Royals Jeff King gives it all to the Lord

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by Greg Weeks

When the Kansas City Royals acquired Jeff King, a power hitting infielder from the Pittsburgh Pirates prior to last season, they were hoping he'd duplicate his numbers from 1996. He had slugged 30 home runs for the Bucs that year?homers the Royals badly needed.

The Midwest fans weren't disappointed. In 1997, Jeff hit 28 dingers and led the club in RBIs with 112.

The Royals got more than a booming bat from this Colorado Springs, Colorado, native, however. They got someone who adds emotional and spiritual maturity to a young team.

That maturity has roots in his childhood. His parents are strong Christians, with his father taking part in Athletes in Action. Jeff's faith grew when, at the age of 13, he accompanied his dad on a trip to Alaska. They were part of a team of Christian college baseball players who traveled around the world playing baseball and sharing their faith. The team was in Alaska to get to know each other, practice and have Bible studies.

Listening to the testimonies of such athletes strongly affected the teenager. "I just was very impressed by these young men. They were everything I wanted to be, and they were taking their faith very seriously. When we were sitting around in the Bible study, I just felt that I needed to make that commitment myself."

That vow was his first step in claiming a faith of his own, not one that he inherited. "Up until that point, I knew everything about Christianity and the Bible, and I went to church. I was just around it all the time. But for everybody, it's got to come down to a personal decision and a personal commitment."

Because he accepted Christ at the beginning of his teen years, he found added strength to deal with the stresses of adolescence. In particular, he found an ability to cope with peer pressure.

"Peer pressure and things like that never bothered me a whole lot. You know, if somebody wanted me to do something that I knew was wrong, I had no problem with just saying no or keeping away from it. I didn't care what anyone else thought." (As he looks back, he has another observation about peer pressure; "You're not going to know 98 percent of the people you went to high school with, so why listen to what they're telling you to do and worry about it a whole lot???)

This strong sense of knowing where he was going certainly helped him get to where he is today. He earned a Fulbright Scholarship to play baseball at the University of Arkansas. ?It was a great experience, and there?s no doubt in my mind that the Lord led me there??and then on to professional baseball.

This doesn't mean, though, he's had it easy in his pro career. Tolling in the minors for three years wasn't a cakewalk. In fact, he came close to quitting. "In my third year of minor league ball, I just about hung up my spikes. Then, about two and a half months later, I was in the big leagues. To this day I'm not sure why I ever kept playing when I was to the point of calling it quits...(God was active in this, but during the time) it was hard to see that...But it's like my dad always told me: "Life is difficult at times, but just keep your faith and trust in Him when you can't figure things out yourself."

Once he made it to the majors, things did't go exactly as he had hoped. Occasionally, injuries would dog the 33-year-old first baseman. Looking back, though, Jeff sees such difficulties as maturing experiences.

"It's taken me a long time to realize how the Lord's led me. I wish I could tell you that I've been totally at peace and content knowing that God's in control of my circumstances...There have been a lot of ups and downs, a lot of real low valleys. They were very difficult to get through, but somehow I did it by the grace of God."

Even when everything is going well, Jeff admits that being a professional ballplayer is not easy. "God's given me the ability to play, but you also have to be mentally strong, have a lot of commitment, spend time away from your family, and manage stress of being in the spotlight. That part goes against my whole character."

Especially trying is being a dad himself and being on the road. "One of the most difficult things about this job is having to say good-bye to my kids every other week."

But if being a ballplayer is a challenge, Jeff has found inner peace that helps him cope. "I don't enjoy this part (of a player's life), but the Lord's given me the strength to deal with it. He's allowed me to have some great moments in the game, and I just owe it all to Him."

His sense of peace carries with him into the off-season. He has a ranch in Montana that he enjoys with his wife, Laura, and their four children. He?s excited at the prospect of being a cattleman there when ?everything is done on the ballfield.?

Whether it's on the ballfield or ranch, though, one thing is certain. Jeff has a rock-solid faith that grounds him and gives him a firm sense of direction.

"The greatest thing is the Good News of Jesus Christ, Who forgives us of our sins. That's as great for me today as it was when I was 13 years old. There's no doubt in my mind that I wouldn't be who I am today and I wouldn't be where I am today without a relationship with Jesus. There's nothing good about me if I didn't have Him"

Jeff King, indeed, brings more than a bat to the Kansas City Royals!

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Reprinted by permission, Sharing The Victory