Photo: blumoon photography
They say that a picture is worth a thousand words and Mitchell’s picture says what his life is all about I Am Second. Mitchell’s first priority in life is to glorify God in everything he does especially baseball where he gets to step on the hill and strike out batters. Mitchell’s story is very inspiring and I hope in some way it will bless you as it has me. In a way I guess you can call him the comeback kid.
Mitchell was born and raised in a suburb of Houston, TX, in a place called SugarLand. He lived there until 17, actually his family moved up to their ranch his senior year of high school. They got it around 2003 and finally just decided to make it home…the ranch is in Navasota, TX, which is about 20 miles south of College Station (Texas A&M). He has two loving parents, a younger brother, and a younger sister. This is what he said about them:
“To be frank with you, my family comes before everything but God. They are indeed my best friends, each in their own specific role and way, and I am so grateful for God blessing me with their presence in my life. We are extremely close; people say they haven’t ever seen anything like it. My brother actually will be attending TCU next year as a student, and my sister hopes to attend for volleyball, although she is only a freshman in high school.”
What made you go to TCU?
The distance and the “feel” of the campus…it just felt like the place I was supposed to be I guess. No place is perfect, and to be honest I was fortunate enough to have a lot of amazing options coming out of high school, but God made a way with TCU so here I am.
So instead of me trying to write his story for him, I’m going to let Mitchell tell it himself. So sit back and listen to this young man’s walk through adversity. In a way I guess you can call him the comeback kid.
To keep things as brief as possible…Going into my senior year of high school I had a good amount of attention from the professional end of baseball; I honestly didn’t know if I would be in Surprise, AZ or Fort Worth, TX come August…well, things started to happen I guess, weird things. My fingers started to go numb to the point where I’d look into my glove to make sure I was actually holding the ball. My command of the baseball obviously went completely out the window, and everyone started to notice. The pain started to show up, but I continued to tell no one except for my family. I thought it was in my head, I thought I was just being a baby, and I wanted to prove to my team that I wasn’t that draft guy all in it for myself; I wanted to win it for THEM. I did everything I could. Some of those moments on the hill are terrifying memories; I never knew a spot in the middle of so many people could make you feel so alone. As I continued to pitch through this monster of an injury, my mechanics began to break down simply because I didn’t really know where my arm was when I was throwing. Come first round of playoffs…had forearm tightness all week, of course that wasn’t going to stop me from throwing. I cruised through 3 innings, somehow finding ways to just throw strikes and get outs like I had to all year, but my arm really felt bad that day. 4th inning came, and there my elbow went. My arm shot back on a fastball with 2 quick outs already in the books. I tried to throw a curveball…50 footer. Motioned to my coach for one last pitch; I knew it was the last pitch I’d ever throw in high school. As the ball went soaring inside for a ball, I had an immense amount of pain. Weeks went by, MRI’s in the books…we still didn’t know. The day before the draft, we find out after another doctor’s diagnosis that I had Thoracic Outlet Syndrome; that’s what was causing all the numbness in my arm. I had surgery to relieve it, and figured the elbow would be fine because the MRI’s came out okay…as I rehabbed all summer, finishing 4 weeks ahead of schedule, I began to toss again, and with the tossing came the pain I knew too well. I got another MRI and found out I had actually ripped my UCL off of my forearm bone, and would need Tommy John Surgery to repair it, even though the ligament itself was not torn. TJ has an average recovery of 13 months…I was immediately medically red-shirted, and so the story continued. I got surgery on August 31, of 2012, and threw my first ball off of the mound on April 20, 2013. I should be clear for competition by mid-late summer, which would put me about 3 months ahead of the average pace, and to be honest, this is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. Yeah…I went from potential Day One pick in the draft as an 18-year old high school student, to a kid who wouldn’t throw a ball off the mound in 358 days in about 4 months…yeah, people said I was all hype, said I couldn’t handle the pressure, said that I would never come back from one surgery that ended Chris Carpenter’s career, let alone Tommy John Surgery immediately after…and yes, I have never had that much on my plate at once in my entire life…but never…ever…have I seen the light of Jesus so clearly shone upon my life as I have in these moments. As it says in Psalm 32:8…”I will instruct you and teach you in the way that you should go, I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.” That is EXACTLY what He did… He gave me confidence in that fact that I didn’t have to worry about my future, no matter what my present contained…He gave my a hope for what was to come and the fruit that would bear from the tireless work I put in…and He gave me every single thing I needed at the EXACT moment I needed it….
this isn’t the story of perfection; this is the story of someone who is eternally grateful for Jesus Christ and His ability to find perfection in my imperfection.
I needed these things to happen in my life for a distinct purpose…TOS and TJ are in no way hurdles to overcome; they are 2 pillars that kept my foundation from falling…They are the best things that have ever happened to me, and I pray I have received, and will continue to receive everything God has for me through these experiences…its been a battle, but moreover, it’s been such a blessing because He has walked with me every step. “To God be the glory.”
What a battle through adversity that Mitchell went through but his foundation in Christ helped him keep his focus through this storm in his life. Mitchell now shares how he made his faith his own.
