If you’ve followed my blog or Twitter or any other avenue of expression for terribly long, you should know that I’m a practicing Christian. (If not, then I’m doing it wrong!) Over the past few years, I’ve noticed that the Christian lifestyle seems to be gaining a lot of traction in the Cardinal clubhouse. For a while, it was focused on Albert Pujols because, well, most everything was focused on Albert and he made no bones about his religious faith. That spotlight had started to expand even before he headed off to Anaheim, but now has moved to players such as Adam Wainwright and, more subtly, Matt Holliday.
This focus has intrigued me, and I brought it up a bit in my conversations with Jamie Pogue, the Cardinals’ bullpen catcher, and Barret Browning. While they both didn’t believe that a Christian faith in particular was a criteria for the front office when looking for a player, they did indicate that some of the same qualities that made for a great teammate and a good clubhouse were found in men of the Christian persuasion. Which is why when I found out that prolific Cardinal author Rob Rains, who has been a friend of the United Cardinal Bloggers as well, had a book coming out covering this very topic, I asked if I could get my hands on one. He very graciously sent me a copy and I quickly got to reading on it.
Intentional Walk: An Inside Look at the Faith That Drives The St. Louis Cardinals takes a look at those that profess Jesus as their Lord and Savior by using the 2012 season as a framework. Now, if you are looking for the ins and outs of the past season, this really isn’t what you are wanting. Mr. Rains does make reference to the season and does a solid job describing the postseason, but the day-to-day on the field stuff isn’t the focus of the story he’s telling. The focus is on the players and their Christian walk.
All in all, it’s a pretty interesting book if you are willing to read about the subject matter. All of the chapters start out with a Bible verse that seems to be important to the player (most of the time, it’s referenced in the chapter, though not always). You get a feel for the path these players have taken from their first introduction to Christ and the Christian faith to where they are today.
It’s also interesting to see just how many people were interviewed for such a work as well. It’s not surprising that you’d see people like Wainwright, Holliday and Mike Matheny, but it’s interesting to also see Carlos Beltran, David Freese, Jason Motte and even a couple of prospects in James Ramsey and Kolten Wong. All in all, there are 18 different people associated with the Cardinals that give their stories of faith in this book.
Now, some of those are more in depth than others. For instance, the chapter with equipment manager Rip Rowen details a severe car accident that Rowen was in and how he has thanked God that he is still alive, but there’s not many details of his faith, whether he was a Christian before or how that’s affected his life going forward. Obviously it’s a work of the Lord that he is still alive and it fits the book, but his faith is not explored as deeply as some others are.
Some of the stories are tough for us to read as well. Most notably, in the chapter where Mr. Rains talks with and about Ricky Horton, where he relives that day in Chicago eleven years ago when Darryl Kile was found in his hotel room and Horton, as the leader of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes in St. Louis, was called upon to go to Chicago and help those players deal with that situation. You can tell in Horton’s recounting that it was one of the toughest things he’s ever had to do and he relied on his faith and being able to share that with the players who were hurting.
For the most part, these stories are interesting and good to read. There are a few nagging things, like Mr. Rains tap-dancing around Freese’s 2009 DWI arrest by referring to it only as “an incident”. I don’t think the fact that Freese obviously slipped from his faith is a drawback to the story he was telling. As Mr. Rains indicates, that was where Freese really reevaluated where he was and what he was doing with his life and it turned him around. Labeling that doesn’t make it any less notable to see where he’s come from.
It was also great to see the players note that God doesn’t care who wins ballgames. The prayers they say before the game are not “let me win” but “let me compete to the best of my ability”. These gifts are given to them by the Lord and they want to honor Him by using them as well as they can. After that, it’s in their hands and the hands of the opponent.
If you are inclined toward the Christian faith or are a Cardinal fan that is interested in learning about the players as real people, this is a great book for you to pick up. I really enjoyed reading where each player came from and what they wanted to say about their faith and would recommend it to others who have the same interest.