Before Spring Training 2013 begins, here is a summary of what happened this offseason and where things are heading as the season approaches. I was not picked up by a different team in the rule 5 draft. I did not receive an invitation to big league spring training with the Blue Jays. I did, however, receive an invitation to play in the World Baseball Classic with Team Canada. This is an honor. It is the highest level of international baseball that I could play. All of the experiences with Team Canada were leading up to this. The World Baseball Classic is the time when all of the big league all-stars get to compete for their country. It is a once in a lifetime event for a baseball player (unless you are good enough to be invited to play for more than one). Players like Joe Mauer, Ryan Braun, Mark Teixeira, Craig Kimbrel, just to name a few, will be playing for Team USA. Team USA also includes one of my good friends, Tim Collins, who I was teammates with for several years. Players like Adrian Beltre, Robinson Cano and Edwin Encarnacion will be playing for the Dominican Republic. I will be playing alongside Russell Martin, Justin Morneau, Brett Lawrie, John Axford, as well as many former Team Canada teammates that I am incredibly excited to play alongside again. This is going to be a blast. Team Canada will be playing in the first round in Pheonix, AZ against Mexico, Italy and USA. I can’t wait. If you are wondering what I am working for right now, that is it. After playing in the WBC, I will return to Spring Training with the Blue Jays for minor league spring training. From there, no one knows where I will end up. AA is again in Manchester New Hampshire. This year AAA is in Buffalo, NY. And of course MLB is in Toronto. If anyone has paid attention to what the Blue Jays have done this offseason, it is an exciting time to be a part of this organization. I really want to contribute and be a part of what is going on up at the highest level.
I recently spoke at a middle school FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes). I had spoken to them earlier in the offseason, so this time I just wanted to talk with them. I love to ask people’s opinions and learn from them. So, I asked these kids, “What should my goals be for this season? It’s a really important season as far as my career is concerned, so what should I be focusing on and making my goals?” One of the kids said, “Work hard.” I agree with that kid. “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” (Colossians 3:23) Regardless of the good results that come from working hard, we work hard because we want to show others what Christ’s integrity and honesty and honor look like. Working hard is an honorable thing that brings glory to our heavenly Father. Another of the kids said, “To make some money.” I chuckled a bit and said, “Yes, it is important to make a living, to provide for yourself and your family and those in need.” (1 Thess 4:11, 2 Thess 3:10) I told them, “The most crucial aspect of setting goals for the season is to think about what sort of goals God would set for me.” And I asked them, “If God’s will was what I was trying to accomplish, what goals would he want me to set and pursue? When I search through scripture for what God wants from me, I find that first and foremost He wants me to ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.’ And the second thing is like it, ‘Love my neighbor as myself.’ (Matt 22:36-40) So, most importantly is to keep focus on what is important to me. If baseball or success or winning or being famous or any of these things become more important or even as close to what God means to me, then I am outside of where I want to be. If my worth or what I think of myself hinges on my success or my value in other people’s eyes, I have missed the mark. If my success or lack thereof changes how I treat people, then I am outside of where I want to be. I must always treat people with respect, dignity, and love, whether they are treating me well or treating me terribly. If I keep these things as my goals, I am going to have a successful season. I am going to work hard and give my best for my employer, I am going to provide for myself and my family, I am going to Love God more than anything else in the Universe, and I am going to treat other people the way I would like to be treated regardless of how they treat me. That sounds like the recipe for a successful season in my eyes and in God’s” Sometimes we can look like a complete failure in the world’s eyes, and yet a complete success in God’s. I want my worth and everyone’s worth to not be found according to what others think, but aligned with what God thinks.
“Teach me your decrees, O Lord;
I will keep them to the end.
Give me understanding and I will obey your instructions;
I will put them into practice with all my heart.
Make me walk along the path of your commands,
For that is where my happiness is found.
Give me an eagerness for your laws
Rather than a love for money!
Turn my eyes from worthless things,
And give me life through your word.
Reassure me of your promise,
Made to those who fear you.”
Psalm 119:22-28 NLT