AJ Hammond

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!

Love,
AJ

Joel Davis, Texas A&M

57551126337d9.image_.jpg

Joel Davis, Infielder for Texas A&M, 2016 Super Regional 

How did I come to know Jesus personally?

Growing up in church, I accepted Jesus Christ as my savior in 4th grade at a young musicians camp. I heard about salvation, where Jesus died for our sins so we can live for Him. Salvation was no easy task, but he did it because he loves us. God took us seriously by sending his son to dye on the cross, so we should take salvation seriously. I remember making that decision to follow him and immediately feeling a sense of incredible freedom.

“Let me now remind you, dear brothers and sisters, of the Good News I preached to you before. You welcomed it then, and you still stand firm in it. It is this Good News that saves you if you continue to believe the message I told you—unless, of course, you believed something that was never true in the first place. I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said.”

‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭15:1-4‬ ‭NLT‬‬

What has God done in me since then?

He has opened my eyes to many many things, one of the biggest things is trusting His plan over mine.

Going through high school I was a two sport athlete and was in band, things came easy for me. Going into my junior year of high school, I found my identity in sports. Coming off of a great year of baseball and football, I had my eyes set on the D1 life. I put up the same stats as all the big time prospects in my area and wasn't getting big looks, which was hard for me. So the day before football started my senior year, I tore my Ulnar Collateral Ligament (Tommy John.) I was forced to decide between getting surgery and playing baseball, or holding off and only playing football. I chose to get surgery and play baseball. During football season we went from being #1 in the state the year before to tying the worst record ever for our school, and I could do nothing about it. I went through depression, I wasn't a happy or fun person to be around. I thought playing on the field and having the spotlight on me would be the best way to glorify God, but I was totally wrong. I believed the lie that the devil told me, that without sports I was nothing. Until one day my youth pastor told me after a game that I would have not impacted as many people as I did this football season now rather than playing this year. That's when God broke me down and showed me that trusting in His plan was the best. Rehab, which should take anywhere form six to eighteen months, only took me seven and a half months, and I was back to playing baseball two weeks after the season started. I wasn't getting any looks after having an incredible year, but I kept trusting in his plan. In July I finally got offered a great scholarship to a Junior College not far from home in Oklahoma. I realized the regardless of everything, God had a plan for me and it was better. At that JUCO I met some of my best friends, and was offered a scholarship to Texas A&M. During those few years of uncertainty, I held on to Genesis 22:14 “Yahweh-Yireh” which translates the Lord Will Provide.

Now What?

Ask God to forgive your sins, ask him into your life. No matter how far you are, or how bad you think you are you are never too far from God. If you're 1000 steps away from God, God will take 999 just so you'll take that one. He died for us, his blood cleansed our sins and made us white as snow.

JO19d9sI
JO19d9sI

Keep Pushing

bs19.jpg

One of the only things that is guaranteed in the game is adversity. Whether it is a scheduling mixup, an injury, umpires or any other circumstances, we will run into adversity in the game and in life. Understanding that the question is not if we will face adversity, but when, the focus must be on how we respond. The difference between championship teams and everyone else, is the ability to push through the trials and respond well. "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." (James 1:2-4) 

In other words, we can welcome adversity knowing that the end result will lead to growth. Regardless of the situation, we have the opportunity to learn from it and get better. Ultimately ending up 

complete

 and

lacking nothing. 

Therefore, we are called to embrace the tough times because they shape us into the image of Christ. Sure this sounds good, but I think we can all agree that adversity is hard. Whether it is a slump, lack of playing time, or anything else, these trials and tests often leave us feeling alone. However, Jesus promises that we are not, 

"And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28:20)

If your anything like me, depending on the situation, it doesn't always feel like that.

Yes, it is the truth; and Yes, we believe that truth, but how do we 

LIVE

that?

KEEP PUSHING!

King David (author of most of the Psalms), struggled with seasons of feeling distant. However, he made an adjustment to get out of the slump, "

I sought the LORD, and He answered me, And delivered me from all my fears." (Psalm 34:4) 

If you don't believe David, Jesus gave the same advice;

 "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." (Matthew 7:7) 

The same spirit that rose Jesus from the dead, lives in us in this very moment. (Romans 8:11) Understanding that, we are prepared for adversity, because we are going to grow from it. No matter what the situation, or circumstance, we are okay because He is greater than those circumstances. So what do we do when the trials come and He feels far away?

KEEP PUSHING!

