Dear Younger Me Series - "The Game Does Not Define You" by AJ Hammond

This week's "Dear Younger Me" letter comes courtesy of Complete Game staff member A.J. Hammond. A native of York, Pennsylvania, A.J. played collegiately for coach Jon Shehan at Millersville University. In the summers, Hammond played for the Niagara Power FCA collegiate team in the NYCBL. Serving as Camp Director provided great experience entering into a coaching career. Spending time at Liberty University and Salem International University, Hammond is now an assistant coach at Lincoln High School in Shinnston, West Virginia where his wife serves on Young Life Staff.

Dear Younger AJ,

The game does not define you. You are more than a baseball player, you are a Child of God!

I know that you think you already know that, but hear me out. Following Jesus is about a lot more than wearing that cool necklace, and putting bible verses on the bill of your hat. Praying before games and at bats are not going to lead to success. None of those things are bad, but you don’t get it yet.

You heard about a relationship with Jesus Christ at Young Life camp your freshman year of high school. That week truly was one of the best weeks of your life. You grew in a lot of ways, and it laid a foundation for you moving forward, but man… you have a ways to go. There must have been some miscommunication, because when you said you gave your life to Christ, you only invited Him in to help you along the way.

Your senior year of high school you begin living this double life. You committed to Millersville University, the hometown school and are fired up to have a chance to play for one of the top teams in Division II. But you begin to coast through life, more excited about having a good time than working hard. Your focus is on the present moment, and you don’t worry about the future.

The fall of 2013 was the first time you were on your own and like every other time in life, you ran to baseball. You got off to a good start, hit a home run in the first intersquad game and you thought you were going to start as a Freshman. However, this is when you enter into a really dark place in life. Baseball didn’t fill you up like you thought it would. “College Life” consumes you and before you know what happened you feel trapped. The season is a week away, you’re getting your bags packed for the trip to North Carolina and you find out that you’ve been redshirted. Although it doesn’t shock you because you fizzled out in the fall, it still hurts. You’re going to feel God tugging at you throughout the semester, but you fight it! You’re excited about summer ball to get a chance to play and show that you shouldn’t have redshirted. You think it’s going to be a summer of baseball, but get ready, it changes your life.

You go to Niagara Falls, New York because you didn’t want to play in Kentucky. Don’t worry about the guys being “weird Christians” - they’re just like you. In fact, a lot of them will be in your wedding! It’s an FCA team and you were excited because you know it will give you an opportunity to start fresh. After a few conversations with guys on the team, you quickly realize your need for a Savior. You made the decision to follow Christ, only this time you meant it. You didn’t ever want to go back to the dark places you spent the last two years. The highlight of the decision was getting baptized with five of your teammates who became your best friends. By the end of the summer you realize baseball isn’t that important after all. It’s a tool that will help you share Jesus with your teammates at Millersville.

After spending the year reading, writing, and growing in Christ through baseball, the game wasn’t the same anymore. You loved being around it, you loved the culture, but you felt like there was more. You decided to transfer to Liberty University and learn how to use baseball to share Jesus. But not as a member of the team, you become a student assistant. Although it was not the experience you were expecting, it led to things that you would never believe. You learned how to open up about things you were struggling with. You no longer had baseball to hide behind, and God was pushing you to grow in areas you didn’t want to touch. God is going to flip your world upside down when provides an opportunity for you and your fiancé to serve on Young Life staff in West Virginia. But when you get there after the wedding you realize that as crazy as it may seem, it is exactly where God has you. It’s hard at first, but then you realize anything worth doing, usually is. Opportunities present themselves, relationships form and you love where you are and what you’re doing!

Remember that the Lord has redeemed you, and has called you. You are more than a baseball player, don’t let that define you. You are a Child of God!