When you buy a puzzle do you open the box, pour out all the pieces, and make sure every single piece is accounted for? No, of course not. You trust that the person who designed the puzzle put every piece you need inside the box already. God designed your puzzle, and he knows every piece you need. Unplug from the world, pray for his guidance and trust that he will send you what you need. That’s how I knew my time in Lovington was over. No one was forcing me out the door. I knew I did everything I was sent there to learn and accomplish. When I resigned my position, I had no idea where we were going. I just waited for God to tell me where. I was serious when I prayed “Just tell me what to do and I’ll do it.” Even before I had any job interviews, we put out house on the market. This house, that we had saved and worked our way out of debt for 10 years for. This house that we had designed from the ground up, every cabinet, tile, and doorknob we chose. The house was only a year old and while everyone told us we were crazy to sell, we followed God first. We figured it would be a few months before anyone would be interested in buying our house. My wife agreed and we were committed, if God was serious about us leaving, we weren’t going to hold on to any excuses. Our first full priced offer came within 24 hours and I still hadn’t even interviewed for a job. Pojoaque was a place I had left previously due to the long drive from Rio Rancho and I had no intention of going back. After numerous parents texted and called asking me to come back and prayers from us asking if this was where we were needed, I interviewed for the Head Baseball Job at Pojoaque Valley High School. Ten minutes after my interview was over, I was offered the job. Even after parents and newspapers questioned my old identity and brought up my losing record and doubt crept into my mind, God sent me a reminder. I was driving to my aunt’s house in Albuquerque questioning if I was making the right decision. While being lost in thought I had turned one road too soon and gotten lost on a dead-end street. So, I turned around and headed back to the main road. When I got to the intersection, I looked up at the stop sign and it read “Pojoaque Street”. I smiled and said. “Now you’re just showing off.” Life is going to happen and you must seek God first in all that you do.
3. Don’t Be A Victim
I played this role at one point in my life. I asked “Why me?” numerous times. I felt my family was cursed with tragedy. Alcoholism, domestic violence, and drug abuse have been long standing in my family. My mother had her first child at 14 years old, to this day I have never met him nor do I know his name. She suffered from numerous mental health issues and was physically disabled, having recently passed. My father suffered a horrible wreck while on duty as a police officer that crippled his leg. He never fully recovered from it and drank probably more than he should of. My father past away in September of 2017. My uncle died suddenly of a brain aneurysm while playing a softball game. At 18 years old I walked on the baseball team at Eastern New Mexico University. In my freshmen year I was diagnosed with my first of two heart defects that would ultimately end my playing career before it even started. Losing the ability to play was not something I handled very well. For a long time, I felt it wasn’t fair. I was depressed, angry, and often drank alone. I didn’t want to hear about all my friends’ college baseball experiences. I was jealous that they got to continue to do the one thing I had wanted to do my entire life. It was at that point I decided I had to keep baseball in my life, I was never interested in anything else. So, at 19 years old I began my coaching career as the Freshmen Team Pitching Coach at Clovis High School.
All of this has been in preparation for what is yet to come. Endurance develops character and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation, Romans 5:4. I could have easily played the victim card. I’m sure plenty of people would have felt sorry for me. I saw my mother and my father both give in and play the victim to the difficulties God had placed in front of them. I had told my wife when we had first gotten married, I believed God wanted me to do something bigger with my life. I refused to accept my failures as permanent and began to take ownership of my life and my faith. Are you going through hard times or are you growing through hard times?
4. Prepare for rain
As I worked my way through college and earned my teaching degree and licensure, I decided that if I became a “good enough” high school coach, eventually I could work my way to the collegiate coaching ranks. However, in the 10 years and dozens of college jobs I applied for only 1 school ever so much as interviewed me. The numerous amounts of “Not qualified for this position” emails burned at me. Which was compounded by the fact that I wasn’t successful as a high school coach. Bouncing from rural town to rural town in New Mexico compiling an ever-growing losing record. I prayed that I would find a path to make it to the college level. “Plow the field, pray, and prepare for rain.” These words stuck with me and I made the decision to control what I could, begin eliminating excuses, and trust God with my path. I began working on my master’s degree in athletic administration. I wanted to do the thesis research option to prove I had the requisite knowledge to coach at a higher level. Little did I know how much my path would change.
