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FEATURE

St. Louis Cardinals: The Hit Man

By Andrew Knox
The 700 Club

CBN.com -

"In case you hadn't noticed, there's no shortage of power on the St. Louis Cardinals," says 700 Club sports reporter Andrew Knox.

Knox: "The man that keeps the offense hot is Hitting Coach Mike Easler. It makes sense -- he earned the nickname "Hit Man" during his playing days. But the road to the big leagues was a long one for Easler. He talked about the frustration of playing in the minors year after year."

Easler: "I was very angry. I played the game just reckless and abandon and I was always continuing to put up good numbers. I was hitting, I believe 7 out of 10 years in the minor leagues around .300. I made 3 or 4 all-star games, and everything was great, but I wasn't getting to the big leagues. I became angrier and after the game I went out and starting doing this, that, and the other, I just couldn't hold it in."

Knox: "His minor league accomplishments weren't enough to get him to the next level, and his reckless attitude wasn't helping either. This realization was devastating."

Easler: "I was hurting, I mean I was really hurting inside, I was confused, and I didn't know where to go. My back was literally against the wall."

Knox: "Looking back, Easler says God was trying to get his attention, but anger kept him from listening."

Easler: "He was trying to call me and He was there all the time, He was just saying 'Come unto me all who labor and all heavy laden, and I'll give you rest,' and I didn't know that I could have rest in Jesus Christ."

Knox: "But one afternoon that all changed at a minor-league game in Florida."

Easler: "A lady came up to me and gave me a magazine, and on the magazine it said 'Is your back against the wall? There's nowhere else to go? Try Jesus.'

"I thought I knew Jesus but no, the magazine said 'know Him personally'. So I read it, and I got on my knees in Coco, Florida. I asked the Lord to come into my life personally, and sincerely. I had a transformation, and it was as you hear, 'the peace, that passes all understanding' came upon me, and I just knew that at that time my future was in God's hands and I knew that He would lead the way, and I just began to trust and live by faith."

Knox: "Mike Easler was at peace. But what about his dream of playing for a major league team?"

Easler: "I had to stay three or four more years still in the minor leagues after that, so it wasn't overnight. But my attitude changed, my approach to the game changed, my approach with my family, my relationship with my kids, my mother and father, everything changed."

Knox: "In 1979 Easler's dream came true -- finally he was called up to the majors. He spent five seasons with the Pirates, followed by stops in Boston and Philadelphia. And this player who spent so many years grinding it out in the minor leagues, finished his career with the New York Yankees. Easler had made it to baseball's greatest stage -- Yankee Stadium. And it may surprise you to learn what was next for Easler. Before retiring in 1987, he became a minister in the Baptist church."

Easler: "I didn't know why I went into the ministry, that was in 1986. But a preacher told me that God was calling me, and I said, 'Well I'm still a baseball player.' But evidently God had a plan for my life, and this is coaching, and hopefully managing one day, and through that I can help these guys know a living God."

Knox: "Easler knows his job is to coach, but he also hopes the players see the difference God has made in his life."

Easler: "They know that I'm an associate minister in the Baptist Church, but you know, they know that I'm real. I don't take a Bible and beat them over the head with it. A lot of people would rather see a sermon than hear a sermon, and they'll know that you're a Christian by your love and your concern for them."

Knox: "Easler says that sometimes it's tougher to love the new generation of ballplayers. But he keeps it in perspective."

Easler: "If you're not willing to get on your knees, to humble yourself, to toss to these guys, to carry balls for them, to take the abuse, these young kids -- wet behind the ear, you've got to say this is just the way it is, this is the generation now."

Knox: "And what about those old feelings of anger? I asked him if he still battles them on occasion."

Easler: "Ooh I sure do. Sometimes it tries to rear its ugly head on me, and this is why we've got to pray unceasingly and stay close to the Lord and we've got to grow in Christ.

"We're not perfect as Christians but we're forgiven and this is why we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior because we need help, and we need help each and every day."

Knox: "It turns out baseball's been good to Easler. But he knows who's really responsible for his success."

Easler: "I love baseball with all my heart. But I love Jesus Christ with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength.

"I've learned now to trust in God, trust in a higher power, trust in Jesus Christ and to take one day at a time. But without Christ I don't know how anyone makes it."

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