By Kyle Gibson, Minnesota Twins
Throughout most of my childhood and teenage years, baseball defined me. My life revolved around the sport. Looking back now, I realize it was in the absence of the game where God truly changed my life.
My grandfather was—and still is—a Southern Baptist preacher, so attending church was engrained in our family DNA. We’d go as often as possible (around weekend baseball tournaments, of course), but deep down I knew I wasn’t taking my faith seriously.
That all changed six games into my freshman season, when an elbow injury put me in a brace for several months. Baseball, for the first time in my life, could no longer be my identity.
Naturally, I was devastated, and I approached the following summer counting down the days until I could play again. But the injury had a life-altering side effect. It opened up my schedule so I could attend a summer camp with my church youth group in the mountains of North Carolina. That was the first time I had ever gotten away from everything, and the entire experience had a profound impact. On the sixth day—July 7, 2003—I made the decision to follow Christ. No longer was I just a baseball player. I finally realized I was a Christ-follower who played baseball.
Following high school, I had the opportunity to either go pro or attend college. It was an emotional decision for my family and me, but I trusted that God wanted me to go to the University of Missouri to develop physically, mentally and spiritually before turning pro.
Those thoughts were almost immediately confirmed when I reached the campus in Columbia. I met several other teammates who had a similar faith, and we were all interested in finding out about FCA. Under the guidance of FCA’s Scott Ashton, I really believe I grew more at Mizzou than I could have anywhere else. I had a solid group of believers as my core friends, and I even met my future wife, Elizabeth (who was a gymnast), through Mizzou’s FCA.
In 2009, the Minnesota Twins selected me with the 22nd overall pick in the MLB Draft. I was ecstatic; my dreams were coming to fruition, and I was one step closer to playing baseball at the highest level. At the same time, I knew hitting the road in the minor leagues would be a grind. I was engaged to Elizabeth at the time, so being away from her and my entire family was a real challenge. But through our faith, we were able to encourage each other and rest in the fact that God was walking with us through that time.
We married in 2010, as I was working my way up through the minors, but then I faced a major setback. I was experiencing elbow pain again. After visiting the doctor, I found out I needed Tommy John surgery, which meant 10 to 15 months out of the game. The news was difficult to hear, but I drew upon the experience I had as a 15-year-old when another injury took the game away from me. Had I not gone through the first injury and the resulting camp experience, this injury would have been crippling. Instead, with Elizabeth by my side, I underwent surgery and the grueling rehab to get back on the field.
A couple seasons later, after enduring many more ups and downs, I’ll never forget getting called up to the big leagues and making my debut on June 29, 2013. I recorded my first Major League win that night in front of my wife and parents and so many others who had supported me along the way.
Having faith in Christ doesn’t change my competitiveness. It doesn’t change how much I want to win or my preparation for every start. Instead, I feel like it allows me to do what God has put me here to do—to love others with His love and play baseball as passionately as possible.
Before I take the field, I pray that people see God through me. I want God’s light to shine through my actions, how I respect my teammates, and how I treat the media and everyone in the stadium. I want my legacy to be more about Christ and His love and sacrifice that saved me, not anything I have ever done or achieved on the baseball field.