Matt Holliday has been around the block. As a 7-year major league veteran, he knows that the season is long and that patience is required. When the 2010 season didn’t start out as planned for the Cardinals outfielder widely known for swinging a hefty bat, he didn’t panic. In the face of low offensive numbers, Holliday stayed focused, kept working with his hitting coach (a fairly well-known former hitter named Mark McGwire), and, by mid-June, his perseverance was paying dividends. The three-time All-Star was again posting giant numbers at the plate. He slammed enough home runs and RBIs to earn his seventh NL Player of the Week award on June 21 and, in the process, earned a spot on his fourth MLB All-Star roster.
As the Cards rolled into Kansas City this season for their annual interleague I-70 series with the Royals, Holliday donated some of his pre-game free time to STV to talk about his faith and his game, and to answer some questions submitted by you, the STV readers.
STV: You have one of the hottest bats in baseball right now. It’s been fun to watch your progression through the season. To get to where you are now, though, you had to have some patience and work through a slow start. As a Christian, what did God teach you through the process?
MH: You know, after seven years you learn that you take the good with the bad, and you just try to learn from the bad. In times when things are going really well, you praise Him; and when things aren’t going well, you praise Him.
One thing that is really important is to stay grounded. I have a wife and kids, so I have a great sounding board and things in place that help keep my priorities in order. I try to approach baseball with the attitude of serving and being the best baseball player He’s given me the ability to be. I focus on being a good teammate and a good friend and trying to serve my wife and kids and be the father and husband that I’m called to be. And that gives me a lot of peace no matter what is going on.
STV: How important is that home support system in a season that gets so long?
MH: It’s been huge for me. My wife and I have been married for 10 years, and we have three kids. We’re plenty busy, and she’s been supporting me ever since I was in the minor leagues.
Having that kind of support is important. It’s tough traveling so much and being away from them, but it’s fun to be able to get excited about going home whether you do well or don’t do so well in the game. It’s a huge blessing to have such a great family.
STV: Throughout your career, you’ve been part of some highly publicized groups of Christian athletes. There was a big article in USA Today when you were with the Rockies, and now you’re one of a group that includes high-profile guys like yourself, Albert Pujols, Adam Wainwright and others. How has God used the other Christians in baseball to speak His truth into you?
MH: It’s cool. We spend a lot of time together in this sport and experience a lot of fellowship. We do studies and hang out together, and we just spend time around people that help us stay accountable and grow.
There have been lots of guys—even guys on other teams like Brian Roberts—who have become good friends of mine. We call and check in on each other just to see how we’re doing in baseball and life. And we have a great group here. We’re going through a Philippians study right now that’s been really great.
STV: Before we came over to do this interview, we polled a few of the FCA athletes and coaches on Facebook and asked them what they would want to know from you based on your experience as a Christian athlete. Some of them came up with great questions. For starters, one guy wanted to know what advice you would give to parents of aspiring baseball players.
Matt Holliday – #15
|Born: Jan. 15, 1980, in Stillwater, OK|
Height/Weight: 6-4/235 lbs.
MLB Debut: Apr. 16, 2004
•Earned All-American honors out of Stillwater High School in both football and baseball and was recruited to play quarterback at Oklahoma State University before signing with the Colorado Rockies in 1998.
•Family: Wife – Leslie; Kids – Jackson, Ethan and Gracyn
•4-time MLB All-Star (2006, 2007, 2008, 2010)
•3-time Silver Slugger (2006, 2007, 2008)
•Finished first in the NL in batting average, RBIs and hits in 2007.
MH: You know, I think in any goal, hard work is very important. Obviously, God blesses people with certain gifts. I’ve been blessed with a gift, and I try to make the most of it. I think kids who are blessed with gifts and have a passion for baseball should try to make the most of it and work as hard as they possibly can. In my life, I try to make sure I’m out in front of people with my work ethic. If it doesn’t work out and I don’t do well, at least I know I put my best effort into it. I can live with that. I think a lot of times people have regrets when they don’t put in all the effort that they could. For me, if I don’t do well but I’m prepared and I did the best I could, I will be able to live with the results.
STV: Is hard work a reflection of your faith?
MH: Absolutely. I feel like it’s my responsibility. God has blessed me with the talent, and I am obligated to do the best I can with the ability He’s given me. Whether that’s getting here early and working out and doing the things to prepare for the game, or just going out and playing the best I can. Sometimes it turns out well, and sometimes it doesn’t, but if I work as hard as I can for Him, I can live with it.
STV: With putting in all that time and effort, how do you keep baseball from becoming an idol in your life?
MH: That’s the tough one, especially at this level. There’s so much media, so I try to keep it all real simple. I don’t read the papers or listen to the radio. I don’t follow stuff on the Internet. I try to come to the field, work hard and be a good teammate, and then go out and play the best I can. If you get caught up reading your own press clippings, good or bad, you can really get down or get too full of yourself. So, I try to keep it simple and not read any of it.
