Heading into the 2012 Major League Baseball playoffs, Andy Pettitte holds the Major record for most post-season starts (42), innings pitched (263) and wins (19). And while the Yankees lefty isn’t considered a lock for the Hall of Fame, one thing is certain. Pettitte has always been more concerned about helping his teammates on and off the field than compiling .
In this Inspiring Athletes interview, the five-time World Series champion and three-time All-Star talks about his faith journey, his relationship with wife Laura, how the HGH scandal challenged his spiritual resolve and what he thinks is his most important role in the clubhouse:
Chad Bonham: Tell me about your spiritual upbringing.
Pettitte: I was raised in a very strong Catholic family. My mom’s side is Italian. My dad’s side is French and Indian. I went to church every Sunday and as a kid did all of those things like the Catechism and communion. When we moved to Texas, we were still going to a Catholic church here in Deer Park. I was 11 years old when my sister was invited by a friend to go to her church and I went with her one night. It was really the first time in my life that I heard that I heard about having relationship with the Lord and accepting Him as my personal Savior. That was the night that I accepted Jesus into my heart and was saved. I’ve felt like an absolutely different person since then. I didn’t end up growing up in that church. When I was about 15 years old, I was invited to Central Baptist Church and that’s where I met my wife. She was the pastor’s daughter. She had three older brothers and I got extremely close to them and it was at that time when I feel like my walk with the Lord started to get stronger. That’s how it all went down.
Bonham: How specifically has your wife influenced your spiritual growth?
Pettitte: I met Laura when I was 15. I’ve learned a lot about biblical integrity from her. When we started dating, we made a commitment to one another that we weren’t going to have sex until we got married. I don’t think people realize how huge of a commitment that is, especially with teenagers. If you commit yourself to not doing that, then you’re going to focus on other things in your relationship and you focus on your walk with Lord.
Bonham: As a professing Christian, do you feel a certain responsibility to be a leader in the clubhouse?
Pettitte: It wasn’t just my job to pitch. It was my job to build relationships with the other players. You’ve got to have camaraderie or togetherness on a baseball team if you want to win. Whenever someone has the ability to impact people’s lives, I think that’s one of the greatest things that God gives us as individuals. When you build relationships, you get to share your beliefs. It gives you the opportunity to share your faith with other people.
Bonham: When did you start to first discover that you were called to be a leader?
Pettitte: It was probably during my last year or two of my first run with the Yankees. When you’re younger, even though I feel like I’ve been pretty consistent in my walk with the Lord and sharing my faith since I’ve been out of high school, sometimes my focus was more on the game. Probably the first seven or eight years in the big leagues it was just the grind of trying to live up to expectations in New York. I had so much success early in my career. So it was probably the year before I came over to the Astros. With the Astros, that’s when it all changed for me. I went over there and I was one of the older guys on the team. I had a different role. It was almost like a player-coach role to a certain extent. That’s where my shift switched from being so consumed and so worried about myself and how I was performing and how I was doing to literally turning that all over to God and trying to be available to other people and trying to encourage other people and build those relationships. It’s amazing that when you get the focus off yourself how much things kind of fall into place.
Bonham: Who were some other players that taught you what it looked like to be a Christian leader?
Pettitte: There were a lot of guys early in my career who were older Christians that I looked up to. Several of them that come to mind are Scott Brosius, John Wetteland, Joe Girardi and Chad Curtis. All of those guys had different traits. All of them had different things that stood out for me. John was very bold in his faith and very outspoken. Chad Curtis was the exact same way. I took things from all them. Scott Brosius and Joe Girardi were very caring and encouraging.
Bonham: How did the HGH (human growth hormone) controversy impact your ability to lead and what has been the effect of how you dealt with the issue?
Pettitte: It’s absolutely amazing what happens when you’re consistent in your walk and you’re consistent in the way you live your life. It doesn’t matter what’s happened in your life. I’ve shown that with what happened with the HGH situation. It is mind boggling to me the power of God and how He’s handled it and how He’s given me more opportunities than I could ever imagine, even since that’s happened, to share my faith with people and to have the opportunity to go into churches and speak. I literally thought that when that happened I’d wasted my whole life—the way that I’d live my life—and I’d messed it up with a bad decision that I made. God knows my heart. God knows that I’m telling the truth in everything I said about that and I think that He’s totally honored me and blessed me in that and the way I handled it.
Bonham: How often during your career have you had the opportunity to share your faith in a personal way with your teammates or others within a baseball organization?
Pettitte: There have been many times I’ve been able to share my faith with teammates. We’ve seen guys who weren’t saved turn their lives over to Christ. Unfortunately, I don’t get to see that step as much as I would like, but I’ve definitely seen a change in guys’ lives. When they see me, it serves as accountability for them and it makes them think twice about some things they’re considering doing. God has been great in that sense. I’ve had the opportunity to experience that. The ultimate goal is to see people take that step and accept Christ as their Lord and Savior. Sometimes it gets frustrating when you don’t get to see that firsthand, but I know that I’ve had the opportunity to plant the seed and talk to teammates about it. You hope that one day that they’ll make that life changing decision. If you treat people the right way, it gives you the opportunity to reach out to fans with your faith. God’s given me a great platform.
Read more from Andy Pettitte in the books Teamwork and Greatest Leader Ever (both published by Regal Books).