Paul Byrd: God is My Pitching Coach
By Will Dawson
The 700 Club
In baseball there’s a term for a player who has played for several teams: a journeyman. Cleveland Indians pitcher, Paul Byrd is a journeyman. In 11 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," explains Paul. "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. Like, what’s wrong here? This guy is psycho.' But he challenged me to read the Bible,” Paul 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 the Gospel really is true," Paul remembers.
The next three years, Paul wrestled with his faith. In 1991, he pitched Louisiana State to the college world series. But the victory didn’t satisfy him.
"Everybody was jumping around on the pile and things like that. 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 he surrendered it all to God.
"It was a time when God used that in my life to say, 'What's important? 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 and ... it will be the last guy on the team I think is interested. And 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," he says.
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.
He found himself at the mound and prayed to God, “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, like Warren Spahn. And I start doing that, and it starts feeling pretty good. But the hitters didn’t like it. They couldn’t pick up the ball; I got a little more velocity. And I was like, '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 and have separation from Him. He did that because He wanted a relationship with me when I wanted nothing to do with Him," Paul says.
"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’s going to offer that to you! The moon doesn’t reflect it’s own light. It reflects the light of the sun. And that’s what I want to do. 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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