But it is tough because you get paid a lot of money and you feel an obligation to produce. You want the statistics to go along with what you’re getting paid, and that can be hard to not get too caught up in it or let it become an idol. That’s definitely something that I struggle with. But I just try to put it in perspective and know that eventually I’ll be done with baseball and move on to other things.
My thing is just trying to honor God and to play for Him and my teammates. If you can help the team, then that’s a good feeling, and it keeps me from getting too high or too low. And, after the game, I try to let it go and be a good father and good husband. Life is simpler that way.
STV: Another question we got from an athlete just put it out there plain and simple: Do you play for yourself or for God?
MH: I play for God. It says in the Bible that we are to do all things for Him. Obviously this is my profession, this is my job, but He created work. So I try to do the best that I can for Him. This is my job, not who I am.
STV: One popular question we got from several people was, “What is your favorite Bible verse and why?”
MH: I don’t have a particular one, but any of the ones that talk about having a spirit of strength are great. In this game, with as much failure as we experience, it’s easy to lose our confidence. But He didn’t create us with a spirit of timidity. He gave us strength and bravery. So, any verses that have to do with strength and boldness are ones that I particularly like.
STV: Going back to your role as a dad, what has God taught you through being a parent?
MH: I think one thing is seeing how much I love my kids, and then realizing that He loves us tons more than that. It’s hard to understand, and it’s definitely something to think about. Man, I would do anything for my kids. And God sent His Son to die for us. Those are the perspectives I’ve gotten as a father that I don’t think I would have without having kids. When I look at my kids and see how much I love them, I just get a tiny glimpse of what it might look like for Him with us.
STV: What kind of spiritual advice would you give to FCA athletes regarding how to become the athletes God wants them to be?
MH: I think that, along the way, people remember how you treat them and how you associate with others. Yeah, they may remember your stats a little, but you want people to describe you as a good teammate, a good friend and as someone who listened.
The relationship part of athletics is much more important than the stats. At the end of your career, I think you’d rather have somebody say something positive about your character than about how well you threw a ball. God calls us to interact with people, and relationships are the important part in this life.
STV: That’s great advice. OK, one last question for you. How has Jesus Christ changed your life?
MH: Well, every day you have options. You can go one way or the other. At one time in my life, I would have wanted to go one way, but Jesus has changed my heart. I struggle and I am a sinner just like everyone else, but now, every day, I strive to honor Him with my choices instead of going the wrong way. That’s how He’s changed my life—not just one time, but every single day.
|FCA Baseball: Ministry Update|
Have a passion for Christ and baseball? So does the staff of FCA’s national baseball ministry. Go online to learn about ministry events and how you can become part of the new FCA Baseball Dugout Club. Visit fcabaseball.org.
FCA and the Cardinals: Teaming Up for Impact
FCA’s Rick Horton interviews Cardinals pitchers Kyle McClellen and Blake Hawksworth at the 2010 FCA Night at the Ballpark.
The Greater St. Louis FCA office has been working hard to make an impact for Christ by teaming up with the Cardinals on a variety of projects. This summer alone, the local FCA partnered with the team on several major events including the annual FCA Night at the Ballpark.
On April 27, nearly 580 Huddle members and coaches congregated at Busch Stadium for a night of faith and baseball. The group was treated to a pre-game program that featured faithcentered interviews with Cardinals pitchers Kyle McClellen and Blake Hawksworth. Conducting the interviews was FCA multi-area director and current Cardinals broadcaster Rick Horton, who pitched for the Cardinals in two separate stints from 1984 through 1990. During the game, the Greater St. Louis FCA was also recognized by the Cardinals for their work with more than 6,000 area students, and local Huddle Coach Doug White was given the honor of throwing out the first pitch.
“As staff, we view these events at Busch Stadium as yet another way to strengthen our 115 area Huddles,” said Horton, who joined FCA staff in 1995. “Providing opportunities for Huddles to come to a game together and be encouraged by the Cardinal players, FCA staff and each other is such a unique way to serve our campuses and coaches. For kids to hear professional athletes attesting to the importance of their faith and encouraging them to stay involved with FCA is just incredible.”
Over the years, FCA and the Cardinals have remained closely linked in a variety of ways. In addition to the direction of Horton, who helped the Cardinals to a pair of World Series appearances in 1985 and 1987, former team chaplain and current Baseball Chapel ambassador Walt Enoch also played a major role in the local ministry by helping establish FCA’s presence in the St. Louis area.
“The Cardinals are a terrific organization with great fan support, and we’ve been pleased to serve their athletes and coaches over the years,” Horton said. “We’re grateful that the Cardinals are so communityminded and that they see FCA as a great value for the St. Louis area.”
For more information, visit stlfca.org.
Photos courtesy Brian Greenblatt/St. Louis Cardinals
--For more stories about faith and sport, visit www.sharingthevictory.com, the official magazine of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. To subscribe to STV, click here.