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  • Padres First Baseman finds Success through Attitude and Faith

    Sep 23, 2010

     Adrian Gonzalez, the three-time all-star first baseman for the San Diego Padres has Psalm 27:1 inscribed on his bat. That Bible verse reads, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”

    “It is a reminder that when you are in a tough situation, God is in control,” Gonzalez says. “I put it  with my autograph in hopes kids would ask what that is and take time to read it. Hopefully it will lead them to the Bible.”

    Gonzalez gives credit for his success071710AH012_Diamondbacks_Padres

    Gonzalez tries to take whatever opportunity comes along to talk about and show his Christian faith. “I have success in baseball, but I know that is because of the Lord,” he says. “I know my preparing, my hard work definitely plays a part, but it would not be done without Christ.”

    Gonzalez, who signed right out of high school with the Florida Marlins in 2000, signed with the San Diego Padres in 2006. When asked about his best pro-experiences, he says, “Three things come to mind: being drafted number one overall in 2000, being called up to the big leagues for the first time in 2004, and playing in the playoffs in 2006 with the Padres.” His major league debut was April 18, 2004, and his first major league homerun was April 25, 2004.

    He wanted to have a strong marriage

    When Gonzalez married his wife, Betsy, his desire to have a strong marriage led him to a deeper commitment in his faith. “I felt in 2003 I needed to get deeper in my relationship with the Lord. And my wife, Betsy, had a strong relationship at the time, so as a married couple we decided we should have our relationship with the Lord be the foundation of our marriage.”

    Dave D.*, AIA staff member and spring training chaplain for the Padres in Arizona, adds, “Adrian and Betsy understand two things really well: First, they understand the significance of the platform that they have been given to share their faith in the Lord, as evidenced by their sharing at Faith Days at ball parks around the country and by producing and buying testimony cards they give out to people. Second, they understand the responsibility to provide spiritual leadership on their own team, as evidenced by the Bible studies and get-togethers they host for guys on the team and at hotels on road trips.

    “You don’t just get that spiritual leadership role by raising your hand or claiming the spot,” Dave adds. “You earn it by having a consistent [life] of integrity. Adrian has that with his teammates as well as with others around the league.”

    “Adrian is…someone I rely on to help me stay on course”

    Teammate Chase Headley says, “Adrian is a tremendous person, someone I rely on to help me stay on course with my walk with the Lord. He is always taking the lead for planning Bible studies. He and I will get together to decide how we will proceed with doing Bible studies with the rest of the guys on the team. You can really tell how he puts the Lord number one before anything else in his life including his career in baseball. You just see the way he goes about his business and how important it is for him to represent the Lord the right way.”

    Gonzalez, who was born in California, but lived in Tijuana, Mexico until the age of 13, says, “Since [Betsy and I] have been in baseball, we have been involved in several ministries such as Baseball Chapel and Unlimited Potential, Inc. (UPI). We put ourselves around people who will help us grow in our relationship with the Lord. Now I try to live [as He would have me to live] every day and to let others see my walk so others can come to Christ. Anytime I can share in public I try to take advantage of that as Christ would want me to do. I try to do what I can to lead others to Christ.”

    “It is cool to see a superstar stay humble”

    Pastor Miles McPherson of the church, The Rock in San Diego, where Gonzalez and his wife have attended, says, “Adrian has a strong foundation that runs deep and consistent with his commitment to Christ. His faith is unwavering, and he is very responsive when called upon to serve.”

    Brian Hommel from Unlimited Potential says, “Adrian does not allow the game to change who he really is. He does not allow the game to determine his significance in the world. He finds that in Christ. It is cool to see a superstar with his talent continue to stay humble. UPI goes on missionary trips to several countries to participate in clinics and share the gospel, and Adrian has been a part of some of these trips. He also has gone to orphanages to visit kids.”

    Kids are a big part of Gonzalez’s ministry

    Kids are a big part of Gonzalez’s ministry. Not only does he work with kids in clinics, but he and his brothers, David Jr. and Edgar, along with his parents, started the Gonzalez Baseball Academy to help instruct kids in proper mechanics and fundamentals of baseball. They also take the time to share their love for Christ.

