Former Major League Pitcher Struggled as Family Man
produced by Annika Young
interview by Andrew Knox
The 700 Club
CBN.com -As a major league pitcher for 14 years, Andy Benes came to love the spotlight of being a sports celebrity – so much that baseball came before everything important to him, his wife, his kids, and his faith.
Andrew Knox, 700 Club Special Reporter: Andy, very long, solid career. 2,000 strike outs, 155 wins. You were the number one draft pick. It would be difficult not to allow baseball to become your identity, wouldn’t it?
Andy Benes: It was totally my identity. And I think it started at a very early age. I learned that if I did well in sports that I’d get a lot of pats on the back. And so I was kind of an affirmation addict. I wanted to please people and get those pats on the back. And so I worked really hard at that.
Andrew Knox: Why was it important to you to be—to be a Christian ball player? Why was it something you wanted on the list?
Andy Benes: It got me more pats on the back. It was like, “oh my gosh, he’s a really good guy. Oh, he’s a Christian.” You know, it was like it was part of my resume.
Andy was so busy playing the part of the all American “good-guy” and baseball star; he had little left to give his wife Jennifer and their kids.
Jennifer Benes: He just wasn’t home even when he was home. He was distracted. In fact, I got pitching lessons for our oldest son Drew one time. And Andy came home and he said, “Where’s Drew? And I said well, he’s at a lesson, a pitching lesson.” He goes, “A pitching lesson? I’m a professional pitcher.” I said, “You’re not home. You don’t work with him. How’s he gonna learn how to pitch?”
Andrew Knox: Fans and players get the best of you. Your family gets what’s left over; where was God in that picture?
Andy Benes: Well, I would profess God. I would say, “Jesus is Lord.” But God was way down on the totem pole. It was –He was kind of like added to my resume; “I was the first pick, I had all these strike outs, I’ve an Olympic gold medal. And oh yeah, by the way, I love Jesus.” But reality was, I loved Andy.
When Andy retired after 14 seasons, Jennifer hoped things would get better. They didn’t. Andy was candid about why.
Andy Benes: Because I was selfish. And I felt like –I think a lot of times pro athletes, they don’t feel like they have any rules. They don’t have boundaries. They can do whatever they want without any accountability. Unfortunately the general public doesn’t see their home life, but we’re like that at home a lot, too. And who really suffers is the wife and the children.
Counseling was their last hope.
Jennifer Benes: The counselor said something to me that really hit me. He said to me, “Why aren’t you loving your husband well?” I said, “What are you talking about? I’ve sacrificed everything for my husband. How can you say that?” And he goes, “You’re not loving him. You’re not speaking the truth in love to him. You need to hold a mirror up to his face. You need to speak truth to him. That is loving him.”
Andy Benes: Jennifer said, lovingly, “All these people see the outside of the costume. We know what’s on the inside. Go live with all those people who think you’re great. Because after they’re with you for a short amount of time, they’ll know that all you care about is you, and what is good for you. So go live with them.” And she basically said, “Get out of the house and go figure it out.”
Jennifer Benes: I prayed and prayed and prayed and waited and waited and waited. And cried out and begged and wrestled with God many times. I knew that God did not want us to get divorced. I knew that. I knew it in my spirit.
One day during what was supposed to be a family day, Andy got the message God and his wife had been trying to show him.
Andy Benes: I went to a Pee Wee basketball game that one of my daughters was playing. I went and watched it. My family was there, sat by themselves. The game’s over, everybody left. And I didn’t have anywhere to go. And I went out in the car, and it was raining and it was a storm in St. Louis, and I just sat there and I just started sobbing. God broke me. I was so self consumed that God—it took a long time to humble me but God really humbled me that night and brought me to my knees.
With Andy committed to working on himself and his marriage, they both learned to love and appreciate each other and their lives together.
Andy Benes: [To Jennifer] In the time that we were apart, the thought that just kept coming to me, hour by hour, minute by minute, was I can’t live my life without this woman. I was trusting God that He would keep us together. Because I was just really scared that I was going to lose you.
Jennifer Benes: [To Andy] That’s really sweet. Something that I probably don’t say often enough, is how God’s gifted you with just—your strengths are just amazing. As much as I feel like I know you and I know as much as you feel like you know me, every now and then, you’ll throw me off a little bit. [Andy: I try to keep you on your toes.] You certainly do that.
Andrew Knox: Today I saw you playing ball with your son.
[Andy Benes: With our youngest].
Andrew Knox: Today I saw you in the pool with family. Does it ever strike you that you could have lost all this?
Andy Benes: There’s usually not a day that goes by that I don’t think about that. I’m just so grateful because I’m with the woman that I love and have loved for the last 30 plus years. We have six amazing kids, and a daughter-in-law who is awesome and our legacy could be a lot different had not the Lord intervened.
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