Boston outfielder Trot Nixon opens up about faith, tenacity and the last laugh
By Dave Mercado
"Play like it's your day.
Play like it's the last game you're ever going to play and don't hold anything back."
The Boston Red Sox shocked the world last fall with their first World Series victory in 86 years. As the competition for this year’s championship heats up, and the Sox prepare to make a run at another title, STV is giving you a look inside through the eyes of outfielder Trot Nixon.
DM: You’ve been with the Red Sox for six years, and for a long time it seemed like you guys would get so close. I want to talk about the success of last year and the World Series. What led into it?
TN: A lot of people don’t know about the Red Sox tradition. It’s very great. A lot of great ballplayers have come and gone, and a lot of those ballplayers never won a World Championship. This city is very passionate about their ball team, and they really wanted a championship. They called it a “curse” when we weren’t in the right place at the right time for 86 years. Then we were in the right place at the right time and did the right things, and God honored us by crowning us the World Champions. So, I’ve been very fortunate. People don’t understand how happy—how fortunate—I think I really am to be drafted by one of the greatest organizations in the history of baseball. The first day that I was signed I told the media that I wanted to help bring a World Championship to Boston, and it’s funny how they smirked and laughed. Now, I guess I get the last laugh. But I’m greedy in the sense that I want to win as many championships as possible. Hopefully, God understands that little greed.
DM: Well, it can be greed, or it can just be seen as wanting to really see people do their best.
TN: Exactly. And the way I go about it is by playing to honor God. He’s given me so much, and everybody says, “You’ve done this” and, “You’ve done that in your life.” But I try to give glory back to God because that’s where He ultimately puts me. He puts me in positions to either be successful or to not be successful. But in the end, we’re all successful here. I feel that because I’m playing the game that I’ve always wanted to play, and He’s given me this ability to throw a ball, hit a ball, catch a ball and to have that passion to win baseball games, I want to glorify Him as much as I possibly can.
DM: When did you first realize that you had a spiritual need?
Name: Christopher Trotman Nixon
Birthplace: Durham, N.C.
Weight: 210 lbs.
MLB Debut: 09/21/96
Family: Wife, Kathryn
Sons, Chase and Luke
TN: That’s a good question because I think we all come to a crossroads in our lives where we see that there’s something missing. I didn’t realize that until the 1999-2000 year. Our chaplain, Walt Day, took precious time out of his life to come and basically tutor me and help me understand the Word and increase not so much my faith but my knowledge of the Bible and of God.
I started to understand that that was the piece that was missing in my life. A lot of people go around this world with an empty feeling, and we try to fill it with worldly things. It can be cars, it can be houses, clothes, shoes. It can be trying to win as many ballgames as possible. But the more we keep buying and getting and trying to fill that hole in our souls, the more we realize that it doesn’t work. So we do something else, and it doesn’t work. And I’m here because Walt passed his faith on to me, my family passed it on to me, people in my church passed it on to me. I understand the emptiness of not having God in your life.
I wanted to win a World Championship more than anything in my life, not only for myself, but also for the organization, the city, my father, my mother and for my two boys and my wife. But quite honestly, after we won, I was sitting in the living room watching TV, and it was probably about four o’clock in the morning, and I just sat there and said, “Is that it? Is that all it was?” And some people will say they can’t believe I’m saying this, but I delighted in it so much that when we won it, that was it. It wasn’t like it was going to be a 24-hour party, or that I was going to be getting a World Series trophy every single day. That was it.
Don’t get me wrong, I love our fans to death, and when we’re out in the streets and they’re congratulating us and shaking our hands—I was very appreciative of that. But while sitting there by myself I was like, “Was that it?” There was that emptiness. That’s the emptiness I’ve been talking about that people try to fill. It’s Jesus Christ who fills that void in our lives.
"It wasn't like it was going to be a 24-hour party, or that I was going to be getting a World Series trophy every sing day.
That was it."