    When asked how Christ has changed or shaped his life, Gonzalez said it has affected his life “in about every way, including being the best husband to my wife as possible and striving to be the best person I can be; also, in my attitude in baseball,” he adds. “It used to be if I went 0-4, I’d be mad; if I went 4 for 4, I’d be happy. Now it does not matter. Now it is in my attitude toward Christ. I read a golf book called ‘Seven Days at the Links of Utopia’ by David L. Cook. There is a line in it that I translate into baseball terms: ‘Success is not dictated in a box score, it is dictated by one’s attitude toward Christ that day.’”

    *Full name withheld at staff member's request.

    By freelance writers Mark E. Darnall & Bruce A. Darnall

    Photo Credit: Andy Hayt/San Diego Padres

  • Gifted Athletes; Gifted Individuals

    Sep 20, 2010

    Cocky. Brash. Overpaid. Immature. Prima donnas. Many of these words are often used to describe professional athletes and coaches alike today…yet we as a society immortalize them nonetheless.

    WE the general public, and the media are much to blame for the creation of their larger-than-life profiles. We make others wealthy by watching their reality TV shows, reading their Twitter accounts, and listening to their latest tabloid updates.  We attend their games, collect their memorabilia, seek their autographs, and covet their celebrity status. We, at times, seemingly live vicariously through them—all the while making them out to be some Greek god-like individuals.

    Now, I acknowledge that professional athletes possess God-given abilities to accomplish many feats that most only dream of. I admit that many have an unparalleled work ethic, and realize that they are entertainers. However, I am suggesting that in the process of idolizing them, we often diminish the other gifts and abilities that God has personally granted each of us:  some are great teachers and pastors, while others are gifted electricians and technicians, still others are decorated doctors, designers, cooks and construction workers, judges, plumbers and maintenance workers. Ephesians notes that each gift is intended to help, encourage and build others up—not one is better than the next—after all we need each other.

    Regardless of your lot in life, make the most of it. As Martin Luther King Jr. penned, “If you are called to be a street sweeper, sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.’”

  • AIA Track Athlete Thrilled to Compete with Elite in Belgium this Summer

    Sep 10, 2010

    Matt Daniels at Oordegem (2)

    A senior at the University of Mississippi had the experience of a lifetime while competing on an Athletes in Action track team in Europe this summer.

    Matt Daniels was invited to run in a “USA vs. the world” 4X400 meter relay in a meet in Heusden-Zolder, Belgium along with three other USA elite athletes. The meet managers of the KBC “Night of Athletics” Meet invited Daniels to run in the race against top teams

    from Belgium, the Netherlands, and the Czech Republic.

    “It was a great feeling to compete with some of the best athletes in America against some of the best athletes in the world,” Daniels says. “Our coach, Mike Crowhurst, helped me see how the AIA principles could help me maximize my ability physically, mentally, and spiritually to compete at the world-class level.”

    Daniels and his teammates, including LaRon Bennett and Donald Sanford, ran 3:02:95 to finish second to the Belgian “A” team. On the way Daniels ran a personal best 400 meter split of 46.03. “It was really great to represent our country, and then to find that most of my teammates were Christian athletes gave us the opportunity to lift up the Lord as well,” Daniels says.

    Following the meet, the team returned to their home base in Leuven and went out for a late dinner. While at the restaurant, Daniel’s race came on television and patrons of the rAIA Team Belgium (2)estaurant realized that he was the runner on TV. “I not only got to represent the USA for the first time, but I also go to see myself run in a televised meet, and that made for a really cool day,” Daniels added.

    The 12-member AIA track & field team competed in five meets during three weeks in Belgium this summer.

