Another feature on the site I wanted to bring was talking not only to professional athletes, but to prospective athletes as well. This involved talking to some minor league baseball players after they were drafted. I wanted to see how they glorify God with their play both in college and how they are preparing for that as they start their professional career.
For this interview, I talked with Oakland Athletics’ draftee Ryan Mathews. Mathews was taken in the 27th round by Oakland out of North Carolina State University. NC State went on a great run in this year’s College World Series, as they advanced to the Super Regionals before losing to the top seeded Florida Gators. Ryan has also been a part of an organization called Athletes In Action, which has helped to strengthen his faith in Jesus as well as members of his team that take part in a Bible Study. Also, he has already spoken about God to two of his teammates down in Phoenix, Arizona.
Here is my Q+A with Ryan. I hope you all come away from it as encouraged as I was:
- How did you come to know the Lord?
Ryan: I grew up in a Christian family. I was going to church every week ever since I was born, but never really lived it. I went my own way in high school and early college, living life nowhere near what a follower of Christ would live like. I got into a lot of wrong things through high school and it wasn’t until the end of my freshman year of college when I realized I had something missing. I knew it was God, but how do I get close to Him? When I came to NC State, I got involved in a Bible Study and it was a key point to me opening up the Bible for the first time and reading the Gospel. I went with Athletes in Action on a mission trip to Alaska that summer. Allowed me to see what it means to stand for Christ. I got baptized at the end of summer.
2. Who have been some of your role models on and off the field?
R: On and off the field, it would be Christ. I am Constantly reminded of Christ’s humility. Often, in sports, it is easy for athletes to try to elevate themselves over other people and society could do that too. I am always drawn back to the Gospel to the way He lived life on Earth and the humbleness He showed on Earth. Living in a world where most athletes are tempted to be higher than they should be.
3. What is your favorite Bible Verse and how has it exemplified your walk with Christ?
R: The Bible verse I write the most during autographs is John 16:33. I like that verse a lot and it relates to my journey because I have had a lot of setbacks in my athletic career. It could have been easy to give up especially in baseball, which is a game of failure. Jesus tells us you will fail, but not to worry because Jesus has already overcome the world.
4. Talk about some of the fellowship you had in college at NC State or in pro ball now. Can religion and sports co-exist today?
R: Definitely. I had a lot of great experiences at NC State. I got involved with Athletes In Action and the organization changed my life through Christ. Several guys in the team are on it as well and it was the reason I came back to my senior year after being given option to become professional. It is compromised of other believers in the athletic program. It was life changing! So many athletes seeking to live through the same way I was. In terms of co-existing, we could use our lives in sports to spread the Gospel. We are Christians that play a sport, not athletes. The way we play the game and the failures and successes allow us to carry ourselves and encourage other guys in a team-oriented sport. The teamwork allows us to build relationships that we don’t get often with non-believers.
5. If a teammate was curious about your faith, what would you say to them?
R: I have actually been able to meet two believers in pro ball. I love opportunities to share my faith. It’s easy for me to relate to the guys who aren’t Christian because of my experience. It gives me a great platform to share Christ for what He has done for me and relate to their life now.
6. For those who don’t know you, what sports player would you say your game resembles?
R: I would compare myself to Tim Tebow because I am not ashamed about my faith. People at NC State probably got sick of me talking about God and Jesus. When someone interviews me, I talk about faith over baseball because God deserves all the credit and the glory! I would rather be remembered as a follower over Christ. I actually had a class with Tebow my first year at Florida.
7. Talk about the great run you guys had at NC State in the Super Regionals!
R: It was awesome. We ended up having over 40 wins and hosting the Raleigh Regional and winning it. The coolest thing about our run was that we had a big lead against Vanderbilt and they came back and beat us. We were in the loser’s bracket and everyone was down. It was shocking to go from having such a huge lead and being in the driver’s seat to facing elimination after losing lead in the 8th and 9th inning. It was late at night, so we had to play a doubleheader the next day. We didn’t have any time to process anything. We won first game vs. UNC-W and then beat Vanderbilt by one run. We played Commodores for championship with no pitching. We got down early by several runs. Down four runs in the 8th inning, we scored five runs in last two innings to win the regional! A miraculous comeback! In the locker room, I kept hearing guy after guy saying they were praying and knew God answered our prayers, even some who did not follow the Lord! Forget the championship, but to hear ten guys says something like that.
8. As you progress through the minor leagues, what is the one thing you are working on improving about your game?
R: Consistency. Major League Baseball involves playing a lot more games and with wooden bats. There is a lot better competition and once you get here, everyone is really good. There is nothing too much specific. I just got to practice and work hard and do the best that I can.
– We at Jesus N Sports wish Ryan the best of luck with his pro career and pray that he continue to glorify God on and off the baseball field. You can follow him on Twitter: @RMath13