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OKLAHOMA CITY (BP)--Professional athletes are sometimes accused of being so focused on their game and the party afterward that they have no room in their lives except for the game and themselves. Such is not the case with John Wasdin, pitcher for the Oklahoma City RedHawks.
"I'll tell you there's nothing greater than knowing Jesus Christ as my Savior and that no matter what happens on the ball field, I can go out there knowing there's a reason," says Wasdin. "Instead of holding my career, like a lot of athletes do, with closed fists, trying to hang on, I have open hands to say 'wherever I may go, it's Your will and may I do the best that I can do for You.'"
Wasdin said his faith journey started as a small boy who attended a little Baptist church called Crossway Road in a small town just outside Tallahassee, Fla.
"It was a little church out in the woods, and I grew up going to church with my grandma and my mom," Wasdin said. "My dad went only on a few occasions. I called him a CEO-Christmas, Easter Only."
Although Wasdin grew up around the church and sang in the choir, it wasn't until his senior year in high school that he trusted Christ. At 17, he entered college and confesses to not being sufficiently strong in his faith to ward off the temptations that flooded his life.
"It was like fishing," Wasdin said. "I really like to fish, and the Devil has his tackle box, and he knew what lures would attract me, so he used them on me in college. I struggled with alcohol. My dad drank, so I drank."
While at college, Wasdin said he met a young lady who really impressed him (she later became his wife, Darlene) and it didn't matter what time he got in on Saturday night, he went to church on Sunday. Then the Holy Spirit confronted him with his lifestyle choices.
"It finally one day hit me, I was a hypocrite," Wasdin admitted. "I was professing one thing and doing something completely different Monday through Saturday, and then on Sunday I put on this little charade in front of my family and friends. God sees that, he sees Monday through Saturday. Your family doesn't, and you may think you are hiding all of this, whatever it is you're doing.
"I got down on my hands and knees and said, 'Lord I am totally going down the wrong road right now, I have made a commitment to You and I am not honoring that,'" Wasdin said. “‘Please search my heart and my life and my soul and cleanse me from this point. I want to live for You and do everything for You and honor You and bring glory to Your Name.’”
Wasdin said there is more to life than just baseball. "I'll tell you there's nothing greater than knowing Jesus Christ as my Savior and that no matter what happens on the ball field, I can go out there knowing there's a reason," he said.
Wasdin said during his first year at Florida State University, he only played 15-20 innings the entire season. After his experience of brokenness before the Lord and the change in his lifestyle choices, his baseball began to improve substantially and by his junior year, he was drafted by the Oakland Athletics.
Wasdin married the Christian young lady who impressed him in the winter of 1994, and he has been playing baseball professionally since 1993. Wasdin spent six years in the major leagues and seven in the minors. He has played for eight different teams.
"I've struggled with that at times," he said. "I really have found peace in knowing that, if I am truly living for God and wanting to be His servant, and He has given me the platform of baseball, what better way to share the Good News with other people than on eight different teams rather than just one team. I've gotten to witness to countless men."
Wasdin is involved in a special ministry called Honoring the Father. According to Wasdin, this is a ministry by a group of ball players who aren't afraid to make a stand for Christ and be that role model the world needs today. Wasdin said the group uses camps and clinics to proudly and confidently proclaim the name of Jesus.
In the last four years, the ministry has taken on an international dimension, he said. These same players are involved in a Cuba for Christ ministry. By using their baseball skills and involvement, they have access to all kinds of baseball equipment. They take the equipment to Cuba and help three teams use their baseball as a witness. "We've even had testimony baseball cards printed," said Wasdin. "These baseball cards have a Christian testimony written on the back in Spanish. When I played ball in Japan, I used similar cards with my Japanese testimony.
"I thank God that He brought people into my life, and a family to show me family values," Wasdin said. "My wife and I try to relay that to our children. I have three girls, and they are daddy's girls, for sure. They've got me wrapped around their little fingers."
John Yeats is editor of the Baptist Messenger, newsjournal of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, online at www.baptistmessenger.com.