Keeping the Faith: Baseball's Paul Byrd
By Will Dawson
The 700 Club
If you pay any attention to professional sports, you know about all the headlines from last season in Major League Baseball. The Mitchell Report named 89 major league players who allegedly used steroids; among them, Boston Red Sox pitcher Paul Byrd. Recently CBN sports reporter Will Dawson sat down with Byrd and discussed baseball, steroids, and his struggle with pornography.
On August 12 of this season, Paul Byrd was traded from the Cleveland Indians to the Boston Red Sox. The Sox acquired the 14-year veteran in hopes of bolstering their pitching rotation for a return trip to the World Series.
Paul’s journey began at Louisiana State University, where he led the Tigers to the college world series. During college, Paul became a Christian, but admits he really didn’t know what being a Christian was all about.
Paul Byrd: I kind of found a loophole in the gospel, which is, you can believe in Jesus and He covers your sins, so I’m using grace as a license to sin. But, what was really cool is when I started experiencing God and interacting with Him. He changed me and the next thing you know, I want to be like Him. I found out God is so awesome and having a relationship with Him made me want to change my life.
Paul’s major league debut came in 1995 with the Mets, and over the next six years he played with four different teams. In 2001, Paul signed with Kansas City. But, shortly after, began having shoulder problems. Surgery was his only option.
Paul Byrd: My shoulder is just killing me. It hurt before the surgery; they said they fixed it, but it still hurts in there. I can see the writing on the wall. I can’t throw hard, my career’s about to be over.
The following year in spring training Paul finally asked God to help.
Paul Byrd: It’s 3:00 p.m., everybody had left. My arm’s killing me, I hop the fence. I’m back out on these mounds and I just asked God, the creator of the universe, ‘do you mind like, coaching me? And just maybe showing me a few tips on pitching?’ which sounds absurd. But, I just started going through my mechanics and started just imitating some people like Bob Feller with the Texas high leg kick, and swinging my arms a little bit like Warren Spahn. I just started doing it the next day in practice, and the guys at first laughed and thought I was joking around. But, when I finished they said, ‘I really had trouble picking up the ball, you may want to stick with that.’
The next season, Paul had the best season of his career, winning 17 games with the Royals. Professionally, he was on top, but personally he had some issues. In his new book, Free Byrd: The Power of a Liberated Life, Paul talks openly about his battle with pornography.
Paul Byrd: It’s like being a recovering alcoholic, you don’t want to ever say you’ve arrived or ever put your guard down and not respect the fact that you live in a battle ground here. If I run from that and hide, and put in a closet and don’t ever talk about it, it’s just going to grow and get bigger.
For Paul, the first step to recovery was being truthful.
Paul Byrd: One thing I’ve learned is, that if you’re just honest and you sit there with Jesus and you interact with Him, He meets you in the pain and you have a greater fellowship and now your weakness has become your strength. I don’t rejoice in the fact that I’ve made poor choices. But I rejoice in God’s plan B, which is intimacy with Him and sitting with me in the pain. And man, I wouldn’t trade the intimacy I’ve gotten with Him for anything in the world.
Having seen his share of ups and downs through his rollercoaster ride through major league baseball, Paul's journey was far from over.
Last season, Paul pitched the Indians to a six to four victory in New York to help the Indians eliminate the Yankees in the American League divisional playoffs. But Paul’s victory was short-lived, because just two weeks later, he was accused of taking steroids.
Will Dawson: In the ALCS it comes out that you were on the Mitchell Report, that you’ve done steroids. People were calling you a liar!
Paul Byrd: Yeah! Right!
Will Dawson: How do you handle that?
Paul Byrd: It was a situation where I did it through a licensed doctor. I got blood tests, I started taking HGH a while ago. I did it because I had lost a lot of weight. I had to send my family home that year. I was struggling with insomnia. I was struggling with sore throats, chronic fatigue.
Will Dawson: Before the allegations came out, or before your name was used, did you have an idea that your name might come out?
Paul Byrd: No! Not at all!
Will Dawson: Or were you blindsided?
Paul Byrd: I was! I was blindsided, because I had worked with MLB. Whenever they came out with a program they said, ‘here, you’ve got to turn in your paperwork. Here you have to notify your team and trainer.’ I had done so, even before I was with the Indians. I’m thinking I’m not going to be in any Mitchell Report or in any newspapers, because I’ve been working with them. It was something I wanted to talk about in the book. I didn’t want to hide and never bring it up, because I felt like fans who were interested in Paul Byrd thought, ‘hey man this guy calls himself a Christian. How could he do that?’ I wanted to give them my opinion of the situation and let them decide for themselves.
With the Red Sox in the thick of this year’s playoff race Paul Byrd’s journey continues, win or lose. But when times get tough, Paul remembers an experience he had which helps keep life in perspective.
Paul Byrd: When my oldest boy was born, man it was like, gosh man, here comes this little boy! My wife’s half Chinese and I’m looking at this little red-haired Chinese boy with my forehead and her eyes - most beautiful thing in the world and I’m thinking, ‘why were you so nice to me? Why did you do this?’ It was one of the most powerful moments of my life and I thought, ‘I’d give this little kid for nobody. I wouldn’t give this little kid for my best friend or for somebody that I love. But here God gave His little boy for me when I was separated from Him and didn’t want anything to do with Him and really was kind of His enemy. And He’s like, ‘no, I’m going to redeem you and repair a relationship. And I’m going to do it because I love you and you’re going to be transformed by my kindness.’ God really worked on me and showed me that in the end there’s really only one thing that matters, and that’s that you have a relationship with Him.
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