    Top photo:  Matt Daniels in 400 meter at Memorial Léon Buyle meet in Oordegem

    Bottom photo:  AIA European track & field team

    By Dr. Mike Crowhurst, affiliate staff coach, AIA track & field, Somerset, KY

  • Matt LaPorta: A Gift

    Sep 3, 2010

    2action LaPorta pic (2)

    By freelance writers Mark Darnall & Bruce Darnall

    Photo credit:  Dan Mendlik/Cleveland Indians


    Matt LaPorta, first baseman for the Cleveland Indians, grew up a Chicago Cub fan, just like his dad, Vince. When he was drafted surprisingly low, in the 13th round by the Cubs, Matt had to decide whether to take it or go to college. It was a hard decision because he always dreamed of playing for the Cubs, but he decided to enroll at the University of Florida on not only a baseball scholarship but also the highly regarded state scholarship called Florida Bright Futures. His mother, Cindy, comments, “Although Matt was disappointed with the 13th round, I shared that there is a reason for everything and we don’t know God’s plan. He was not ready for pro ball; but over the four years at Florida he grew and matured physically and spiritually. He touched many lives during his college years.”

    Matt attended church regularly all through elementary school even when on occasion his parents did not attend. “I will never forget when Matt was in 7th grade,” his mother shares, “he got on his roller blades and went several blocks to a store that sold concrete statues. He brought home for me a two foot concrete statue of the Crucifix to hang in my house. He paid for it from money he saved. I treasure that to this day.”

    While in middle school, he met a youth leader, Tim Gretzler, who is today still a friend. Matt started attending Freedom Bible Church, where his relationship with the Lord Jesus started to grow and take shape “to the point where he went forward to receive Christ in his heart and be saved,” shares his mother.

    Upon graduating from Charlotte (FL) High School, where Matt was an excellent student and provided leadership in student government, baseball and their high school Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) huddle group, Matt moved on to the University of Florida. During his recruiting trip he met a group of students which included Dara Altman. In the fall Matt immediately sought out Florida’s FCA group. At the first meeting, he saw Dara again, who was on UF’s track team as a pole-vaulter. “I was really surprised to see him at the FCA meeting,” Dara shares, “but I thought it was neat. We became friends and we dated a little his first year. For the next three years we did not date. When he graduated in May, 2007, we began to see each other again.” Matt and Dara were married in December, 2008.

    Dara was a preacher’s kid and grew up in a loving Christian environment. “I have great parents and my father was my youth pastor until I was 10,” Dara shares. “Then my parents started Grace Family Church in Tampa where my father is senior pastor. Grace is our home church which we attend in the off-season. “Pastor Craig Altman, Dara’s father, said, “Matt asked us for permission to date Dara which we were happy to see because we want him to know how much we value our daughter. We found Matt to be sensitive, teachable, and hungry to grow and learn in his faith. He had a heart to serve God in his life and looks to God to use him to influence others.”

    Matt was drafted very high in the first round in 2007 by the Milwaukee Brewers and played in their farm system. In 2008 he played double A ball in Huntsville, Ala., plus a month with the 2008 Olympic team in Beijing, China. The Cleveland Indians acquired Matt in 2008. Matt made his major league debut May 3, 2009. The summer of 2010 he came up to the Indians to stay. “The best pro experience I have had so far was being called up to the major leagues and the recent first ever ‘walk off’ homerun,” says Matt.

    “I first met Matt during spring training 2008 in Arizona at a church service,” says FCA staff member Brian Beltramo. “During our conversation he asked me if I could help start and lead a weekday Bible study while the Brewers were at spring training. Mind you, this is a rookie showing this spiritual leadership.”

    When asked how he shares his faith, Matt responded, “I try to lead by example and ‘use words when necessary.’ I hope the way I carry myself would reflect my faith and trust in the Lord.” Beltramo emphasized, “Matt’s faith is not silent but he is very outward and not ashamed of the gospel.” One of Matt’s favorite Bible verses is Psalms 34:1: “I will extol the Lord at all times; His praise will always be on my lips.” Matt seeks opportunities to praise the Lord.

    Teammate Justin Masterson shares, “I love Matt. He is a believer on the team with whom you can talk and share joys or concerns. His love for the Lord is tremendous, and he is always searching and growing in his faith.” Masterson goes on, “He is feisty and emotional with great passion as a player and great passion for Christ. Matt is also a fun guy to be around.”

    “I find Matt to be spontaneous,” says Pastor Altman, ”like when he stopped to help a stranded motorist or gives some financial assistance—to people he really does not know.” He goes on saying, “Matt is quiet and generous, but he does it in a low key way. He has a real heart for the ministry and he continues to grow in his relationship with God through Christ. He reads a lot on leadership, and he has a real heart for special needs children, like his mother who is a special education teacher.”

