One of the things that most Major league baseball players must always keep in perspective is the fact that their career is not something that is set in stone. Even though they may have top notch skills, they still know that at any given time, they could be the subjects of a business deal that will send them out of comfortable surroundings to a strange new place.
On December 10, 1991, the Cleveland Indians put together one of those deals that would have a major impact on the team over the next 10 seasons. That afternoon the Tribe made a deal with the Houston Astros sending catcher Eddie Taubensee and pitcher Willie Blair to the city of Houston for Kenny Lofton.
Nine years and two teams later, Taubensee has made his way back to the Tribe following a trade with the Cincinnati Reds. The move brings him full circle and back to the city that jump-started his big league career.
"I'm very happy to be back in Cleveland and playing in this beautiful ballpark. The winning tradition that has been set here over the last ten years has been incredible. For the Tribe to want me to come back and to watch me over my career to see how it was developing is really a blessing to me."
Being traded away from your team might not seem like anything to be proud of however, Eddie's trade to the Astros was one of the best things that could have happened to him. Taubensee would now be able to grow and learn his role as a full time starting catcher with Houston but more so, he started to realize the starting role that God had in store for him and his family.
"I didn't grow up going to church on a regular basis but there came a time in my childhood where I wanted to learn about God. I asked my mother to take me to church on Sunday's. We went once in a while but my parents only took me because it was something that I wanted to do not because they wanted me to. I didn't see it at home so it was something that didn't get instilled into my life."
A seed was planted thanks to Eddie's curiosity. He didn't know it at the time but an image of God was instilled into his mind and before he understood what was happening it started growing along with his career in baseball.
"Coming up through the minor leagues and early on in my big league career I started hearing about having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I believed in God and I believed in Jesus but I never had that personal relationship that you need. I went on thinking that as long as you prayed every night, that would be enough. I went to chapel and group Bible study but nothing ever sunk in. I was a dysfunctional Christian but I didn't know any better at the time."
The 1995 season was a turning point for this young catcher's career. A group of people from Pro Athletes Outreach, a ministry that reaches out to professional athletes and families for their spiritual needs, came to his home-town of Orlando, Florida. Rene, Eddie's wife, suggested that the two of them go to the meeting.
"A man said something simple that night that changed my whole life. He talked about how God made man in his own image but we as people mold God into our own image. When I heard those words I thought that he was pointing me out in front of the whole crowd. That was exactly what I was doing with my life. I was molding God into a God that I thought he should be instead of who he already is. It was then that I finally realized that the sole purpose for God creating us is to have a personal relationship with him."
On November 9, 1995, Taubensee prayed to God that he'd stop living his life his own way and accepted Jesus into his heart. More importantly to live for him.
"It's been an ongoing process learning to be Christ like each day but it's been awesome and it has totally changed my life. Along with that relationship with Christ, I've become a better husband, a better father and a better ball player."
When Eddie arrived in Cleveland, he already knew what his new role with the Indians was going to be. 1 Corinthians 9:19 "Though I am free I belong to no man, I make my self a slave to everyone to win as many as possible." Taubensee dedicated his season to the Lord and has chosen this Scripture verse to base his spiritual walk through the season.
"That is the way that I see myself at this stage of my career as I come here to a new team. I want to make myself a slave to these guys on the team by doing whatever I need to do in order to win as many people over to Christ. Baseball is such a pressure filled job because you can't go out there and please the fans all of the time, or please the manager or even please the media because you know that you are going to let them down and you are going to mess up some times but I can always please God with my effort out there no matter what I do."
He doesn't stand alone in the locker room either. He shared the importance of having other friends who also shared his faith in Christ. Starting pitcher Tim Drew and third baseman Travis Fryman are just a couple of players that Eddie had mentioned to me as people whom he spent time with on a regular basis. They also hold regular bible studies together on those lengthy road trips.
"It's really a blessing to have those two on the team. Guys like that are great to have on a ball club to hold each other accountable and lift each other up. This is a great team to open to and share with. The easiest thing we should do as a Christian is to stand up and say, 'I love Jesus'. We say that we love our wife or we love the game but how hard is it to say that I love Jesus. What's more important then that?"
Never in my 10 years of reporting sports have I heard any athlete say that they wanted to be a slave for his team in order to win people to Christ. I hope and pray that the Lord continues to bless Eddie's career as he already has but more importantly that he wins those people to Christ. It will make for a very interesting baseball season.