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Major league baseball players use “Passion” as an outreach

KISSIMMEE, Fla. (BP)–Churches aren’t the only ones renting out theaters and using Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” as an outreach tool. Baseball players are doing the same thing.

“I just felt like it was an opportunity to get some guys to go that maybe could ask some questions afterward,” said New York Mets pitcher Braden Looper during spring training in Florida. “It was a great outreach. I think we had like 50 guys and their wives show up.”

Looper is just one of a handful of players who arranged for their teammates to see the movie during spring training by renting out a movie theater or by handing out free tickets.

Mike Matheny of the St. Louis Cardinals invited not only his teammates on the big league team, but also the minor leaguers and their wives.

“We have Bible studies, and I think this is going to be a good first study and kind of open the doors to everybody,” Matheny said. “I know that people are going to ask questions.”

Matheny was hopeful that both the movie and his gesture would be received well by his teammates.

“One, the movie’s powerful enough that it’s going to speak for itself,” Matheny said. “Two, maybe they see the commitment of me renting out a theater and that may get them to ask some questions why this means so much, and I’d love the opportunity to share with them why it does.”

Houston Astros owner Drayton McLane, a Southern Baptist deacon, wanted his players to see the movie, but he also knew that his involvement might keep some players away. So, he enlisted the help of outfielder Lance Berkman, the self-proclaimed “ticketmaster” for the event.

“I don’t think necessarily it’s a great evangelistic tool, other than it’s an icebreaker, it’s a topic of conversation — kind of a segue into presenting the Gospel,” Berkman said. “I think really it would have an impact on the lukewarm believer or the nominal Christian.”

Berkman added that the movie was “a hot topic of conversation in the locker room” for a couple of days afterward, and McLane said he was pleased with the outcome.

“It seemed to have a real impact on many of them,” McLane said.

Houston shortstop Adam Everett was one of those who went with his team to see the movie.

“It was powerful,” Everett said. “I don’t know if there’s another word to describe it. If you didn’t come out of there teary-eyed, I felt like there was something wrong, because I came out of there teary-eyed. You can’t really imagine what (Jesus) did for us.”

Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz had a glowing review of the film.

“It is the most defining movie for what we stand for and what we believe,” Smoltz said. “The Gospel was not compromised at all for the sake of Hollywood.”

Most of his teammates went to the movie the night Smoltz rented the theater, and he thinks “The Passion” will continue to have a significant impact on those who see if for a long time. It should force Christians to live a life filled with passion and joy for their salvation, Smoltz said.

“God’s glory will shine through this movie,” he said. “The financial investment was nothing compared to the life changing opportunities.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: MIKE MATHENY.

    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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