CBN.com In baseball there’s a term for a player who has played for several teams -- journey-man. Cleveland Indians pitcher Paul Byrd is a journey-man. In eleven Major League seasons, Paul has played for six different teams. But it doesn’t bother him.
“I tell people I’m not good enough to stick with one team, but not bad enough to retire,” Paul says. “I’m kind of like a rent-a-player that somebody always wants. You know, I’ll take that job.”
Before he was introduced to the big leagues Paul pitched for Louisiana State University. He first heard about Jesus his freshman year at a Campus Crusade event. He was very skeptical of the message and the speaker.
“I thought he was in a cult. I’m like, ‘This guy is way too into it. What’s wrong here? This guy is psycho,’” Paul says. “But he challenged me to read the Bible. He said, ‘Hey, you see what it says.’ So I started to read the Bible, and it was like somebody was pursuing me. I couldn’t get God and Jesus off my heart, and I found out, hey man, the gospel really is true.”
The next three years Paul wrestled with his faith. In 1991, he pitched LSU to the college world series. But the victory didn’t satisfy him.
“Everybody was jumping around on the pile and things like that,” Paul says. “I had a lot going on in my heart, and I’m thinking we’ve just done what we’ve trained for my whole college career. What now? Is it this great? What now?”
Paul says God used the championship as a wake up call. It was then that he surrendered it all to God.
“It was a time when God used that in my life to say, ‘What’s important?’” Paul says. “What am I going to stand for? Five minutes before I die am I going to care about the fact that I won the college world series, or am I going to be worried about where I’m going?”
Paul is passionate about a number of things, and obviously baseball is just one of those. But ask him and he’ll tell you about his true passion.
“I’ll be sitting in the outfield and a guy will come over and start talking,” Paul says, “and it will be the last guy on the team I think is interested. It’s a guy that wants to know about the Gospel. He might be turned off with the church or turned off with religion, but he sees something different in relationship and he wants to know about that. It’s very powerful for me when I see people’s hearts turn to God. Man it fires me up like nothing else.”
Paul underwent three surgeries on his shoulder and arm during his career. He even believed God might be shutting the door on baseball. But that all changed at spring training in 2002.
“I went and I hopped the fence at three in the afternoon, and I just sat on the mound by myself and prayed to God,” Paul says. “And this is going to sound corny, but I said, ‘I never asked you this before but I need you to be my pitching coach right now. You’re all things to all men, and I need you to be my pitching coach.”
That’s when something happened.
“I get on the mound and I’m thinking of guys in the 50’s and 60’s that used to swing their arms, you know, Warren Spahn. And I start doing that it, and it starts feeling pretty good,” Paul says. “But the hitters didn’t like it. They couldn’t pick up the ball. I got a little more velocity. And I thought, ‘I should’ve asked you to be my pitching coach a long time ago.’ It was a really cool moment for me.”
God is not only his pitching coach, but his loving Father.
“I’m constantly baffled by the fact that there’s a being that loves me enough to give His one and only little boy for me, to have separation from Him,” Paul says. “He did that because He wanted a relationship with me when I wanted nothing to do with Him. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t wake up and think, wow! Somebody cares about me that much? There’s nobody in the world, I don’t care who it is, that is going to offer that to you!”
“The moon doesn’t reflect its own light. It reflects the light of the sun. That’s what I want to do,” Paul says. “I don’t want you to see Paul Byrd. I want you to see someone else. I want you to see the Son. I want to reflect him. It’s not about me. It’s about him. Hopefully when I leave you can say that. I was pointed to a Creator when I looked at that guy. That guy loved and that guy had a power that this world couldn’t understand.”
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