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Pros teach baseball & life at NAMB-sponsored clinic


ROSWELL, Ga. (BP)–The Cincinnati Reds and Atlanta Braves had done battle on the field the night before and were scheduled to square off again that evening in Atlanta’s Turner Field. But on the morning of May 1, several players from both teams joined forces on a high school baseball field in suburban Atlanta for a united stand for Christ.
After coaching several hundred young fans in the finer points of baseball, the players also helped provide the far more important instruction in the skills of life.
“I just challenge everybody to find out the reason why you’re here, find out a purpose and direction for your life,” said Braves shortstop Walt Weiss. “Once you find out your life means something and there’s a reason for you being here, and that God has a plan for you … it makes all the difference in the world. That’s where true self-esteem comes from.”
The evangelistic sports clinic was sponsored by the North American Mission Board and Fellowship Bible Church in Roswell, Ga., as part of the Arms Around Atlanta evangelism and church-planting initiative, which began in April and extends through August. It was coordinated by the national ministry Unlimited Potential Inc., which conducts similar clinics around the country using pro athletes who are also strong Christians.
Instructors included Weiss and teammates and Rudy Seanez from the Braves, as well as Braves assistant coach Allen Butts. Players from the Reds included Eddie Taubensee and Scott Sullivan. Also on hand were Jeff Hearron, formerly of the Toronto Blue Jays; Skip Shipp, formerly of the Pittsburgh Pirates; and former Green Bay Packers quarterback Don Majkowski.
Shipp, who accepted Christ at age 16, said he enjoys participating in the clinics because they allow him to bring together baseball and his faith in Christ.
“When you can blend the two most important parts of your life together in one setting and share both at the same time, that’s what makes the dream,” he said, noting usually the only time he gets to speak in public is about baseball. “Yeah, I’ve got a good arm, but it’s kind of like you’re leaving the best part of it out,” he said.
Students were divided by age level into four groups, which rotated through 15- 20-minute sessions at each of four stations. Pro players taught hitting at one station, pitching at the next, catching at another and fielding in another. Finally they were all called together to hear Tim Cash, North American director of Unlimited Potential, talk with Weiss about his life and career — including the process in which he discovered the truth of Christ.
Weiss said he grew up in a New York City suburb in a good family, but one that never went to church. It was only after he fulfilled his lifelong dream of playing in the major leagues in 1987 that he realized there had to be more in life.
“When you finally get there and you finally achieve some of the things you set out to do, you realize that’s not the ultimate,” he said. “At that point I just had a lot of questions about life and what it means, and where we’re headed.”
For him, it was an intellectual search that convinced him the Bible must be true.
“I asked a lot of questions, and I came to the point where I became a Christian really through the apologetics angle,” he said. “Once I found out that the Bible was the true Word of God and Jesus was exactly who he said he was … there was no reason for me not to live my life for him. I would be a fool of all fools to disregard that truth that I discovered.”
An evangelistic invitation followed his testimony, and about 40 students filled out commitment cards for later follow-up.
Thomas Hammond, director of NAMB’s direct evangelism team, said sports clinics are effective because of the influence athletes have on their fans.
“People enjoy sports, they look up to the athletes and are interested in the lives of the athletes,” he said. “And if an athletes says this is important to me, then people will listen.”
Hammond said he hopes to help organize another Unlimited Potential-style clinic for later in the summer as one of the many Arms Around Atlanta sports clinics being held at churches throughout the metro area.
After the May 1 clinic, student Stephen Rothring was one of those for whom the message of the day was clear.
“We learned about how to have a relationship with God,” he said. “And we learned some cool things about baseball.”
For information on Arms Around Atlanta and volunteer opportunities available for Southern Baptists from across the county, visit the www.armsaroundatlanta.org web site or contact coordinator Jane Barnes, (770) 936-5322 or [email protected]

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  • James Dotson