1. A dead end sign is placed in front of a cemetery.
2. Donald Trump wins the lottery.
3. A Christian gets arrested on his way to a mission trip.
San Diego Padres pitcher Jake Peavy is quite familiar with irony. In fact, he’s the living example of #3. But before you pass judgment, let him explain.
“You know, I was running late,” he begins, the smirk on his face letting you know this is going to be a good story. “I overslept, and I wasn’t going to make my wife get up to take me to the airport at 4:30 in the morning…”
His story begins, slowly reeling you in, and pretty soon you’re picturing yourself watching the scene unfold on the curb outside Mobile Regional Airport in Alabama. You can see the airport security woman’s point—no vehicles are allowed to be left unattended, even if it is just for a moment so that Peavy can unload all four of his equipment bags and give them to his aunt who is waiting inside to check them. But you also feel a humorous sympathy for Peavy—an exasperated man who just wants to get on a plane to go teach kids in the Dominican Republic about Jesus and baseball.
But rules are rules, and you can’t outsmart airport security. By the time the story ends, you are listening to Peavy laugh about calling his wife from the slammer.
Katie Peavy tells the story a little differently. In her version, you feel the anxiety of having a spouse behind bars. You feel a wave of concern for 6-year-old Jacob, who sees the report on the news and bursts into tears at the thought of his daddy in jail. Thank God Katie was able to, by that time, explain to Jacob and 3-year-old Wyatt that Daddy was no longer in jail and that he was already helping kids in the Dominican.
In the end, you realize why Peavy was laughing. Obviously he didn’t think it was funny to put his family through unnecessary stress—he loves them too much to be amused by their grief. No, he’s laughing because of Who got the last laugh.
“Because of what happened, the word got to the Dominican that I was there, and a lot of media outlets wanted to talk about it,” he explains. “Therefore, we got to promote what we were doing there. I got to tell my story to the local people and on national TV in the Dominican Republic.”
In the end, it all worked out for the glory of God. Because one thing is certain: if Jake Peavy is telling his story, the Lord is being glorified. After all, that’s who Peavy is; and with him, what you see is what you get: a man who loves God and his family, takes great pleasure in watching Padres’ opponents swing at (and miss) his blistering fastballs, and who will always set an example for the rare qualities of authenticity and accountability. Even if he has to explain handcuffs and cop cars to do it.
The value of accountability is paramount to Peavy. He is quick to state the obvious: that he’s not perfect and that he makes mistakes just like anybody else. But that’s what makes him unique, especially in Christian circles. In a world full of masked people, Peavy is real. “I don’t want to be someone who puts up a front to make people happy and then who puts up a different front somewhere else,” said the Padres ace, who was the starting pitcher for this year’s National League All-Star team. “I want to be a stand-up guy and allow people to say, ‘Hey, this is what Peav is, and this is what he stands for. If you like it, you like it. If you don’t, you don’t.’ I certainly don’t want to be rude and step on anybody’s toes, but I am who I am, and I’m going to be accountable for what I say and do.”
Jake Peavy – #44
Weight: 180 lbs.
MLB Debut: 06/22/02
Did you know?
Peavy not only helps out with FCA but also with Team Focus, a mentoring program for fatherless young men that was founded by ESPN analyst Mike Gottfried. For more information about what Peavy calls “a cool, cool charity to be a part of,” visit teamfocusonline.org.
He considers himself to be a “Class A Redneck” who loves to hunt and fish. He enjoys catching large mouth bass; his largest catch weighed in at 11 lbs. 2 oz.
Peavy recommends two of his favorite restaurants if you’re ever in San Diego: Lou & Mickey’s and Acqua Al 2.
It’s a lesson he learned early from two of the most influential men in his life—his grandfather and his father—while growing up in small-town Semmes, Ala. And despite being slowly swallowed up by the westward expansion of Mobile, Semmes (pronounced “Semms”) still boasts the laid-back, country lifestyle Peavy remembers.
Semmes is still the place that Peavy and his family call home. Really, nowhere else would seem logical. Both he and Katie grew up there (just across the street from each other), and it is where they want their two boys to be raised. They want young Jacob and Wyatt to be able to experience the same Christ-centered family atmosphere that they experienced in their own families. And, despite their youth, both boys already have a good start on a journey with Christ. At age 5, Jacob prayed with his parents and asked Jesus into his heart; and just recently, Wyatt approached Katie with a most honest and simple profession of faith: “Mommy, Jesus is my life.”
“I just cried when he said that,” Katie gushed. “As parents, you sometimes don’t feel like you do anything right. But when they say things like that, it really lets you know that you’re doing something right.”
Added Peavy, “When you have children who watch your every move and who are affected by every decision you make, whether it be where you live or how you treat their mom or what you say whent hey’re sitting there listening— it’s definitely changed my life and made me see things differently. And it’s the coolest thing ever that I have two little boys who think I’m the world’s coolest guy, no matter if I play for the Padres or if I do anything else. They’re proud of their dad.”
Already Peavy’s oldest son shares his father’s passion for baseball. There are mornings when he will run into his parents’ bedroom dressed in full baseball attire, ready to conquer the world one RBI at a time; And according to Peavy, Jacob finds it hard to deal with the reality that he can’t wear his jersey to every occasion.
“People see Christians on platforms and think they don’t make mistakes, but that’s where Christianity is. Even when we’re failing, it is so that Christ can display His strength in our weakness.”
-Turner Ward, former Major League outfielder and offseason hunting buddy of Jake Peavy
Wyatt on the other hand…
“My 3-year-old says he likes to play football and that his favorite team is the Red Sox,” Peavy laughed. “One of my best friends calls him a goon, which are those guys in the NHL who skate around and want to pick fights. And Wyatt just seems to be that guy. He’s just real destructive and loves to take Sharpies and color the couch. That’s why he loves football, because we get to tackle each other.”
“We need to win. I mean, God has given us this talent to go out and use it. The Lord wants us to be as competitive as we can be in the right way.” - Jake Peavy
The rough-and-tumble side of the older Peavy is often what the public sees when he takes the mound as part of one of the National League’s finest pitching staffs. There are fist-pumps and shouts of excitement, and Peavy himself has referred to his mound presence as “fiery.”
In his six major league seasons, Peavy has earned a reputation as one of the best active pitchers in baseball. Through press time, he was leading the National League in strikeouts and was second in ERA. He’s been to the All-Star Game twice, and it’s not rare for him to strike out 10 to 15 batters in a game (his career high is 16). This season Peavy became the Padres’ all-time strikeout leader, and he’s only 26.
With youth on his side it would appear that Peavy still has a long career ahead, which is just fine by him. It just means he’ll have more chances to share his faith on a grander scale.
“Because I’m a baseball player, I’ve had some opportunities,” Peavy admitted. “And I realize what a blessing it is to be able to stand up and challenge people to let God’s light shine through them and to make a difference.
“That’s what I think we’re called to do as Christians: to make a difference in other people’s lives and to take other people to Heaven with us,” he continued. “We’re called to tell them about the good news that we have—that you can have such a peace and be at peace with yourself knowing that your sins are forgiven. That it’s not about how good we can be, but about this gift that we have of eternal life through Jesus Christ. And there is no greater opportunity than to lead somebody to the Lord.”
In a career that could potentially last almost two more decades (Katie predicts that her husband will still be pitching at age 44), it’s unreasonable to guess how many people will be affected by Peavy’s life and testimony. But that’s something he doesn’t need to worry about—it’s up to God. All he has to do to be effective for the Kingdom is to keep being Jake Peavy.
Like him or not.