95945_000_014The pros wanted him to pitch. Fine, he said, but there’s a catch …
Ever since I was young, I’d been taught that a mission is the right thing to do. Now here I am, finishing the last part of my mission in Iowa, and I’ll have a few decisions to make when I get home. Fortunately, one of the toughest decisions I had to make—whether or not to go on a mission—was also one of the best choices I’ve made.
After I graduated from high school, I was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers on June 5, 1993. I had already signed a letter of intent to play baseball for BYU, and my plan was to go to college in Provo. After I had gone through the long, difficult process and come to the conclusion that I was going to go on a mission, I told the [baseball] scouts of my plans. I was called stupid by some scouts. But I did have one scout—the one who drafted me for the Dodgers—who told me if I went on my mission it would only help me when I returned to come and play baseball again. He said that’s mainly the reason why I was drafted. He just thought a mission would help me.
Well, my mission has helped me in more ways than that scout will ever know. I’ve had days out here where I’ll think back to when I was pitching, and I’ve come to realize that in the mission field there are more important things than baseball. I don’t think I really realized that back home. My testimony has grown a lot. I’ve learned so much out here about what I believe and about why I was given talents. I can see now that I can play baseball to build the kingdom of our Heavenly Father if I use that talent correctly. Had I gone straight into baseball without going on a mission, I might have fallen into the selfish I’m-playing-baseball-for-me trap.
Learning those lessons has been one of the great things about my mission. That’s why I’m so happy I chose to serve a mission, because that summer after I graduated from high school I wasn’t sure what I would do. I had this tempting offer from the Dodgers, but I had also signed a letter of intent to BYU.
I’ve always had an above-average arm and above-average speed. But when I was growing up in Nogales, Arizona, I really didn’t like sports. I was into comic books and superheroes, stuff like that. But it was fun to go outside and play catch with my dad in the backyard. I signed up for T-ball and played Little League like all the other kids, and my interest in sports just caught on.
When I got to high school, I made the baseball team and was a starting pitcher my freshman year. So when I was drafted, I had to jump back a little and look at things. I had a big decision to make. Would I accept the Dodgers’ offer, or would I go to BYU? Would I go on a mission?
Through it all, my parents were great. They have always taught me how to make decisions. I remember when I was 14 and I was invited to play on an all-star team made up mostly of 16-year-olds. That was very exciting, but then I found out the team played every day—including Sunday. As soon as my coach said that, it just mortified me inside because I knew there was this great opportunity but there was also the issue of playing on Sunday.
I really didn’t know what to do, only that I had to make a decision before I talked to the coach. So I got down on my knees to pray, and I had this feeling that I should not play on Sunday. When I told the coach about not wanting to play on Sunday, he was totally fine with that idea. He told me he respected my decision, and that I could still play for the team.
Having already made that decision when I was younger really helped me as far as deciding about my mission and baseball. Once the Dodgers started talking money with me, I started getting really serious. I realized these guys were going to give me a lot of money to play ball for them. I needed to make a commitment one way or the other. I spent a lot of time on my knees never really feeling anything. I think part of the reason for that was because I was looking for the answer I wanted. I wanted to play professional baseball. I wanted that really bad.
Finally, by the end of the summer, I decided to sit down and kick everything out of my mind. Not long after, I had the feeling I should go to BYU and continue my baseball career there. I also had a strong feeling that I was supposed to go on a mission.
Many a major league scout came up to me and said the basic line, “If you play baseball you’ll be able to influence so many people.” I wondered if maybe that was what I was supposed to do.
It was during this time that I realized I needed to serve a full-time mission, and what the scouts were suggesting wasn’t for me. Now, almost two years since I was set apart as a missionary, I have a few new things to think about. Since the Dodgers lost the right to sign me when I went on my mission, I was eligible to be drafted again last June. I didn’t think any team would take a chance on me while I was serving a mission, but the Chicago Cubs did draft me. My plan right now is to finish my mission this month, and then return home and see what the Cubs are offering me. I’ll just have to wait and see.
Looking back on what has happened to me has helped me realize that the “sacrifice” I made to come on a mission was really not a sacrifice at all. I wouldn’t trade my mission experiences, good or bad, for all the money in the world. The Lord has made it possible for me to experience a mission and still continue to play baseball once I return.
I have loved my mission. I love baseball, but I also have loved the time I’ve been serving the Lord.
The Lord has given everyone special talents. It may not be to throw a fastball 94 miles per hour, but everyone has their own special gifts. If we listen to Heavenly Father he will guide us and show us the way to be most effective. I’ve learned that when I put my faith in the Lord, I’m going to be blessed. And that’s been the greatest feeling in the world.