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Former ball players continue their witness behind the scenes

ORLANDO, Fla. (BP)–Eddie Taubensee spent 11 seasons as a catcher in Major League Baseball until a back injury cut his career short.

Although he didn’t know it at the time, that injury actually opened a door for him to expand his ministry.

“Eleven years in the big leagues, and I am having more fun now than I ever did,” Taubensee said.

Taubensee, who spent most of his career with the Cincinnati Reds, is now actively involved in Pro Athletes Outreach, a ministry of former professional ballplayers committed to meeting the needs of current athletes.

“It’s pros ministering to pros,” Taubensee said. “Just like any athlete who trains physically to endure a season, we also need that training spiritually to endure that season.”

PAO is primarily a ministry that holds conferences for professional athletes, coaches and their families during the off-season. The organization began in 1971.

“We’re really behind the scenes,” said PAO’s president, Norm Evans, a former NFL player with the Miami Dolphins. “If you hear about PAO, it’s by accident.”

At the conferences, usually attended by 200-300 athletes, “The whole idea is how do you come to a personal faith in Christ, and how do you use the platform God’s given you to share the Word,” Evans said. “Our focus is on the athletes and the coaches. We’re not trying to get known all around.”

In addition to the conferences, PAO ambassadors like Taubensee encourage the players, pray for them and provide them with books and resources to help in their Christian life.

Taubensee, a member of Windermere First Baptist Church in the Orlando area, spends a lot of time during spring training in February and March visiting with baseball players all over Florida.

As a former player, Taubensee said he can relate to the struggles athletes face, and that’s one of the main reasons he wants to be involved with PAO. Major League players face the same kinds of temptations others do, often because they have a lot of time to kill on the road.

“It’s really the same thing everybody else does,” Taubensee said. “It’s so easy just to go out and go to places you shouldn’t go. Obviously, being the big leagues, it’s not hard to find because it all comes to you.”

On another level, however, professional baseball players face some unique challenges, especially considering the large salaries many of them command. Taubensee said it’s easy to get caught up in the money and to use it to fill a void in life. For Christian athletes, it’s also difficult to maintain a servant mentality.

“Everybody is serving you. You don’t do anything for yourself,” Taubensee said. “They take your bags. They pack all your stuff in your locker. They do everything for you. You don’t have to lift a finger. It’s hard for players to understand, even Christian ballplayers, how to have a servant attitude. That’s a huge obstacle to overcome.”

Taubensee hopes his own life will continue to give evidence of his faith. “When people know you and they remember you, that not only did you talk the talk but you walked the walk, that speaks more than anything.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: EDDIE TAUBENSEE.

    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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