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Ump called ‘missionary to the Major Leagues’

GILBERT, Ariz. (BP)–For a biblical parallel to Major League umpire Ted Barrett, his pastor thinks of Barnabas.

“Ted has got the most encouraging, relational approach to people,” said Bill Bush, pastor of Rock Point Church in Gilbert, Ariz. “He’s everybody’s friend.”

Barrett has been involved with Rock Point Church since it was a new church plant of only five families. Now the church has about 1,500 in attendance on Sundays.

“It’s been great for me, because obviously I’m gone during the season, but when I come back each year I’ve plugged into a different area,” Barrett said. Sometimes he preaches. Sometimes he leads small groups. A master’s degree in theology (with a doctorate in theology in progress) helps with that.

Whatever his role, Barrett’s connection with his home church is important -– because his job as an umpire is more to him than just a profession. It’s also a ministry.

As Barrett made his way up through the minor leagues, he couldn’t help but notice the debased life most minor league umpires lived.

“It’s Sodom and Gomorrah,” Barrett said. “Coming through the minor leagues, it’s drink as much as you can. It’s a hard life.”

Most guys stayed up all night drinking and partying, slept all day, got up at 4 p.m. and went to work, then did it again.

Barrett quickly sensed that he could make a difference among his fellow umpires. “God’s got me here for a reason,” he thought.

He and Rob Drake, an umpiring friend of Barrett’s, eventually started “Calling for Christ,” a Bible study retreat in December for umpires. Their focus isn’t strictly on umpires in the big leagues, as they want to minister to umpires in the minor leagues as well.

When he retires from his job as an umpire, Barrett envisions traveling around the country in an RV visiting minor league ballparks so he can spend time with the minor league umpires, encouraging them in their job and sharing the Gospel.

For now, however, Barrett’s task is in the big leagues. He tries to be a witness to his fellow umpires, as well as to players and coaches. Some might consider him to be an umpire who’s a Christian.

His pastor, however, considers him to be a minister who’s also an umpire. Every year, as Barrett prepares for another season on the road, his church family prays over him and commissions him.

“We consider him a missionary,” Bush said. “He’s our missionary to the Major Leagues.”

    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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