October 2010 Clay Meyer

Major League Baseball teams have games every Sunday from April through September. For

Chapel Chatter
Ever want to sit in on a MLB pre-game chapel service? Here’s your chance! STV talked with Padres Adrian Gonzalez, Heath Bell, Nick Hundley and Chase Headley about how the Lord works behind the doors of the players’ lounge on Sunday mornings in San Diego.

Adrian Gonzalez, First Base

Why do you attend chapel?
“Because any chance I have to learn more about Christ and how to live for Him, I want to be there.”

How is the chapel environment different at home than on the road?
“At home we learn more with our own chaplain. On the road we have more fellowship and dialogue with teammates.”

Who is one chaplain you love visiting on road trips?
“Brian Hommel in Arizona. He sets a great example of how to live your life for Christ.”

Heath Bell, Pitcher

Why do you attend chapel?

“To fuel my faith and keep me accountable.”

What have you learned in chapel this season?
“That you have to keep learning every day. There is always something new to learn from the Bible.”

Who is the most talkative, funny or wisestteammate at chapel?
“Talkative: Nick Hundley. Funny: Me. Wise: Adrian Gonzalez.”

Nick Hundley, Catcher
Why do you attend chapel?
“Because we play every Sunday, and it is difficult to get to church. It’s very important for my spiritual development that I stay in the Word and continually grow and learn.”

What have you learned in chapel this season?
“That whatever we do, we should work as if we are working for the Lord. I’ve tried to focus on giving everything I have because that’s what the Lord asks for.”

Who is your favorite chaplain to visit on road trips?
“Brian Hommel in Arizona. He has an amazing gift to communicate the Word of God.”

Chase Headley, Third Base
Why do you attend chapel?
“It gives us the opportunity to study Christ as a team.”

What have you learned from chapel this season?
“How we can impact teammates and fans by the way we play the game.”

Do you have a favorite chaplain to visit on road trips?
“Tim Cash in Atlanta and Brian Hommel in Arizona. They are both hilarious, and I’ve had an opportunity to get to know them a little better than other leaders.”

those of you flipping  through a calendar, that’s 26-straight Sundays spent on the diamond. With that kind of weekend schedule, Christian athletes often find it difficult to attend church services and stay involved with in a local body of believers.

In order to fill the spiritual void, Major League Baseball authorizes an organization called Baseball Chapel to provide chaplains for all professional baseball teams worldwide, including minor league and international teams. These chaplains host three voluntary chapel services every Sunday prior to the games—one for the home team, one for the visitors, and one for the umpires. In addition to the chapel duties, they also meet with players and work closely with sports ministries like FCA in helping their players stay active in the community.

In San Diego, chapel services are led by chaplain Doug Sutherland, an associate pastor at Green Valley Church, and are regularly attended by four of the Padres, three of whom serve as the team’s official chapel representatives. First baseman Adrian Gonzalez, catcher Nick Hundley and third baseman Chase Headley—the chapel reps—along with relief pitcher Heath Bell, who accepted Christ last season, all attend and are instrumental in encouraging other players to come along.

During homestands, the typical Sunday routine begins with the players gathering in the players’ lounge at 11 a.m. (if it’s a usual 1 p.m. game). Sutherland opens and closes with prayer and, in between, delivers a 20-minute spiritual message. This season Sutherland also has been leading a study based on Jerry Bridges’ book The Pursuit of Holiness, which, according to the chaplain, has communicated a specific message to each of the players.

“We’ve been discussing the idea of God conforming us more into the image of holiness, or, more specifically, into the image of His Son,” Sutherland said. “He uses whatever circumstances we’re in to make that happen.”

The circumstance for the Padres this season has been as one of the most surprising teams in baseball. Predicted by many analysts to be one of the worst in the league, timely pitching, quality hitting and a never-say-die attitude landed them atop the National League West Division for most of the season.

While experts and fans may be surprised at their play, Sutherland is not. Before the season began, he noted how well the players worked together and had a hunch that the selfless dynamic would lead to victory on the field.

“It sounds simple, but they know how to get along with each other, and that is one of the key reasons for their success,” he said. “Nobody tries to take over the limelight. Everybody is excited about the other guys doing well. They have great team chemistry.”

Sutherland would know. He spends a great deal of time with the players between Sunday chapel services, individual meetings at their request, and going on a few road trips with them during the season. Now in his 11th year serving the Padres, Sutherland focuses on developing relationships with every player regardless of where they are on their spiritual journey. He also has organized their annual Night of Fellowship in which fans come to hear the faith testimonies of the Christian players.

“There is so much more to these guys than baseball,” he said. “It’s part of their lives, obviously, but who they are—their faith and testimony—goes much deeper, and the fans always enjoy getting to hear that.”

For Sutherland, those 26-straight Sundays are more of a spiritual opportunity than an obstacle. Through the chapel services and overall ministry, he’s seen God refine the players’ faith and mold them into men of God who pursue holiness in every area of their lives—including their hunt for the playoffs.


Sutherland’s Summary
The chaplain’s perspective on…

…Adrian Gonzalez: “Adrian has become the face of the Padres thanks to his being from San Diego and his great skills on the field. He’s also the leader of
the baseball chapel activities and is always getting the guys together and coordinating Bible studies with them.”

…Heath Bell: “Heath, along with his wife and oldest daughter, came to know the Lord about a year ago. Since then, his life has been transformed as a husband, father and player. The quality of his walk with the Lord at this point is amazing.”

…Nick Hundley: “Nick has a great heart. He is ‘Mr. Steady’ to me. He is such an encouragement and is always thinking positively. He makes you feel good when you are around him.”

…Chase Headley: “Chase has such a commitment to wanting to be used by the Lord and make an impact for Christ. He is really intense and passionate about his walk with Christ.”

--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.

Courtesy of Chris Hardy/San Diego Padres; Doug Sutherland