Tell me about your Spiritual Journey in life?
Well, in case my story didn’t reveal enough…I grew up in a Christian home, accepted Christ around age 6 or 7, and can honestly say I’ve been a “pretty good kid” my whole life. I have never drank a drop of alcohol in my entire life, I am a virgin, and I haven’t committed any felonies unless a speeding ticket counts. But when I really made my faith my own, and really worked on “my walk” rather than the basic “good person” people think of when they think of a Christian, was when I realized God gave me a gift, and it was my responsibility to max it out. I have always dreamed of being a Major League Baseball Player till I can’t play anymore, and when I saw the signs that He equipped me to do just that, my entire perspective on life changed. I began to work hard, I found out what initiative, determination, resilience, and so many other things really mean…to be honest, as ironic as this sounds, the reason why baseball never was my identity is simply because baseball was the means in which I found out my true identity that comes from Jesus Christ. And now, the two are completely independent…I play for Christ, seeking to honor Him through this game I love so much. Baseball is a gift, and a means in which I can meet others that love Him or don’t even know Him…it’s a spiritual battleground.
It is inspiring to know that Mitchell is truly striving to be more ike Jesus every day. The sports world and media for the past few months have been talking about gay athletes. I wonder how many would talk about a baseball payer being a virgin. I’m guessing not many but young people need to hear more stories ike Mitchell’s.
Share your story of how Christ has changed your life.
The truth of Jesus Christ really gives my life purpose. Ultimately, I believe everyone tends to struggle with significance…and as an athlete; we tend to try to solve that problem through our respective sport, and with that come many other things. God made it clear early on that I was significant enough to die for…all of my lying, cheating, lusting, stealing, everything…He knew I would do it, and still died for me.
As soon as I UNDERSTOOD that, that was it for me; I knew that this life was going to be an extraordinary journey.
Each one of us are on a journey in life with its mountains and valleys, storms and rainbows and lessons along the way. The most important journey in life is our spiritual one because when it is all said and done, it’s the only journey that will matter.
When did you start your journey with Christ?
Officially age 6 or 7…but when it really became real and alive was around age 12-13 when I discovered the gift He gave me in the game of baseball…. because the game meant so much to me, Him giving me that gift just because He can meant so much more. I realized it wasn’t about me…it was about Him.
Who instilled your faith in you?
My parents set a Godly example from day one…if I ever have a shadow of a doubt of what to do, or what Godliness looks like, I look to them. I pray I can be half the parents to my kids, that my parents were to me…I don’t have words to express my love and gratitude for them. There just aren’t any.
When we walk on this earth there are people who help us by influencing each step we take in our journey in life. Here are some of the ones who have influenced Mitchell’s journey.
Was there someone one in your life who influenced you spiritually?
My parents, family as a whole, friends, Lecrae, Dr. David Pendergrass, and even people like Tim Tebow.
Is there someone now that helps you in your spiritual walk?
My family, Lecrae, Tripp Lee, Chauncey Franks (FCA Leader), Michael Lorenzen, and then to be more specific seeing I haven’t bragged on him yet, my brother. He is an incredible writer, has an awesome story of his own, and his transformation and walk is honestly a daily dose of inspiration for me to look up, get up, and never get up…He is one of my few heroes, even though he is 13 months younger than me. I love him very, very much.
Is there anyone who has changed your life or inspired you in your walk?
My Dad, my Mom, my brother, my sister, Dr. David Pendergrass, Lecrae, Tim Tebow, and Michael Lorenzen are the names that come to my mind. Actually there is one more…her name is Laura Valby; she is one of my best friends if not my best friend apart from my family. She has changed my life in so many ways it’s incredible. She is the epitome of what a Christian girl fixed with her eyes on Jesus looks like…she’s my superstar.
Where do you attend church at?
Community of Faith is the name of the church I attend back home. At TCU I attend a weekly chapel service called Ignite…It’s difficult to find a church here with baseball always on the weekend. But don’t you worry; I’ll find a way.
Did you ever have to choose between faith and sports growing up and today?
Kind of. I realized that what “baseball” may be to some, isn’t what it is to me. I don’t dip…I don’t cuss…I don’t look for fights on the field or talk trash…I don’t go sleep with “my girl” after the game, or find cleat-chasers to hang with following a big win…I have had to always keep in mind that baseball is a gift, and to whom much is given much is also required…I do everything I can not to take this opportunity a gift for granted, and part of that is refusing to mess around with those things and focusing on 3 things…my effort, my attitude, and my preparation. That’s plenty to work on…. Trying to be great is a daily decision, just as being follow of Christ is.
Is it hard to be a Christian and play college baseball?
Not for me to be honest. I don’t mean that in an arrogant sense by any means… temptation is always there. But He always seems to protect me from it. I’ve learned that if I live for people’s acceptance, ill die from their rejection…so I don’t seek to “fit in.” It’s not surprising that people think I am just a goody-goody teddy bear, or that its “cute” I don’t drink or cuss, or that I wont be tat guy that gets the hottest girl in the room…I expect those things, and day by day He has aided me in understanding how to deal with those realities, while never forgetting…the cream rises to the top; He has, and always will have my back. Dishonoring Him just because its “too hard” simply isn’t an option; it’s just not.