Come near to God and he will come near to you. (James 4:8)

Brandon Miller (Seattle Mariners Organization): Who's Watching?

image-2.jpg

Every team has that one guy who will not run out a weak pop fly, does not practice hard or losses his composer after a rough at bat or a rough inning of work on the mound. Think about it, how often are those types of teammates the captains of the team? Never. Why be that teammate who brings their team down when you could be a confidence booster for the other players. In my 15 years of playing organized baseball my many coaches have harped on this one phrase, "you never know who is watching." I can not stress this statement enough. Especially at the high school, college and pro level. If you are one of the guys that I described in the opening paragraph above, there is little chance that you will be able to move up to the next level. Recruiters notice the players who are negative, lazy and quick to anger.

Even when we do not know who is watching in the physical sense we can always count on God watching every move we make. God says in Colossians 3:23, "Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men." Whether you are on the baseball field, the work place, school or in public, do not work to impress people. Work hard to glorify our lord and savior. People do not offer eternal life, only God does.

Keep this verse from James in mind throughout your daily walk, "My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry."

image
image

Brandon Miller, Seattle Mariners 6th Round Draft Pick, Currently pitching for the Everett Aquasox of the Northwest League (Short-Season Class A)

Total Surrender: Bryan Klendworth Olivet Nazarene

image-8.jpg
image
image

Like so many of you out there, baseball has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. In the same breath, going to church has been as well. I grew up going to church every Sunday. I understood what He (Jesus) did, but never really grasped the significance of His life and His teachings. It was not until the Summer between my Freshman and Sophomore year of College that I began to understand what Jesus meant in my life. I was out in California playing for the SoCal Catch (FCA) where we did a daily devotional. Throughout those two months, I could see my life starting to change. I was beginning to understand that baseball would end one day, but the faithfulness of Jesus Christ and my relationship with Him would be forever. That next year, I began to see small changes in my life and was excited about playing for another FCA team (Niagara Power) in the summer. However, everything I thought I knew about Jesus was completely flipped upside down. I was surrounded by guys who truly wanted myself and others to fully buy into what God had to offer. The brotherhood I experienced that summer, the genuine love of Christ, and accountability of my teammates was something I never felt before. For a long time, I was going through the motions, a lukewarm Christian. A summer full of tough conversations pushed me to want and need to know more about God everyday. My prayer is that we as ball players will be able to have those tough conversations with one another that lead to a complete surrender and trust in Jesus Christ. Questions will come arise, but if we dwell in the Lord and seek him first, we will receive wisdom and truth that will push us closer to him. The game of baseball is one of the best tools we have to share the incredible love of Jesus Christ!

Do You Want To Get Well?

image-4.jpg

The 2000 MLB season was one that Yankees fans will never forget. Not only were the Bronx Bombers World Series Champions, but four time All Star Chuck Knoblauch had the worst set back of his career. Arguably worse than any physical ailment a player could endure, Knoblauch suffered with what is commonly known as the "yips." Unsure of its cause, this mental issue disables players from making short simple throws. In the case of the Yankee second baseman, Knoblauch couldn't make the 45 foot throw to first base. The pinnacle of this particular case was when Knoblauch made three throwing errors in the first six innings against the Red Sox which led to him finishing the season in left field. Knoblauch is not the only player to have struggled with the "yips." In fact, entire books have been written on the mental block and how players can recover. Depending on the power of the stronghold, the "yips" have been known to end careers and ruin reputations.

As we read in John 5:1-13, there was a man who had been sick for 38 years. We are unsure of what his sickness was, but we can assume that the man was paralyzed because he needed someone to put him into the water to be healed. In verse six, the author says that "Jesus knew he had already been there a long time." (There was a large number of the sick waiting for moving water, legend had it that the first one in recovered from whatever ailment he had.) Then Jesus said, "Do you want to get well?"

What seemed to be an obvious answer, resulted in hopelessness. "Sir," the sick man answered, "I don't have a man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I'm coming, someone goes down ahead of me." This man believed that his circumstances were too great for any healing. Although he didn't say "no," his actions spoke louder than words. Weather it is a bad case of the "yips," or any other circumstances, often times we believe that our circumstances are too much to be healed from and grow to be content with the issue at hand. Like the man who had been at the pool for 38 years, we begin to let our circumstances define us.

Jesus responded, "Get up, pick up your mat and walk." With that, the man was healed. When Jesus said this, he was saying, "You are not defined by your circumstances, you don't have to stay in this place forever." The question Jesus has for you is this, "do you want to get well?" The loneliness of the sick man, Knoblauch, and many more, is great. But it is nothing compared to the power of Jesus Christ.

Jesus tells us that we can give him our burdens and he will take them. There is freedom found in his name. No matter how great of a burden we are carrying, Jesus is standing with open arms asking "do you want to get well?"

