Some Indians players have the answer
    by Staff Writer

    It was early September and the Indians seemed to be on their way to the baseball playoff.  The team, though, had struggled to reach its potential, and most observers believed that the Indians would make little impact during post-season play.

    It was then that Connection Magazine talked with Mike Jackson, the Indians' outstanding relief pitcher.

    "God has a purpose and a plan for us on this team," Jackson said.  "I think He knows that whatever success this team might have, whether it's a little or a lot, the believers on this team are not going to forget Him.  We will give Him the honor and the glory."

    God has granted blessings to each person.  He has given obvious skills to each major league baseball player.  The Indians used those skills to advance to baseball's ultimate game, the seventh game of the World Series.

    Jackson and the other Indians' players who have accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior never did forget Him during their 27-day post-season run.

    "We've got to praise the Lord Jesus Christ who brought us through the storm," Jackson said in the locker room after the Indians defeated the Baltimore Orioles, 1-0 in 11 innings, to clinch the American League pennant."  I just thank God that He gave me the strength."

    Jackson pitched in 13 post-season games.  He allowed just one run in 13 1/3 innings.

    Tony Fernandez loves Jesus Christ.  Fernandez talked with Connection Magazine before the fourth game of the World Series.  He spoke of the Christian fellowship on the Indians.

    "The Lord says in His word that when two or more gather in His name, He's there in their midst," Fernandez said.  "It helps to have someone to hold you accountable.  We look after each other.  That's what the Lord commands us to do, to love each other, to look after each other, to encourage each other."

    Certainly, playing major league baseball can be a rewarding experience.  But it also can present difficulties.  Players spend several months on the road, away from their families.  Injuries are common, often serious, and sometimes leave their mark for a lifetime.  Job performance is judged by thousands everyday, often by a national audience.

    Tom Petersburg is the Cleveland director of Athletes in Action.  He supervises Bible studies, Chapel services and other faith-related activities for the Indians and Cavaliers.  Petersburg believes that the presence of many born-again Christians on the Indians has helped the team succeed.

    "What that brings to a ballclub is having a group of guys who are intentionally concerned about the other guys on the club, concerned about the guy in the locker next to him," Petersburg says.  "You hear players comment about how their teammates try to encourage them.  I think that's a noticeable thing on this club, that guys are genuinely concerned for the welfare of others."

    No doubt, being surrounded by men of faith helped Fernandez after the 3-2 loss to the Florida Marlins in the seventh game of the World Series.  Fernandez, who has been one of the best big-game players of this era, was unable to make a difficult play at second base during the 11th inning.

    Fernandez graciously met with a throng of reporters after the game, although he was understandably disappointed.  He told them that he would make no excuses for the misplay.  Fernandez then demonstrated his faith by saying: "I have a lot of things I can replay in my mind good things and bad things.  Like anything else in life, this also shall pass."

    Probably no player is better equipped to deal with adversity than is Fernandez.  And maybe no player is any better able to deal with success, too, than the 35-year-old Fernandez.

    Fernandez, who was born in the Dominican Republic and is very active in charity work, has won four Golden Glove Awards, for his defensive play at shortstop, and he has been named to four all-star teams.  He has 1,925 hits in his major league career, and a .286 lifetime batting average.

    In 1993, Fernandez drove in nine runs to lead all hitters and to help the Toronto Blue Jays to a World Series Championship victory over the Philadelphia Phillies in six games.

    During this post-season, Fernandez hit .357 and drove in 10 runs.  On October 15th, he slugged an 11th inning homerun to give the Indians their 1-0 victory over Baltimore and the American League pennant.

    This is how Fernandez described his homerun while being interviewed on national television after the game:

    "I have to give God the glory, because when I stepped up to the plate, I said, 'Lord, I don't have it,' and I asked Him to direct my thoughts and guide this ball.  And He just decided to, and that's why I'd like to praise Him for glorifying His Son through me."

    The interviewer then referred to Fernandez as a hero.

    "Jesus is my hero," Fernandez said.  "I thank God for orchestrating it (the game) that way.  He knows everything.  I didn't know what was going to happen, but God knew.  This belongs to Him only and we praise Him for it."

    During the World Series, Connection Magazine asked Fernandez if he considered the post-season to be a special opportunity to proclaim the name of Jesus.

    "Our daily walk should shine before man and we should be a good example so as to give glory to the Lord not only at this time, but always, we need to give a testimony about the love of Christ.

    "To me, I know my Heavenly Father wasn't surprised (by Fernandez' testimony on television).

    I know that my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, wasn't surprised.  I know the Holy Spirit wasn't surprised.

    "God knows what is in my heart.  I don't get surprised when my kids say that they love me and my Father is not surprised when I say I love Him.  The Lord says that out of the abundance of your heart, your mouth speaks."

    Like Fernandez, Seitzer is 35.  Seitzer, though, announced several months ago that this would be his final season as a player.  He has been hobbled in recent seasons by several major knee injuries, and late in this season, he underwent an emergency appendectomy and sprained ankle.

    Seitzer played little during the playoffs, but he was a constant source of encouragement to his teammates.  He finished his career with a .295 batting average - one of the highest among current players - and two all-star game appearances.

    Seitzer was interviewed on television by WJW's John Telich moments after the Indians defeated the New York Yankees, 4-3, in the fifth and deciding game of the playoffs first round.

    Telich: "You've placed a lot of faith in the Lord, in your faith in Jesus Christ as your Savior."

    Seitzer: "I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for my personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  He got me through alcoholism, saved my marriage, saved my career eight years ago, put me in a position right now to really enjoy something in the last year of my career.  And I'm just so thankful and I'm just incredibly blessed."

    The 1997 baseball season is over and only God knows for sure, where these outstanding Christian athletes will be next year.

    We feel confident, though, that they will be telling people that the only Way to God and His Heaven is through His Son, Jesus Christ.

    "That's our goal," Seitzer said.  "That's the bottom line of the whole thing, the reason we're playing the game, the reason we're doing what we're doing.  Everything is about trying to bring glory to God."