Any great stories of how you have witness to others about Jesus?
I do everything I can to walk the 1 Peter 3:15 life…always being ready to give an “apologia” for my faith…It’s not my job or my place to press Jesus on people. I don’t walk around telling people what they do wrong, what they should be doing, or how badly they need Jesus. Instead, I befriend people out of true love; I view people as people, not projects. If I am asked a question, which I am asked PLENTY, I answer the best way I can. I set the best example I can and realize my decisions don’t just affect me or impact my life… people are always watching. My life is my testimony; it’s my walk that I seek to be the ultimate witness to those who have eyes to see and ears to hear. People notice…doesn’t mean they change their lives on the spot, but they definitely see that I have a reason to do what I do, and if that puts the pebble in their shoe that they have to take a look at come sometime than praise God for that. And don’t get me wrong, I’m no where near perfect, nor do I try to be…I just do my best to be articulate about my life’s “why” questions, and do my best to let others know my hand isn’t fit for the gavel; im their friend not their judge.
Do your teammates know you’re a Christian?
Yes they do.
Has sports challenged your faith?
Absolutely. There was a time when all this happened with my surgeries, and I wondered if I had wasted the last 10 years of my life on something I thought I was supposed to do, but really wasn’t at all being called to do. The enemy sneaks into the smallest crevices…but I was reminded God is not the author of confusion it is that fact that immediately fired me up and got my roaring to go again. Any kind of hardship challenges your faith…but adversity is a beautiful thing; the greatest of characters are seared with scars.
What does it mean to be a role model?
My goodness…a role model. It’s humbling. Yeah…it’s very humbling because to be honest I’m not any more special than the kid who sits next to me in my Calculus class.
“You see, the definition of me changed the moment Christ stepped in…it is no longer I who lives, but He who lives in me; we are a team, an inseparable team. So when it comes to “being a role model”, I think that goes hand in hand with being a Christian…I’m humbled to be viewed in such an honorable manner, but I realize that I don’t deserve the credit, I don’t deserve the limelight…there is a One who deserves all of that, and His name is Jesus Christ.”
What a powerful statement about being a role model in today’s world. This goes back to Mitchell’s picture, I Am Second. Mitchell gives all the credit and glory to Christ for having the opportunity to be an example to others.
Is it hard as a Christian athlete w/ temptations that are all around you?
No doubt about it. Temptation is a battle for all people, Christian or not. Christianity doesn’t protect you from anything, if anything, it puts a big red X on your back. I’m a target, but I’m not alone…so I fall, I get back up, and I never stop fighting. The War was one 2000 years ago… so I really don’t worry about what happens to me or about the mistakes I make, those things are like a sunk cost; you knew they’d happen long before they did. It’s my response to all those things that acts as compass for the path I choose to travel…though I may fall, I will respond with my eyes on Christ.
Before a game do you spend time in prayer?
Absolutely. Before every inning, after I throw my last warm-up pitch, I get ball back, face home plate and pray whatever my heart has on it. After I give it up to him, I step onto the rubber, look up to home plate, and go to battle.
Does the team pray?
Some guys do. After we break from signs and whatnot after infield and outfield, most of the guys take knees individually and pray what’s on their heart, and most of them silently. Some guys get with one another though.
Are there other teammates who share your faith?
Yes, although I wont say them by name, there are a few other guys on the team that are believers and are active in their pursuit of Jesus and His calling on their life.
Geeze…so tough! Psalms is my favorite book, as I seem to give a lot of qualities similar to that of King David, or so I am told. I would say my favorite verse is probably Psalm 18:31-34…I love Psalm 91, 1 Corinthians 2:9, Romans 12:2, Jeremiah 29:11, Jeremiah 17:7, Matthew 17:20, and John 16:33 to name a few others.
What verse has been the most powerful to you with your walk with Christ and how has it?
1 Corinthians 2:9…”No eye has seen, no ear has heard, what the Lord has in store for those who love Him.” No matter what monsters I face in this life, and no matter how hard things get…He has my back, and He has me covered.
“All I have to do is continue to MAXOUT what He has given me in my life…because I love Him, He will be with me always…it’s only the beginning.”
We have been hearing so many stories of athletes in the news who have decided to share about their homosexual lifestyle, who have got arrested for drugs and so many other stories. Here is a story of a TCU pitcher who has given his life to Jesus Christ and who truly is a role model. Please share this glimpse into the life of Mitchell Traver with your friends, family and even ESPN. One day we will see the comeback kid take he hill and throw out a pitch for the Houston Astros. His story of keeping his faith through adversity inspired me and I hope it will do the same for you.
Mitchell thank you for inspiring us to walk our journey and MAXOUT what God has given us. We are rooting for you and know that God has a plan and purpose for you. Keep on walking in his steps.