Prayer: Lord, I want to get well. May you take the lies of the world that tell me "I Can't." I know that you are greater than all circumstances, so I give mine to you now. Thank you Jesus for carrying my burdens and allowing me to pick up my mat and walk. In Jesus name, Amen.

image
image

Present Moment

image-3.jpg
image
image

All-American, Brandon Miller, Millersville University (D2 National Championship Runner Up)

Baseball is one of the only sports that causes players and coaches to look ahead into the future. One example of this would be when the coach relays to the catcher to intentionally walk the batter to set up for the potential double play. No one knows for sure if the double play is going to happen, but it is a chance that the coach will take.

With the coaches and players around us thinking about the future, it is essential that we stay in the present moment. Focus on hitting this pitch, fielding this ground ball, throwing the pitch for a strike or catching a fly ball.

This is how we as believers need to view our own lives. We must focus on God in the present moment and not worry about what will happen tomorrow. In Matthew 6 verses 25-27 Jesus is giving his sermon on the mount and is speaking on how believers should not worry. He says, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Then in verse 34 he adds, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

When we stay in the present moment we are able to realize how much God has blessed us and we can thank him for everything he has given to us.

By staying in the present moment and not worrying about the future we must also forget what happened in the past. God calls us to forget our short comings in the past because he forgave us and forgot our sins. Paul say is Philippians 3 verses 13 and 14, “One thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

In the present moment, have the end goal in mind. The goal of standing before God at the pearly gates and having him declare. “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

image
image

Brandon Mumaw, Buffalo Bulls

image-1.jpg

My name is Brandon Mumaw and I became a follower of Jesus Christ four years ago. I can remember our Baseball Team Chaplin, John Zeller, giving a message that really hit home with me and I experienced this feeling in me to accept the words I was hearing and make the bold decision to let Christ into my life and fully live for Him. Making this commitment was just the first step in my journey with Christ. Over these last four years as a follower of Jesus I have experienced the Holy Spirit working in me in many ways. But, these last four years haven’t been perfect, things don’t just immediately change and life is all of a sudden worry free, I’m not all of a sudden healthy, I don’t miraculously make friends and please everyone I meet, and allowing Jesus into my life doesn’t mean I have begun to live a perfect and sinless life. But, one thing that is different as a follower of Jesus is my confidence and faith in Jesus Christ, with Him as the number one priority in my life I am no longer afraid of what this world has to offer. I have confidence that my Lord has control over all things and I no longer let small things that used to worry and concern me bother me. I trust that our powerful Creator will still my fears.The book of Mark recalls a night where the disciples were in a boat with Jesus. There was a storm that night that caused the waves to go over the side of the boat. At the time, Jesus was asleep in the boat, so because the disciples were in fear they would drown, they quickly woke up Jesus. It only took a few words from Jesus to calm the storm, “Quite! Be still!” is what our All Powerful Lord said, and the waves and wind listened to Him and the sea became completely calm (Mark 4:35-41). We learn from this story that even the disciples who were living with and following Jesus at this time were experiencing “storms” in their lives. Even when we start living as a follower of Jesus, we will still have these storms in our lives, but because Christ is with us, these storms will not stop us from where we are trying to go, just as the storm did not stop the disciples and Jesus from getting to the other side of the sea to the region of Gerasenes (Mark 5:1). Whether the storm we encounter is the passing of a loved one, loss of employment, or some other tragic event, we can be confident that not all is lost, we still have our Lord and Savior controlling the storm and guiding us through life.

image
image

So What, Next Pitch

The great thing about baseball is we get to play again tomorrow. Regardless of the outcome, in the regular season, the next game is never too far away! For that reason, players and coaches alike have adopted the saying “so what, next pitch.” Meaning, forget about what just happened and focus on the next pitch.

Neglecting to have this “so what” attitude leads even the best ball players into slumps. A bad swing can quickly turn into a bad at bat which turns into a bad game and before we know it, we are 0 for 10 or even worse!

The apostle Paul talked a lot about having this attitude. You see, Paul had a dirty past; full of shame and embarrassment. But Jesus Christ died an embarrassing death on a cross (the cross was only used for killing the worst kind of criminals) which wiped Paul’s past, as well as my past and your past mistakes, totally clean. A man who once killed Christians was made new and turned into one of the most influential Christians of all time. He was given a second chance at life and made the most of it. He was only able to do this because God sent his only son to the cross to give eternal life to those who believed (John 3:16) which gives us a “so what, next pitch” mentality.

Paul gave advice to forget was is behind and strain towards what is ahead (Philippians 3:13). Jesus Christ set us free from our worst days so that we can play to our full potential from now on! So take Paul’s advice, accept the gift that Jesus gave us and live with the “so what, next pitch” mentality!

Forget the former things, do not dwell on the past. See I am doing a new thing. Isaiah 43:18-19

Prayer:

“Father God, thank you for sending your son Jesus to die for me on the cross and forgive me of the things in my past. Help me to live with the ‘So what, next pitch’ mentality. Amen.”