A Slugger Saved by Grace
By Tom Buehring
The 700 Club
CBN.com- The Milwaukee Brewers’ Corey Hart was one of baseball’s young, rising stars. But he quickly found living a major league life was tougher than he thought. “When the lights come on that’s kind of when you realize if you’re a good ball player or not; because you can handle things. And being a big leaguer, it’s a lot more about being able to handle the other stuff than actually playing ball.”
Corey was drafted by the Brewers two days after his high school graduation. He left home to play in his rookie season with the Brewers’ farm team, the Ogden Raptors. He took a pair of habits with him. “I experimented with a lot of drugs and alcohol and I was, just like the rest of the popular crowd. I did things for attention and I didn’t really worry about consequences.”
He was arrested twice for public intoxication while playing in Ogden. He was close to being banned from baseball. “I was basically on two strikes and one more I was out. It definitely woke up my lifestyle.”
But Corey didn’t stop drinking or using drugs. He only became more careful. He spent the next three years rising within the Brewers minor league system.
700 Club Reporter, Tom Buehring: “Greer Stadium in Triple-A Nashville became Corey’s last launch pad before reaching his career goal. Before arriving, he became a husband and dad. So finally becoming a major league player, you’d think the home run hitter was rounding third and heading home – to happiness! Instead, things only got worse before they got better.”
Corey describes how his life unfolded. “The more money, the more notoriety you get, the more in the spotlight you are, the harder things are. I became more wrapped up in being a baseball player.”
The Major League lifestyle became a distraction as Corey became a success. The two-time all-star was a finalist in the 2010 Home Run Derby, and a fixture in the Brewers lineup. As his popularity grew, so did his ego. “I wanted so much to be the star. I wanted to be the idol, the cool guy. And my character just fell. It just fell far because my reputation was way more important than my character.”
Corey’s wife Kristina had a clear view of the situation. “He was really stressed out. It had to be all about his performance. I was at the point of giving up, really. I was at my breaking point and I just wanted it to be done with and over with.”
Corey grew miserable. “The selfishness, the arrogance, the priorities were so messed up. I guess it was a false self- confidence. Outside I looked like this confident kid and most guys, you know, he could hang with everybody here. But inside I was panicked.”
He neglected his marriage and his wife, Kristina. Tensions rose. And their growing family life with four kids suffered. “You see marriages fall by the wayside because there’s just one little thing that will make it all better. And guys tend to blow it off. I was that guy!”
At that time, their oldest daughter Alyssa was attending a Christian school. That’s when the 4th grade girl asked her dad a life-changing question! “(It was) A pretty simple Bible verse. ‘Hey, Daddy, what’s does this mean in John … John 3:30, He must increase, but I must decrease?’ A simple verse. ‘(She asked) What does this mean?’ (I said) ‘I don’t know.’ It took that to realize I needed to surrender.”
Corey searched for an answer – for Alyssa – AND himself. He read scripture, started attending church and team Bible studies. “I can’t get enough, I felt like He’s speaking to me and everything He’s saying is reflecting on my life and making me want to learn more.”
He began to look at his life differently. Priorities changed. He tended to his marriage and children. He began the 2011 season injured and struggled during his first month back on the field.
Then prior to one particular home game, Corey prayed - asking for reassurances about making a commitment to Christ. Then he came to bat. “I’m like, ‘I surrender, you know. If I’m supposed to be a Christian, if this is supposed to be my life, I can struggle all You want me to struggle. But, at least tell me I’m doing the right thing. I’m not asking for home runs. I’m not asking for anything. I just want to make sure that being a Christ follower is the right thing for me.’ I get in the batter’s box. I really felt like Somebody was holding me. All of a sudden the guy throws a pitch and I hit a homerun. The next bat, same thing - homerun. “(I thought) ‘What is going on?’ (I was) Expecting to see God like right there. Next bat, homerun … And He’s speaking louder than I ever imagined Him speaking.
Corey’s life turned around. He anchored his faith to his daily decisions. He grew and matured, and his marriage and family life was restored. “Jesus rescued me from being lonely. My family, my wife, my kids, they are my life. They’re everything and, you know, without Christ, that would all have been taken away from me.”
Kristina adds, “You think your marriage could be over with and done with. And all of a sudden it’s restored through Christ. And once we realized He was #1, our marriage was the best.”
The name and number on the back of his jersey, tributes to what’s become first in his heart while playing the game he loves.
“Everybody knows who Jesus Christ is, you know. But do you really know who He is? I didn’t know who He was. I just thought He was this guy that died on the cross. But I didn’t know why He died on the cross. I didn’t know what He stood for. That’s incredible to think that somebody was tortured and did that because He loved us. And to understand that love, I mean, that’s who He is.”
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