    Dara very proudly shares, “Matt grows stronger in his faith every day and he has grown to be the spiritual leader I need at home.” She continues, “It has been fun to grow together in our faith. We try to live in peace and hope and live by example as Jesus related to people. We take whatever opportunities we have to share our faith with others.”

    In May, Matt and Justin enjoyed sharing their faith at Family Faith Day. A verse Matt takes to heart is I Corinthians 1:31 which says: “Let him who boasts, boast of the Lord.”

    Like anyone in professional sports, there are many struggles that must be faced. “I find the injuries and the frustrations in wanting to perform on the field as well as being away from my wife and family the biggest struggles as an athlete and as a believer,” Matt says. “I have to constantly remind myself that it is not me who achieves but I achieve because of my Lord. One has to stay in the Word and be strong.”

    Dara comments: “With all the lows and struggles in baseball, Matt has kept his eyes on God, and he has not placed blame on God. We have not changed our faith in God. God never changes, never changes the truth that we know God is good and He loves us. God’s plan for us is better than our plan. We will stay the course.”

    FCA’s Beltramo shares about Matt and Dara, “My wife, Sherry, and I have developed a wonderful relationship with Matt and Dara. We asked them if they would want us to be a pastor and shepherd to them and be a role model to help them excel in their marriage.” The Beltramos speak often with them on the phone and “we pray with and for Matt and Dara. We love them. We see there is a lot of joy and love in their lives.”

    “Matt was named Matthew,” his mother shares, “which means Gift from God, because we almost lost Matt at birth. We truly believe Matt was a gift from the Lord. Now as a Christian, Matt shares his gifts with others. “

    When asked how has Jesus Christ changed or shaped his life, Matt says, “Christ has made me the person I am today. He has given me strength to live each day, and I trust He will continue to shape and mold me to the kind of person He wants me to be. I try to be caring, a good listener, and a faithful servant of Christ.”

  • New Football Season; New Hope

    Sep 1, 2010

    The warm summer sun is giving way to the brisk autumn air, and with that comes the exchange of the baseball leather for the pigskin of the football.

    With the start of a new NFL season and another college football year comes the dreams and aspirations of what may be. At the beginning of each year every team is equal, every school has a chance at winning a national championship, and every fan firmly believes that their team can make it to the Super Bowl—everyone has hope.

    As individuals—it is imperative to never let go of hope—regardless if times are good or seemingly bad. It is said, “Man can live about forty days without food, about three days without water, about eight minutes without air, but only one second without hope.” You see, hope is faith that holds its hand out in the dark; hope is a means of making dreams a reality; hope is the power that gives us the courage to step out and try. Now it should be carefully noted that hope, for merely hope sake can be foolish if that hope isn’t originated in the solid foundational truth of the Bible, but hope through a proper lens and perspective is the pillar that holds up the world.

    Hope fuels faith. And as Hebrews 11:1 states:  “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Inevitably, life will throw you a curve ball…a family member suddenly loses his job, a close friend acquires a terminal illness, a natural disaster wipes out a community. Tough times unfortunately happen, that’s reality. But even in those unexpected moments it’s important to hold onto hope—living with the same mindset that Albert Einstein did, “Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.”

  • A Day in the Life of an AIA Volleyball Player

    Sep 1, 2010

    jimmy lundgren (2) Jimmy Lundgren, a student from Azusa Pacific, had the opportunity to play with the AIA volleyball team in Brazil. Here is a first-hand account of his experience on the trip:

    June 19, 2010, will go down as one of the most memorable days of my life. On that day I was able to see God work in me in a way that I had never seen before.

    The day started off very difficult and frustrating. I was playing a new position, the libero. I was enjoying it but on this particular day I was not playing well at all. After practice, I got back to my room and was down on myself and very frustrated and embarrassed by the way I had played. I prayed for God to give me confidence and strength in whatever my role was going to be for the team that night at our match.

