Inspiring Athletes

Inspiring Athletes


Former MLB infielder and World Series champion Jay Bell on spiritual epiphanies, the dangers of the performance mentality and the importance of humility

posted by Chad Bonham

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THROWBACK THURSDAY: Jay Bell

When you hear conversations about former Major League infielder Jay Bell, words like “steady,” “consistent” and “solid” are often thrown around. He wasn’t the flashiest player to grace the diamond and rarely put up gaudy numbers, yet his 18-year career that included stops in Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Arizona and New York (with the Mets) yielded two All-Star appearances, a Gold Glove Award, a Silver Slugger Award and a World Series ring in 2001 with the Diamondbacks.

Since retiring in 2003, Bell has spent some time coaching but now works primarily in the non-profit realm for the Baseball Assistance Team while enjoying his family on a full-time basis. Known as one of his eras most well-respected Christian athletes, Bell shares his thoughts on key Bible principles and some watershed events in his Christian walk:

Bonham: What have been some pivotal moments in your spiritual journey?

Jay Bell

Bell: The first was when I got married. My wife and I really held each other accountable and ever since our marriage has been based on our relationship with Christ. I also relied on other strong Christian teammates like Andre Thornton, Brett Butler, Don Gordon and Chris Bando. Another pivotal moment happened in 1996. I was still holding on to the game very tightly. I was having a tough year and one game I remember grounding out and right at that moment as I was jogging back to the dugout I felt myself give the game up to the Lord. It wasn’t a magic formula. It didn’t allow me to get any more hits or score any more runs or be any more successful, it was just the fact that when I finally gave the game over to God, that was the point that I started enjoying the game for what it was in the good times and in the bad.

Bonham: What is a biblical principle that guides your life?

Bell: Philippians 2 talks about being imitators of Christ. That’s been the biggest thing for me. You learn it more as a coach than you do as a player. As a player you tend to go through Spring Training trying to do what you have to do to get ready for the season so you can have success and so the team can have success. As a player, you tend to be more concerned about yourself. You can still be a team player but there’s some selfishness that goes along with it. It’s not a bad selfishness. It’s a good selfishness. But still, you’re concerned about yourself.

As a coach, you’re not as concerned about yourself. You concern yourself with everybody but you. So the focus is different. Yet, in both situations, the key for me was not looking at my interest but thinking of others as higher than myself, and making sure that my attitude was the same as the attitude of Jesus. I always tried to be as humble as I possibly could. Those were also the types of players that I was drawn to like John Smoltz and Tom Glavine and Jeff King.

Bonham: What is your approach to evangelism?

Bell: There are multiple facets to evangelism. Baseball players and coaches live together for about 200 days out of the year. You have a platform with these guys. But they see you and they know you well. You have to earn the right to share Christ with these guys. You don’t want to beat them over the head with a Bible. But you want to make sure that you’re living out the Bible every day. When those opportunities come, then you can share the Bible and God’s Word vocally. You want to be prepared for that.

Bonham: What do you tell young athletes about the dangers of being wrapped up in performance like you once were?

Bell: What I tell my kids and what I tell young players is that you only have one name. You want to make sure you can maintain the integrity of that name. Because once you lose it, you lose it for good. The odds of you getting it back are extremely slim. If you’re name is important to you, then you should do everything you can possibly do to preserve it.

Bonham: What’s your favorite Bible verse?

Bell: Philippians 2:5-8. This is what a Christian walk should look like. It doesn’t mean you have to be meek. You just need to be humble. As an athlete, you want to try to win. You want to do everything you can do to win but there needs to be a humility that comes with that in order to really allow people to look at you and see that there’s something you’ve got that they want. It’s not about the game. It’s not about anything else. It’s about how a solid believer conducts himself when people are watching.

Join us tomorrow for a conversation with Los Angeles Angels outfielder and nine-time Gold Glove award winner Torii Hunter.



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