We had lived in Santa Fe for a year when I began doing my thesis research. I had completed the proposal and was sharing the process on Twitter. Twitter had become a useful resource in learning about player development technologies and research. So, naturally I shared my thesis proposal on the social media platform not thinking much of it. Naively, I hoped a college coach would read it as I had already been emailing it out to every college I could find with a job opening. As par for the course, I received very little if any responses. Until in the fall of 2019, I received a few direct messages from MLB organizations asking if I would like to interview for a potential job. In a very short time I went from teaching AP US History and AP Government while coaching high school baseball to moving out to Arizona for Spring Training in 2020.
I had been hired by the Milwaukee Brewers to be a Player Development Coach. Oddly enough I thought my focus would be pitching. It made sense to me as I was a PO in high school, I was slated to be one in college. I was a pitching coach for a large part of my career and I was Driveline Pitching Certified. As I was introduced to the staff by my supervisor, I was deemed a “hitting” guy. I wrote one research paper on hitting physics and that became my niche. This path God had put me on was one I could have never imagined. Twelve days into Spring Training the Pandemic shut everything down. With a severely reduced salary and my wife having recently left her X-ray job to enjoy the sun and fun at Spring Training we couldn’t afford to stay in Phoenix. Schools were closed, so there was no job for me to go back to. We were blessed to be able to move to Amarillo, Texas with her parents. I began cleaning out U-Haul trucks for cash and started a job as a butcher at United Supermarkets. It was a huge shock to go from being at Spring Training and living my dream to cleaning blood and animal flesh off of industrial meat saws and grinders.
Every morning when I would unload the 6am meat trucks I could see I-40. I would pray every morning that I would one day get to drive back through I-40 on my way to another Spring Training and that this job with the Brewers hadn’t just been a fluke. The same familiar feelings crept up on me. I had made it to the next level and just like in college something beyond my control took the opportunity away. The first several months of the pandemic were extremely hard. I felt like my family had to start over again. My wife was working two jobs and I was working three just to afford the monthly income to move out of her parent’s house. All while still trying to finish my thesis research, graduate, and find a college job. In August the Brewers called. My position had been cut, I prayed for patience and endurance. To be honest, it’s one thing to pray for it and an entirely different experience to have to live it. To trust God’s plan even when the world around you is falling apart. Slowly, but surely, we crawled back up. My wife found an X-ray job, I started a business with a good friend, and applied for every pro and college job I could find.
Plow the field, pray, and prepare for rain. I graduated with my masters in the summer of 2021. Over the spring and summer I rarely if ever heard from any college jobs I applied for. I interviewed with several pro teams, but nothing ever came from it. Then venting my frustrations on Twitter an opportunity popped up from the unlikeliest of places. In the fall of 2021, I accepted a job as the Hitting Coach at Lackawanna College in Scranton Pennsylvania. My wife and son stayed behind while I drove up there to use this as a stepping stone to further my career and trust this path. God opened the door, so I felt led to walk through it. That fall at Lackawanna was one of the most challenging times of my life. The entire first 3 weeks I wanted to quit and go home every day. The long days of working from 3am to 6:30pm took its toll for a while. During 3am newspaper deliveries I’d listen to worship music and constantly repeat to myself “This is what you wanted. This is the price you have to pay. God give me the strength to beat this.” That fall at Lackawanna is now one of my favorite baseball experiences.
When I went back home for the holidays I continued to pray. It was hard, I dealt with anxiety everyday about the future and if I could financially afford to keep chasing this when it meant I wasn’t providing for my family. Our business wasn’t making any money, I had a low paying JUCO coaching job, and I felt I wasn’t providing the life I’m supposed to for my wife and son. I began to feel like I was failing off the field. Just as I began to start questioning what I was doing, over the winter I interviewed with several teams and on Christmas Eve I accepted a job as the DSL (Dominican Summer League) Hitting Coach for the San Francisco Giants.
The true measure of a man is not what he does with his success, it’s how he handles his failures. I failed in every aspect of my life. I had to fail for almost 10 years as a husband before I learned how to be emotionally mature enough to lead and be the right husband for my wife. I had to fail at coaching, I had to fail at everything. Nothing ever changed until I stopped trying to do everything on my own and cried out to God, “Just tell me what to do and I’ll do it.” None of this has been easy and it’s not supposed to be. Endurance develops character and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation, Romans 5:4. Can you endure, even if your idea of success doesn’t match the plan God has for your life? I used to ask God “Why did I have to go through this?” numerous times. Now, I thank him for choosing me to go through all of it. I had to learn to endure and grow my faith. I had to learn to adapt after my plans constantly got interrupted. I had to learn how to be a hitting coach after only focusing on pitching for most of my life. I had to learn how to eliminate excuses, because none of them will ever be accepted. Finally, I had to learn how to carry my cross and place my identity in Jesus.