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Cardinals announcers look for ways to witness in the booth

ST. LOUIS (BP)–Listen to a St. Louis Cardinals radio broadcast and you won’t hear broadcasters Wayne Hagin and Rick Horton present the Gospel overtly. Their job is to talk about baseball, not about God.

But in subtle ways, Hagin and Horton do what they can to reflect God’s grace in their lives — either over the airwaves or in their direct contact with people.

“If Christ is in us, there’s going to be an aroma of Christ,” Horton said. “It has nothing to do with me. It’s just God’s grace in our life. I guess I have a hope and a belief that that shows through in ways I can’t even understand.”

Hagin is the play-by-play announcer for all the Cardinals radio broadcasts. Horton, a former St. Louis pitcher, does the weekend television broadcasts with Bob Carpenter and also fills in on the radio from time to time for analyst Mike Shannon.

For Hagin, the best way for him to share the Gospel with others is to live it.

“The best sermon I ever heard was the one I saw,” Hagin said. “People watch how you conduct yourself. Major League Baseball players in particular watch every move you make. You walk into the clubhouse, the eyes are on you. How you conduct yourself goes a long way in establishing who you are in your character, your faith and all of the above.”

Hagin was raised in a Christian home, and his conversion came at age 14 when he attended a Billy Graham crusade in Oakland, Calif.

“I felt the calling, and I remember walking onto the field, and it was that day that I gave my life to Jesus Christ,” he said.

Like many Christians, Hagin went through a period of time when he described himself as a “part-time Christian.”

“And then I thought, ‘How’d you like to have a part-time God?’” Hagin said. “That’s what really hit home for me.”

A 23-year veteran as a Major League broadcaster, Hagin found himself embroiled in controversy this past spring when he made a statement about Colorado Rockies first baseman Todd Helton — a statement that some interpreted as an accusation that Helton had taken steroids.

Hagin vehemently denied that’s what he meant.

“It was taken out of context and blown out of proportion,” he said. “Sometimes the media just loves to play something against you and batter you.”

While Hagin was taking his lumps in the media, he found comfort and strength in the Lord.

“He put the armor up for me and really helped me,” Hagin said, “because I was incapable of doing it myself.”

On the air, Hagin looks for ways to sprinkle his conversation with spiritual content. It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes Christian listeners can pick out the references. For instance, he’ll refer to a runner on third base as being “90 feet from the promised land.”

“They get the idea what I’m talking about,” Hagin said.

Primarily, though, Hagin takes great care to live a godly life that demonstrates his Christian faith.

“It’s how you are as a person and how you treat others and how you live,” he said. “That’s really the example.”

Horton can relate to that. He didn’t become a Christian until after he started playing baseball professionally, and he remembers the impact certain Christian players had on him.

“I remember when I was a non-believer, I was around Christian guys all the time, and I could just tell they were Christian guys,” Horton said. “It wasn’t even what they said. It wasn’t about them. It was about God living through them.”

Horton’s main job is with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, where he serves as the St. Louis area director and works with 17 counties to present Christ to athletes and coaches.

Because of that role, and because of his own convictions, that means Horton has to be vigilant about what he says on the air. He won’t pitch or endorse certain products, like alcohol, and he’s conscious of how he goes about his analysis of the game.

“Trying to be gracious in what I say, trying not to be judgmental in what I say, trying not to be condemning,” Horton said. “Trying to be Christ-like in a way that’s not necessarily theological, but maybe it shows the character of Christ.”

Horton also does what he can on the air to promote events like Christian Family Day, an event the Cardinals hold every year during which some of the team’s Christian players will give their testimonies after a game.

By doing his work in such a way, Horton tries to express his belief and faith in Christ.

“It’s something we hope comes through, and there are times when people sense it, but certainly we don’t go through the Romans Road on any of our broadcasts,” he said.

When the time is right, though, he’s also not afraid to be a little more outspoken.

“In my view, we’re still living in a country where we’re OK to express our spiritual beliefs — at least at this point,” Horton said. “We have to be professional about the way we do that.”

    About the Author

  • Tim Ellsworth

    Tim Ellsworth is associate vice president for university communications at Union University in Jackson, Tenn. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists’ concerns nationally and globally.

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