The game of baseball is a temporary train ride where the conductor orders most of the passengers off the train before they reach their desired destination.
I spent over twenty years of my life as a passenger on this train, but a few weeks ago, it became apparent to me that it was time to get off. Baseball has been the air that I breathe, and the Major Leagues was always the desired destination. But just this past spring, after one last outing on Field 3 at the Orioles complex in Sarasota, FL., my life as an active player came to an end.
Over the last couple weeks, I have been reflecting upon my professional career and the long road that has led up to this turning point in my life. And it has been during this time that I have perhaps stumbled upon an invaluable secret that so many players seem to miss along the way.
The game’s most valuable gift to you is found in the ride; not the destination.
So many of us are so frustrated with where the game told us to "Get off" that we never take the time to focus on what the game gave us along the way.
Although it was not a smooth ride, I am grateful for what the game of baseball has graciously given me. The game has taken me around the world — literally! I have forged lifelong friendships with people from all different cultures, religions and countries throughout the world.
I have been given the humble gift of competing and playing the game that I love in front of thousands of people on the weekends but also the humor of playing in front of less than a hundred people during the week — my fellow minor leaguers know what I’m talking about. There’s nothing quite like the irony of playing a team called the Intimidators in front of a not-so-intimidating crowd of twelve people in Kannapolis, NC. (true story).
Baseball has also given me the gift of Unlimited Potential (unsolicited) All jokes aside, I could never write an honest reflection of what baseball has given me without mentioning the great men who have been so intimately involved in shepherding me and shaping me. These men who know my story best are well aware of the trials and setbacks that I suffered during my playing career. However, these trials became the very thing that God used to soften my heart and open my eyes to the wonders of how He works. I have come to a place in life where I can honestly rejoice in my suffering.
A New Destination
I gave my life to Christ during the 2014 season shortly after my first back operation. That definitive decision to lay down my identity as a professional baseball player and to embrace my identity as a new man in Jesus Christ changed my purpose in life forever.
The desired destination in the game was no longer my greatest desire in life.
Life surrendered to Christ as Lord created a foundation and a future far bigger than any prior dream to reach the Major Leagues. No longer was my “Why?” focused on building Matt Taylor’s Kingdom; instead my “Why?” became a focus on what God wanted to do with my life. I began to seek relationships with my teammates and peers in a manner like I had never done before. The field, clubhouse, training room and the road became practical places to radically love, serve, encourage and believe in others.
What the Trials have Taught Me
We will all go through various trials in life, and it is naïve for us to ever assume otherwise. One of the greatest pieces of advice that I have ever received on enduring the trials that will come was from Levi Lusko’s book titled, Through the Eyes of a Lion. In the book, he gives some eye-opening details into the great trial of losing his young daughter, and it was this quote that has spoken to me so loud and clear:
“It is also crucial that you don’t wait for a crisis before you get these sorts of rhythms in place. You must train for the trial you’re not yet in. The worst time to try to get ready for a marathon is when you are running one. We made the decision as a family to plant ourselves in the house of the Lord before the bottom dropped out, and as a result, we had the root systems in place when we needed them the most.”
The most important thing that the ride in this game has taught me is learning to ask the question,
“On what is my foundation is built? What is my identity rooted in? And is my foundation and identity found in something that can be taken away in just ONE moment or ONE pitch?”
I have written this with love for everyone who reads it. At some point along the way, the proverbial trails of life will ultimately come upon all of us. At some point in life we will arrive at a turning point. Are we building our foundation on the ever-present God who created heaven and earth and moves the mountains or are we putting all of our hope in something that can be stripped away at any second?
For most of my life my foundation has been rooted in a game which could be removed from me at any point. My faith and hope has been placed in something that was neither eternal nor secure. However, it was the ride in the game that helped reveal that to me.
Thank you baseball for helping me discover a passion and a radical love like no other, but more importantly thank you Jesus Christ for revealing to me that you are the stable foundation to build my identity upon. Life with you is eternal and secure. You are the cornerstone of my life, and I am forever grateful that God’s brilliant wisdom and powerful sovereignty used the most beautiful game in the world to change my heart and my future.
Follow on Twitter: @MaTaylor24