DM: As a baseball fan, I see the difference between people who just go out to play and people who go out with passion and tenacity. When I thought of interviewing you, “tenacity” is the word that came to my mind. Talk a little about the tenacity and intensity that you bring to the game.
TN: My high school coach said, “Play like it’s your day. Play like it’s the last game you’re ever going to play and don’t hold anything back.” That’s not the whole meaning of life, but it’s like life. God gives us this great opportunity to live life to the fullest, and I think most of us take our lives for granted. But when I get out here on the field I have to play like it’s my last day because there’s no guarantee about tomorrow.
DM: I’ve been a Christian for 25 years and every day isn’t like this mountain top. You have to stay with it because it’s not about emotions, it’s about the Truth. God is gracious, and He gives us those special moments where we really feel His Spirit. Describe what it’s like to find yourself in the presence of God. What does that mean to you?
TN: In the presence of God everything slows down. You start to appreciate more things and see things with a broader outlook. There are situations on the field in which I’ve felt like I’ve been in the hands of God—where He walks with me at difficult times. But you do ask questions like, “Why is this happening to me?” I’m not a big fan of asking that, but at times I have. And one time I did was when we were in the 2003 playoffs.
We were down two games to none. I came to the plate—and I hadn’t gotten to the plate all day*—and I ended up hitting a game winning home run in the playoffs on national television. And the one thing I couldn’t wait to do was get around the bases, because I knew I was going to be on national television doing an interview to give glory to God. Because He was the One who calmed my nerves, who calmed my soul when I got in that batter’s box. Those are situations where I just feel that I’m in the hands of God—that He’s holding me right there, letting life go right around me and slowing things down for me. I think we’re in those situations every single day, but we’re all in such a hurry—and I’m guilty of this too—that we miss a lot of those things.
DM: But, like most Christians, I’m sure you don’t feel particularly spiritual every day. So how do you work through those times when you don’t feel spiritual?
Photos courtesy of
Julie Cordeiro/Boston Red Sox
Nixon has played his entire MLB career with the Boston Red Sox. He was selected in the first round of the amateur draft as the seventh overall pick.
TN: That’s difficult because it’s easy to get off track.
DM: So what helps you keep your focus?
TN: For me, it’s prayer. For instance, I pray when I’m driving in the car. You don’t have to close your eyes all the time when you’re praying. You’re just talking to God.
At times I imagine that God is sitting right beside me. And while I’m talking to Him I’m praying for protection over my teammates and my family and so forth. But the most difficult thing is that we find so many worldly and material things to delight in, and they become distractions against Jesus Christ. Instead, we need to start making Christ the priority of our lives. That means reading the Bible, praying, conversing with other Christians, spreading the good news—all of those things.
DM: How do you prepare for a game mentally?
TN: It’s become habitual. About 30-40 minutes before the game I get real quiet, and that’s when I really start focusing on what I’m doing. In baseball you’re playing every single day, and it’s difficult to sit there and analyze every single thing that could go on every single day at a baseball game. My high school coach told me that analysis leads to paralysis, so if I sit there and analyze too much it takes over on the field. And if I’m analyzing too much when I’m at the plate, I’m going to strike out because I’m not going to swing the bat.
As far as being prepared mentally, I understand what I need to do. When I get to the field I try to have a good time and enjoy being around my teammates— you know, put a smile on my face and have a good time at the clubhouse, because we all know when the bell rings it’s time to go. Whether it’s 7:05 or 1:05, whatever time we’re playing, I sit there, and I understand who I’m facing. I say as many prayers as I possibly can and try to clear my mind before I get out there on that field and just let the ability that God has given me take over.
*In Game 3 of the 2003 ALDS, Nixon, who had been slowed by a strained calf muscle, came in to pinch hit for Gabe Kapler in the bottom of the 11th inning. With Nixon’s game-winning home run, which scored two, the Red Sox defeated the Oakland A’s 3-1. The Red Sox went on to win the series 3-2.
*For more stories about faith and sport, visit www.sharingthevictory.com