The game of baseball closely resembles life in many ways: it is played every day (between April and October), it is full of unexpected twists and turns, and even those who are successful at it still fail often.
Chris Davis, emerging superstar of the Baltimore Orioles, is living out this truism, and it is leading him in a closer walk with the Lord.
Davis graduated high school in Longview, Texas, with great expectations. The Texas Rangers drafted him in the fifth round of the 2006 amateur draft. At six-foot-three and 230 pounds, the lanky first baseman had always been a slugger; his ability to mash a baseball had earned him the nickname “Crush.”
His life appeared to be proceeding according to plan; he spent little more than a whole season in the minor leagues before the Rangers called him to the big leagues in late June of 2008. On June 26, Davis made his major league debut, when Rangers manager Ron Washington inserted him as a pinch hitter in the ninth inning of a 7-2 loss to the Houston Astros. Davis singled off Oscar Villarreal in his first at-bat.
Welcome to the big leagues, Chris Davis.
Davis remained with the Rangers for the rest of the 2008 season, hitting seventeen home runs and driving in fifty-five runs in 297 at-bats. In 2009, Davis’ numbers grew a bit—he hit twenty-one homers—but he still was not a full-time player. In 2010, the Rangers advanced to their first World Series, but Davis was left off the postseason roster after having been benched three times.
Baseball mirrors life. Though he had been saved as a child, this snub by the team that had invested so much in him awakened in Davis a sense that something was missing.
As Davis told WORLD magazine, one morning in late 2010 he woke from sleep and sensed God saying, “You’ve waited long enough. It’s time for you to surrender.” From that moment on, Davis went hard after God, studying His Word and beginning to grow in grace.
He began to be more open about his faith in interviews with reporters and sought to develop relationships with other Christians on the Rangers roster, such as David Murphy and Josh Hamilton.
“I try to lead primarily by example,” Davis said in an interview with the blog Jesus N Sports. “I think it is crucial to walk the walk if you are going to talk the talk. Many people will not believe what you say if you do not practice what you preach. I try to control my language, my emotions, and carry myself as a man of God.”
A critical turning point in his baseball career occurred on July 30, 2011, when he was traded to the Baltimore Orioles. As an Oriole, his stats grew quite impressive; in 2012, he led the Orioles with thirty-three home runs, and in 2013, he became one of the most feared sluggers in baseball, slamming fifty-three homers and driving in 138 runs. He was named to the American League All-Star team and finished third in the AL MVP voting.
The trade turned out to be just the change he needed. It was a change that Davis knows God had providentially sent.
“I went through a wide range of emotions,” he said. “I was excited to get the opportunity to play every day in the big leagues with another team but also sad to leave so many friends behind. I think God had been slowly preparing me for the trade for the past few years. I had grown much in my relationship to Him and had really learned how to trust Him and lean not on my own understanding. That was crucial because I went through so many new things after being traded.”
As he grows as a hitter and as a first baseman for the Orioles, Davis also grows in grace and knowledge of the Lord. Davis has his favorite Bible verse, Hebrews 12:1–2, tattooed on his right rib cage to remind him to be ready to lay aside everything for the sake of following Christ. While his on-field success has mirrored the depth of his surrender to Christ, Davis says he realizes there is a cost to discipleship and that while his home run numbers continue to grow, Christ is greater still.
“When you come to Christ and follow God with your whole heart, it’s not by any means going to get easier,” he told WORLD. “When I started pursuing God—really He started pursuing me—it was tough. It’s not anything we’re doing. It’s what God has allowed us to enjoy. The biggest reason I’ve been successful this year is because I know this isn’t all there is.”
During the SBC annual meeting, Southern Baptists will be able to watch Davis and the Orioles play at Camden Yards for a discounted price during one of two Baptist Night events. The first is on Saturday, June 7 at 7:15 p.m., when the Orioles play the Oakland A’s. The second is on Wednesday, June 11 at 7:05 p.m., when the Orioles play their rivals, the Boston Red Sox. For ticket information, visit www.sbcannualmeeting.net.
Click here to view a flyer with more information about Baptist Nights.
Jeff Robinson is pastor of Philadelphia Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.