By Davin Gulbransen
In one short year the Atlanta Braves rose from being one of the worst teams
in baseball to being nearly the best.
In the 1980s, the Edmonton Oilers were the most feared team in the
NHL. The Oilers of the '90s have gone a team record 4 years without making
In the NBA, Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls are one of the perennial
powerhouses. Five years from now, will the same players be there? Will
they still be the awesome force that we watch today? Maybe. Maybe not.
What do all these teams from different sports have in common besides
being champions at one point in time?
Change is one factor that makes sports so great. Nothing is predictable
for certain. Evander Holyfield proved that the day he shocked the world
by knocking out heavily favored Mike Tyson for the heavyweight championship
of the world. Change in sports or life is a daily event.
One man who has seen a considerable change in his life is Cincinnati
Reds infielder Terry Pendleton. As a part of the Braves in 1991, Terry
saw a dramatic change on the baseball field when the worst-to-first Atlanta
Braves played in the World Series.
For Pendleton, though, the biggest change early in his life resulted
from getting out of the neighborhood in which he grew up. Kids growing
up in South Central Los Angeles are likely to see a lot of things not meant
for children?s eyes. Drugs, violence, and gangs were just as alive
when he was a kid as they are today.
"I lived about a block from the Watts area where all the rioting went
on, and I was around to see a lot of it at a young age," Pendleton says.
"I remember starting school one year with the National Guard standing on
each corner holding M-16s, and that was not a thrilling way to start kindergarten,"
Pendleton, of course, made it out of LA, and his life changed as he
climbed the baseball ladder of success.
But in 1983, Terry saw an even greater change occur off the baseball
field?one that would affect his entire life. "I met Rod Booker getting
on the bus at 5:00 in the morning. We were leaving St. Petersburg, Florida,
and spring training, to go play Double-A baseball in Little Rock, Arkansas.
I had never met Rod before. Rod steps on this bus and walks down the aisle.
When he spoke to me, I knew there was something about this man that I wanted
to know and learn more about," Pendleton says. "I knew he was different
from other guys on the bus."
As it would turn out, Terry and Rod moved into the same apartment complex
in Little Rock?in fact, right next door to each other.
"Rod was able to spend a lot of time with me. I then found out what
this man had that I didn't have. He had inner peace, and he knew the Lord.
He knew the Lord big time," Pendleton explains. Terry and Rod became good
friends as they proceeded through Double A, Triple A, and eventually the
big leagues with the St. Louis Cardinals. After more than 7 years with
the Cards, Terry was traded to the Atlanta Braves, where he was able to
get to know and spend time with another strong Christian, Sid Bream.
"I first met Sid Bream when I was playing against him when he was a
Dodger and I was a Cardinal. I got the chance to play winter ball with
him in 1984, but I never really got to know Sid until we spent some years
together in Atlanta," he says.
Although Terry had accepted Christ into his life in 1983, he had strayed
away from Him. "I got away from Christ along the way with the way of the
world and worldly things," he admits. "Ten years later, I had to really
regroup and say to myself, "Wait a minute. What am I doing here? "And I
think with that, I am definitely focusing on the right track."
Davin Gulbransen lives in Red Deer, Alberta, Canada. He is a recent
graduate of Huntington College in Indiana.