EU Hosts “Faith on the Field”: Phillies Pitchers Come to Talk Baseball and Jesus

      On Monday, April 24, Eastern University welcomed Philadelphia Phillies pitchers Jerad Eickhoff and Jeanmar Gómez, presented by 610 Sports/ESPN Radio. Eastern athletic teams, students, faculty and other members of the community packed into the EU gymnasium to hear Eickhoff and Gómez explore their identities as both professional athletes and people of faith. Joining Eickhoff and Gómez at the table were the Phillies team chaplain, radio host Rob Maaddi, Pastor Phil Moser, EU faculty member Doug Horton and EU Baseball Head Coach Jed Morris.

      Eickhoff attended a private Catholic high school in Evansville, Indiana. He played college ball at Olney Central College in Olney, Illinois. He was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in 2010 but opted not to sign and continued his college career at Olney. In 2011, Eickhoff was drafted in the 15th round of the Major League Baseball Draft by the Texas Rangers but remained in the minors. It was not until 2015 when Eickhoff was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies that he made his Major League debut.

      Gómez is from Caracas, Venezuela and was signed by the Cleveland Indians in 2006 as an undrafted free agent. Gómez made his Major League debut in 2010 when he was called up by the Indians for merely a spot start. In 2013, Gómez was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates and was able to make his way into the Pirates bullpen rotation. In 2015, Gómez was signed by the Phillies as primarily a relief pitcher.

      During the Faith on the Field event, Gómez and Eickhoff were interviewed about the role of faith in their lives as professional athletes. Maaddi first inquired about Gómez’s choice of walk-in song: a Spanish version of “The Great I Am.” Gómez commented that the song was particularly special to him because he first heard it during a time when he and his wife were undergoing spiritual difficulties. When Gómez enters a game with the powerful message of his walk-in song, he is reminded that, ultimately, God is in control. Maaddi added that Gómez is a player who remains both thankful and humble, no matter if he walks away with a win or loss. When asked about the source of his humility, Gómez remarked that Jesus is the greatest role model. Gómez said, “To be humble is to live every day like Jesus.”

      Later on, Maaddi asked the players about their experiences being on teams with other players who do not identify as Christians. He asked what it was like when other players put on popular music with negative messages or engage in behaviors that may not coincide with their practice of faith. Eickhoff responded that he tries his best to lead his teammates, but he recognizes that it is not his sole responsibility to change every person he encounters. Eickhoff said, “Once you establish yourself in what you believe in, a lot of the negative stuff has less of an impact.”

      Eickhoff and Gómez also spoke of the importance and value of having a team chaplain. During the season the athletes are unable to attend church on Sundays, and so scheduled gatherings with a team chaplain are crucial to staying accountable in their faith.

      By sharing their testimonies and experiences, Eickhoff and Gómez encouraged members of the EU community to life out their faith unashamedly. Attendees were reminded to trust in God in every situation and to constantly pursue the Lord, even if this is unpopular.

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