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The remarkable success of the New York Yankees franchise has made them the most well known team in sports. Last season, a newcomer, Aaron Small added his mark by doing the unthinkable. He won his first ten games of the season, making him the 4th person in big league history to go undefeated for ten games without a loss. The 6’5 right-hander finally stepped in to his “Field of Dreams.” But judging by his accomplishment, you’d never know the long road he took to get there.
For over 16 years Yankees Relief Pitcher Aaron Small’s career has been like a roller coaster -- up, down and even further down. After eight trades and going back and forth from the majors to the minors, He’s learned a valuable lesson -- God answers prayer.
Aaron has never played with a team more than two years. A lot of that time was spent in the minors because of injuries. It was hard financially for him and his family. They would go weeks without any kind of income. But there was one thing he knew.
“Romans 8:28, All things work together for those who love God and who have been called according to His purpose. I’ve always taken hold of that,” says Aaron. “No matter what I go through in this game -- whether it’s get released, injuries, trades, whatever it is, sitting at home for a couple of months during the season not getting a job with a team. That’s always the verse that’s been real to me.
“I almost come to tears when I think of how supportive my wife is and how God has blessed me with a Christian wife. Without a supportive wife I doubt I would have made it this far. You know there’s been times where I’ve been feeling sorry for myself and my career, and she’ll be the one to kick me in the rear, saying, ‘Quit feeling sorry for yourself. Get out there and do it.’”
Year after year Aaron heard that message and continued to play. But in July of 2005, while playing on an AAA team in Columbus he came to a point where frustration was all he felt.
“It was a rough first half of the season. I had an injury. I got injured right after a reporter told me in Columbus that one of the pitchers on the team had gotten hurt. Kevin Brown went down with a back injury. I was probably going to make my start the next night and then be called up to take his spot in the rotation. Sure enough I go out that next night and injure my groin, strain my leg pitching in the fourth inning warming up before the fourth inning. It’s not even in the game, it's in the warm ups.”
Small’s chances of returning to the big leagues seemed distant. After spending six weeks in rehab, he returned to field. But this time, things were different.
Aaron says, “I was real inconsistent. Then I was pitching in a game down there, and they pulled in the third inning and said, ‘You’re going to the big leagues.’ They changed their mind the day I was suppose to leave. So then I kind of got away from being Christ-like. I started to say woe is me. I’ve always said that if the name on the back of my jersey didn’t say Small, it would say, ‘Woe is me.’”
Aaron continued to play and was told again he was going to the big leagues, but was denied once more.
“It was all of a sudden, ‘Okay, these people are messing with me now. I should be in the big leagues. They keep teasing me.’ Then sure enough, it happened about two starts later. They pulled me out again and changed their mind. Then I just… I was really tired of what was happening,” Aaron says.
Then on a lonely drive back from a break, Aaron called his friend and chaplain Bruce Sinclair.
“I called him and said, ‘Bruce, I’m driving back to Columbus now, and I don’t even want to come back. This is the hardest drive I’ve ever had to make in my life. I don’t even know if I want to play any more.’”
After many years of praying and waiting he decided to pray with his chaplain one last time.
“I said, ‘Just do me a favor, and just pray for me that God will give me direction.’ Sure enough we prayed. I pulled over. He read me some scripture, and I just had this peace come over me. I drove off to Columbus, went in the clubhouse, looked at the lineup card, and it didn’t have my name. It was somebody else. I thought, Well, they’ve had enough of me and now they are going to release me. They started another guy because they called me in, and they said you’re going to the big leagues. They said, ‘It’s for real this time.’”
Aaron had made it to the big leagues.
Aaron says, “It was amazing. Just as I got up to New York, I won the first game I was there. I remember praying, ‘God, I’m not praying for a win, or that I’ll even do good. I just pray that I will glorify You today. This might be my last chance in a Major League uniform.’ I went out there and won the game.”
Since then, Aaron has had over 10 Major League victories and is the first Yankees pitcher since 1979 to win his first ten games.
“I learned that it’s not about relying on Aaron Small,” he says. “It’s about putting my total faith in God. Whether it’s playing baseball or whatever I’m doing, it’s to glorify Him."
Aaron encourages others to put their faith in God.
"He’s an awesome God. He’s worth serving," Aaron says. "Last year when I got down to that low point, God pulled me out… He was already waiting for me to grab Him. If you’re at your lowest point, He’s going to pull you out of it. You’ve just got to reach up and grab His hand. He’s reaching down right now.
"If you don’t know Jesus as your Savior, man you’re missing out. He’s worth living for, not just here, but in heaven for eternity.”
A caring friend will be there to pray with you in your time of need.