    That night, I got to start and played the entire game. My teammates continued to compliment me and lift me up which gave me the confidence to play well. At this point, I knew that God was working through me to play better. We lost in a close match but I played to the best of my ability and gave Him the glory. It was awesome.

    After the match I had the opportunity to meet with one of the Brazilian players and I also gave him a [wordless gospel] bracelet because he is in the process of coming to Christ. He said he wants to pursue God and learn more. By the time we were done talking, he was crying and so appreciative of my teammates and me for the love and support we offered him. As we parted he hugged me hard for a long time.

    Later that day I met up with him again because he wanted to give me a gift. He gave me his grandmother’s rosary necklace and said, “Take this, my brother.” I was in shock and awe and started to cry as I hugged him. It was an amazing moment as I saw the love we both had for each other and the connection we had made. When we said our goodbyes we hugged each other again and he said, "I love you, my brother,” and I said the same to him. Simply amazing.

  • Buckeye Practice at AIA Sports Complex a Success

    Aug 27, 2010

    DSC02416On Friday, August 20, The Ohio State University football team spent the entire day in a retreat and practice session at the Legacy Center in Xenia, Ohio, home of Athletes in Action. The day featured two practice sessions by the 2009 Rose Bowl and recent five-time defending Big Ten champion Ohio State Buckeyes. The morning started out with a light practice session, and continued, after lunch, with a full inter-squad scrimmage. The practices were closed per NCAA regulations.

    The Buckeyes are ranked #2 in some 2010 pre-season forecasts. The team has nine returning starters, and the expectations are high for the first preseason game on September 2 against Marshall University.

    The team had access to the 253-acre Legacy Center, and they used the four dormitories, the conference and retreat center along with the state-of-the-art sports complex with its high-quality synthetic turf.

    Athletes in Action staff member Jim Schmidtke reported that the OSU coaching staff were extremely impressed with AIA personnel and the facilities. One of the OSU coordinators said to Schmidtke, “Your people were fantastic. Being in a place with such a meaningful history gave the young men a sense of destiny.”

    Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel is a strong supporter of AIA, and he will be starting his 10th season at Ohio State after several successful seasons as head coach at Youngstown State.

    Schmidtke first met Tressel when he was a quarterback coach at OSU in the early 1980’s. “He is really the same guy now. I remember telling my wife then that he was one of the best coaches I have ever met. Last night Coach Tressel was talking to the players about this facility, and the players were hanging on his every word,” Schmidtke  said.

    Mark Householder, president of Athletes in Action, added, “Hosting part of the OSU football camp was a dream come true for AIA.  It legitimizes our sports complex and the dedicated staff who know how to serve and care for athletes and teams.  We hope this is the beginning of a long-term relationship with Ohio State football.”

  • AIA Magazine – Subscribe Now

    Aug 19, 2010


    Athletes in Action has partnered with Sports Spectrum, a premier Christian sports magazine published quarterly, to produce the Athletes in Action magazine.  Each edition of Sports Spectrum will include the AIA magazine as an eight-page section devoted to stories from the playing fields of sport ministry.

    Here is what a subscription provides:

    · The Athletes in Action Magazine: the latest stories from the playing fields of sports ministry

    · Sports Spectrum Magazine

    · “Training Table” - a devotional booklet with each issue

    Subscribe to Sports Spectrum which includes the AIA Magazine and you will get AIA's discounted price of $25. Enter the code: "AIA" when ordering at

    Enter code: AIA

  • AIA Campus Closed due to Buckeyes Practice

    Aug 19, 2010

    The Athletes in Action Sports Complex will be closed to the public and media this Friday, August 20, due to The Ohio State University football team practicing at the facility. Here is what the Buckeyes athletics office is communicating about the Friday practice:

    Friday, August 20th 2010, there will be no media access to practice. Because the Buckeyes are practicing off-campus on Friday, we are required by NCAA rules (Bylaw to prohibit any practice visitors, including media. Additionally, we are not permitted to announce the location or publicize the practice in any way. We appreciate your understanding and cooperation.

  • From South America to North County, Unforgettable Summer Rolls on for Ross

    Aug 17, 2010


    Courtesy: UCSD Release: 07/20/10


    Calvin Ross, standing at 6-foot-8, is a senior on the UC San Diego men's volleyball team.

