Former Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy once described golf and God as the biggest distractions faced by his players. Lord knows what he’d make of the pregame prayer sessions undertaken by several devout members of the Boston Red Sox. From the Globe’s Bob Hohler (thanks to Mac for the link) :
Trot Nixon, Mike Timlin, Tim Wakefield, Jason Varitek, Curt Schilling, Doug Mirabelli, Bill Mueller, Matt Clement, John Olerud, Mike Myers, Tony Graffanino, Chad Bradford: Each Sox player considers himself an evangelical Christian who believes in the sacred authority of the Bible and the promise of Jesus Christ as his savior.
”In terms of coming to Bible study and chapel, this team has more guys involved than any team I’ve ever been with,” said Olerud, who has played for five teams over 17 seasons in the majors.
The evangelical Sox believe in sharing the ”good news” of their faith, as they demonstrated after their remarkable comeback last October when they climbed out of a three-game chasm against the Yankees in the American League Championship Series and swept the Cardinals in the World Series.
”I wanted to be able to glorify God’s name when all was said and done,” Schilling proclaimed after he won Game 2 of the World Series while bleeding through his sock because of an experimental medical procedure that enabled him to pitch with a dislocated ankle tendon.
Win or lose, Schilling and his fellow evangelicals said, the message remains the same.
”This is our platform, our place to speak our faith and live our faith,” Timlin said. ”This is a special gift from God, to play baseball, and if we can spread God’s word by doing that, then we’ve almost fulfilled our calling.”
Schilling and Timlin share a corner of the Sox clubhouse with Varitek, Wakefield, Mirabelli, and Bradford. Most of the other evangelical Christians occupy lockers across the room in a row with players who do not attend chapel. And the players who are not evangelicals have praised those who are for their inclusive influence.
”Everyone is very respectful of one another and what they choose to believe in,” said Gabe Kapler, who is Jewish. ”The guys in this clubhouse live in harmony when it comes to that kind of stuff.”
Nixon suggested it would be sinful for Christians to do otherwise.
”It would be terrible for me or anyone else to look down on someone who may not come to chapel or Bible study,” he said. ”We love and care about everyone a great deal.”
The Sox evangelicals said they often have been asked if they believe God wanted them to win the World Series rather than the Yankees or the Cardinals.
”I don’t know what he thinks,” Myers said. ”If I knew that, I’d be God.
Regardless of when they discovered their faith, the Sox evangelicals have converged at a unique time in franchise history. Nixon said the organization’s religious tolerance has dramatically improved under the new ownership. Under the previous regime, Day was not allowed in the clubhouse, as he has been since former manager Grady Little helped clear the way after the team changed hands in 2002. Day’s access to the clubhouse has increased his opportunity to meet with players. Previously, chapel was held outside the clubhouse, as it continues to be.
”That has made a huge difference,” Nixon said. ”The organization has become more receptive to our faith.”
Unavailable for comment : Derek Lowe.