Faith in the Game is a blog containing submissions by athletes of faith. Each of them was asked one question: Tell us a story about a time when your faith was most present in your life. Rather than tell us about their faith, we asked them to show us.
These stories are oftentimes uplifting, and at all times profound, raw, honest, introspective and heartfelt. These are not the sort of stories you hear in a press conference. Some of them take place on the field; others, off it. They are presented without agenda or judgment. On many levels, we think you'll find them fascinating, as they pull up the veil on a side of sports that is rarely revealed but very often present.
This blog is moderated by author and father Ben Petrick, a former Colorado Rockies catcher thought to be the only professional athlete to have his career shortened by Parkinson's Disease, along with writer and father Scott Brown. In addition to their professional and family lives, both men are also coaches of youth sports. A selection of the stories they've collected will soon appear in a book, and together they're also working on Ben's autobiography.
If you'd like us to email you when new stories appear on the blog, please send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The following is excerpted from Ben Petrick’s acclaimed new book, Forty Thousand to One, which he co-wrote with Scott Brown. Petrick was a catcher for the Colorado Rockies and one of the top prospects in baseball when he was told he had Parkinson’s disease — a diagnosis he hid for four Major League seasons.
After his retirement, Petrick became a full-time caregiver to his daughter, Makena, while his wife went back to work. His health deteriorated greatly until one year ago, when he underwent a radical surgery in an attempt to lessen his Parkinson’s symptoms.
Forty Thousand to One was recently included in the library of the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY.
I left the doctor’s office wondering what the appropriate response should be to finding out you’re just 22 and no longer free from time.
A doctor at University Hospital in Denver had told me the odd movement disorders I’d been experiencing for nearly six months were caused by “Parkinsonism.”
“I’d diagnose you with actual Parkinson’s,” he said, “but you’re four decades younger than the typical patient.”
Getting that diagnosis (just seven months after my father received the same news) was more than surreal. It was like watching the moon fall.
And it is by God’s will that we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. — Hebrews 10:10
When an athlete comes off the field and says, “God gave us the victory tonight,” we hope he or she is saying, “I thank God who gave me a healthy body so I can play at my best; I thank God for my good mind that allowed me to play alert and with awareness; I thank God for giving me the hunger to always be at my best.” If that is what the athlete is saying, then I want to say, “You are absolutely right. Thank God for all God’s good gifts.”
But if that athlete is saying God literally guided the football through the uprights for the winning field goal so that one team would win and the other lose, that man has a lot to learn about life and about God.
God is not our personal weather expert, football strategist, romance matchmaker, or rectifier of our past mistakes. God is God. God is our Sovereign, not our servant. — Ron Newhouse
The following story is excerpted from Ben Petrick’s new book, “40,000 to One.” To find out more about the book, and to place an order, please visit www.BenPetrick.com.
Ben is founder of Faith In The Game. A former Major Leaguer with the Colorado Rockies and Detroit Tigers, Ben has Parkinson’s disease and recently underwent an aggressive surgery called Deep Brain Stimulation to alleviate his symptoms. A recent ESPN feature on Ben and his family can be found here, and a television news story on Ben’s amazing recovery can be found here. Ben chronicles his progress, along with stories of faith, family and baseball, in this blog.
In the film “The Tree of Life,” the mother says in narration, “There are two ways through life — the way of nature and the way of grace. You have to choose which one you’ll follow.
“Nature,” she goes on to say, “only wants to please itself. Get others to please it, too. Likes to lord it over them. To have its own way. It finds reasons to be unhappy when all the world is shining around it.
“But grace doesn’t try to please itself. Grace accepts being slighted, forgotten. Accepts insults and injuries.”
It’s not adequate to say that my mother possesses grace. Grace is my mother.The two are interchangeable.
I’ll pause right here and say that I realize it’s not uncommon to write about your mother in awe-inspired terms, as if you’re seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time. But if you met my mother, you’d know.
You’d know she’s a revelation, like seeing anything for the first time must be.
I recently traveled back to Nashville for a Parkinson’s fundraising event, put on by Brent Pederson, a former NHL hockey player and coach that has Parkinson’s disease.He now holds a position in the Nashville Predators front office.The team, along with their foundation, helped Brent put this annual event on.There were 940 people there supporting both foundations and they raised over $300,000 at the event.I was honored to give a short speech about my story and former NBA player Brian Grant shared some words as well.
I’m more than happy to participate in these types of events. While I wasn’t born to be a public speaker — and my Parkinson’s–induced mumble doesn’t help the matter — I am improving.Events like this one give me hope that through increased fundraising, science and technology will continue to improve and research will one day find a way to eradicate Parkinson’s disease all together.
When I retired from baseball seven years ago, it seemed like a nice idea that I would become a spokesperson for Parkinson’s research.The reality, though, is that as my symptoms grew worse, all I wanted to do was retreat. We tend to romanticize struggle in our country. Scrappiness and grit a part of the American fabric. But the fact is that struggle is a process, and deciding to turn into the wind rather than away from it takes time.
In my case, my history as a standout athlete created an enormous conflict in me. On one hand, it gave me a platform above and beyond most Parkinson’s patients. On the other, vanity is part and parcel of being an athlete — at least it was for me.
Ben Petrick is co-editor of Faith In The Game. A former Major Leaguer with the Colorado Rockies and Detroit Tigers, Ben has Parkinson’s disease and recently underwent an aggressive surgery called Deep Brain Stimulation to alleviate his symptoms. A television news story on Ben’s amazing recovery can be found here. Ben chronicles his progress, along with stories of faith, family and baseball, in this blog.
I’ve found myself at an interesting crossroads lately. Is it possible to feel guilty for experiencing improved health? I spent so much time praying for a something to alleviate my Parkinson’s symptoms. Now that that’s happened, I’m overwhelmingly grateful, but also conflicted because I’m leaving someone behind.
I’ve always had a partner on this walk: my father.
I recently returned from a two-week vacation, which left me with two main thoughts: First, I am so thankful for the Deep Brain Stimulation surgery I had last winter that has improved my symptoms greatly. Second, I want so desperately for DBS to be an option for my dad, who also has the disease. Because of his being older and having other health complications, DBS might not be viable for him.
"One of the most impactful lessons I learned over the course of my career was the difference between a goal and a plan." — Tom Landry
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the LORD, ‘and will bring you back from captivity.’” — Jeremiah 29: 11-14