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Cleveland Indians third baseman finds spiritual gain on disabled list

CLEVELAND (BP)–The Cleveland Indians, with a commanding lead of more than 20 games in the American League Central Division, now are aiming to clinch home-field advantage for the playoffs by compiling the league’s best record.
But one of the team’s leaders, third baseman Travis Fryman, may not make the roster.
Fryman, who has hopes of redeeming a subpar performance in last fall’s playoffs, has been struggling to come back from the first injuries of his major league career.
He has been on the disabled list twice this season. The first time he suffered from back spasms; soon after he tore a ligament in his right knee. Although reactivated Sept. 2, he has struggled at the plate and missed several games recently.
Yet Fryman doesn’t see the two-month layoff that followed his knee injury as a setback.
For one, he and his wife, Kathy, had the unexpected pleasure of spending time together in the middle of summer. He also had more time to play with their children, ages 3 and 1.
Most importantly, however, Fryman said his rehabilitation period became the spiritual highlight of his Christian walk, which he renewed more than four years ago.
“I’ve gotten a lot of great time in the Word of God, prayer and encouragement from other believers,” said Fryman, who was baptized in 1995 at Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla.
“I’ve had a lot of time to stop and examine my own spiritual life. I’ve never considered myself a prideful person, but there was a lot more there than I realized.”
He especially appreciates the cards, notes and phone calls from fellow believers at his home church. Enrolled in a Sunday school class for young married men, he stays in touch during the season with several members and pastor Ted Traylor.
“Another staff member and I pray for him nightly,” Traylor told Baptist Press. “We get up on the Indians’ Internet site and see how he did, and spend a little time praying for him.”
Fryman credits his pastor with helping him gain a better understanding of God’s grace during his comeback. During a recent conversation, Traylor said something that particularly caught his attention.
“He made this comment, ‘When grace is understood, humility is the result,'” said Fryman. “I think that’s the case. Through this circumstance, God’s revealed some pride [in me]. I’m getting a better understanding of grace and the result can only be increased humility.”
His initial humbling began five years ago. A star baseball player in Pensacola who was the Detroit Tigers’ first-round draft pick in 1987, it only took him three years to reach the majors. He posted a .297 batting average after getting called up that season, with his career mark hovering near .275.
By 1994, he felt he had everything in the world that could make him happy: a great job, fantastic salary and a beautiful wife. Yet he was probably one of the unhappiest people around, he recalled.
The athlete said he recognized the reason. At the age of 7 he had accepted Jesus as his Savior at a backyard Bible study. But when he got into his teens and then moved on to the major leagues, he left God behind.
He believes he received God’s Spirit as a child, which meant the Holy Spirit lived inside of him, convicting him of wrongdoing. Now he faced a crucial choice.
“My whole adult life I had played that tug of war between submitting my will to God and Travis doing what he wanted to do,” he said. “That’s a bad place to be for a Christian. It boiled down to a crossroads. I either had to submit my life to the authority of God or turn and go my own way.”
He had extra time to consider that question when the ’94 season ended early because of a player strike.
He discussed the issue with Kathy, who had accepted Christ 18 months earlier in the parking lot of Tiger Stadium. She came to the Lord through the influence of Cathy Tanana, wife of former major league pitcher Frank Tanana.
Kathy had a struggle of her own, having grown up Catholic. But she agreed to attend the Baptist church her husband attended during his younger years. The first time she ever saw a water baptism was the morning both Frymans entered the baptistery.
Regardless of whether he makes the playoff roster, when the Indians finish this season, they will return to Pensacola and become active at Olive Baptist. In addition to his class, they attend Wednesday night prayer meetings, Monday evening visitation and are talking to Traylor about how they can better serve in the church.
“It’s a time for us to get back to the fellowship of other believers, be encouraged and grow in our Christian life,” Fryman said, “the same reason all believers should be in a church.”

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  • Ken Walker