    Courtesy: UCSD Calvin Ross, standing at 6-foot-8, is a senior on the UC San Diego men's volleyball team.


    By Ivan Alber What decibel level fits your summer? Sipping iced tea in a hammock with birds chirping overhead? That's about a 40. Building sandcastles, flying a kite and taking road trips? You're on cruise control at a 70. Meanwhile, Calvin Ross' 2010 "vacation" is cranking at a 110. Think Brazilian samba in your kitchen. Although his UC San Diego coach describes the 6-foot-8 rising senior as quiet and unassuming, Ross' summer has been just the opposite. From bump, set and spike competitions in South America to helping construct the "Hospital of the Future" in Escondido, Ross has found meaning in every summer minute. Once the spring quarter concluded on June 11, Ross joined his Athletes in Action offseason team for a few days of practice at the organization's headquarters in Ohio. After a long plane ride south, the two-week journey in Brazil began. Despite earning the reputation of a global powerhouse in soccer, Brazil is actually a regular champion in volleyball during the Olympics. During the two-week span, Ross and his Athletes in Action teammates played against four different opponents: the junior national team, the military team and two lower-level professional teams. "We ended up losing all four matches," says Ross. "The competition down in Brazil was the best I've ever faced. Being a different country, the style is a little different. It was great experience for me and the players on the team to watch the other teams and learn from their technique and strategy. Along the way, I was able to develop friendships with my teammates and our opponents." Ross' team included collegiate players from Cal Baptist, Ball State and Ohio State. One of his teammates was Brad Lawson, a member of the national champion Stanford squad that UCSD played twice in 2010. The trip wouldn't have been complete without soccer though and luck would have it that the World Cup in South Africa happened to be in full swing while Athletes in Action made their volleyball tour. "We got to see how the entire country of Brazil shut down on days where their team played," says Ross. "We were on the beach during one game and we'd hear cheering and fireworks for each goal. There was a crowd surrounding every public TV."

    Upon his return to the United States, Ross experienced some rare downtime around the July 4 holiday. A few days later, he became a DPR Construction intern for a project that hits close to home. The Carlsbad, Calif., native and Santa Fe Christian High School graduate is helping with the construction of the Palomar Medical Center West project in Escondido. Deemed "The Hospital of the Future," the facility is situated on 40 acres and is designed to accommodate 360 patient beds, 12 operating rooms and a trauma center, with an overall construction budget in excess of $550 million. "Each day, I'm on the site in a mobile office," says Ross. "We are constantly looking at project maps and coordinating with different subcontractors, whether it's the suppliers of air conditioning, plumbing or fire extinguishers. The utilities might not be set up in the right way and we're always fixing problems and making changes as the project moves along." Although the internship strays somewhat from Ross has been studying in school with his Mechanical Engineering major, he knows that UCSD has left him well prepared. As the hectic summer schedule rolls along for Ross, volleyball will never leave his agenda. Entering his senior year, he and his teammates have big plans for the Tritons in the 2011 season. "Playoffs is still our goal and I definitely want that to happen in my last year," says Ross. "We've accomplished a lot of firsts for the program already and we just have to keep taking steps forward." While attending Santa Fe Christian in Solana Beach, Ross got a late jump on the sport of volleyball. He spent his earlier days as a lanky goalkeeper on the water polo team. Once he got going though, there was no turning back. "He's always put in the time and the work to become a better player," says Kevin Ring, head coach of the Tritons. "The best example of that was the summer before his freshman year. He put in the hours with our strength and conditioning coach, working out three days a week consistently, and you could see the results when fall practice started." Classes return in late September and with graduation ahead in June 2011, his classmates will grow wary of the real world that lurks. The 2010 summer that Ross split between South America and North County is shaping his mindset as a student-athlete and member of the UCSD community. He knows that the values and experiences picked up along the way will prove to be priceless once he's deemed a Triton grad. "I landed from my trip to Brazil on a Wednesday and I started my internship the next Tuesday," says Ross. "They are two totally different experiences and it was a quick transition. But that's what life is all about - transition. I feel that this is good practice."


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