August 12, 2003
|St. Louis Cardinal pitcher Cal Eldred lifts high God’s inerrant, infallible Word while speaking to approximately 10,000 fans who attended post-game festivities highlighting St. Louis Cardinal Christian Appreciation Day at Busch Stadium. Photo: Bob Baysinger|
ST. LOUIS –It was almost a perfect day at Busch Stadium, home of the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Cardinals had one of their most productive efforts of the season, recording a 13-6 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Pitcher Woody Williams picked up his 14th victory.
Albert Pujols cracked four base hits, improving his league-leading batting average to .376.
And a bunch of people got saved!
At a Major League baseball game?
July 23 was Christian Family Day at Busch Stadium, the 13th consecutive year for the event. Thanks to efforts by West County Community Church, a Missouri Baptist congregation located just off Missouri Highway 100 in western St. Louis County, there was a heavy emphasis on evangelism before, during and after the game as almost half the Cardinal team let the fans know that they are not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
One by one, Cardinal players strode out of the dugout after the game to either give a testimony or wave to the crowd, indicating their faith in Christ.
Cardinal broadcaster Kevin Hagan also got involved, telling how he was saved at a Billy Graham Crusade. And several Cardinal wives also talked about what Christ means to them, including Deidre Pujols, wife of Cardinal star outfielder, Albert.
"Angels in Heaven are going to be partying today because of some of the decisions that will be made here," Deidre predicted.
After Cardinal pitcher Cal Eldred presented a Gospel message out of Romans 8, he asked all those in the estimated 10,000 fans who stayed for the post-game activities to stand and raise their hand if they had a desire to receive Jesus into their heart and be saved.
Kimberle Fowle, director of the children’s ministry at West County, was in the stands and estimated that at least 80 people stood, acknowledging their commitment to Christ.
Christian Family Day activities started prior to the game at about 9:30 a.m. Phil Hunter, West County pastor, met with participants at Kiener Plaza outside the stadium and distributed full-color baseball cards of Cardinal players who have professed their faith in Christ. Hunter explained how they should use full-color baseball cards as a witnessing tool throughout the day.
Included in the group was Ed Moncada, the Missouri Baptist Convention’s director of international student ministries.
Don Hockenbury, a member of West County and owner of the Garlich Printing Company, used his shop to print 280,000 of the cards. About 55,000 of the cards were distributed before and during the game. Some of the remaining cards were given to players to use as an ongoing witnessing tool.
Christian Family Day sponsors helped 3,500 St. Louis area underprivileged children attend the game. Out of the group, nine were selected to accompany Cardinal starters onto the field before the game and stand with each player at their positions as the National Anthem was played.
It was a particularly special day for the young boy standing beside Pujols in left field.
"My mom approached Albert (late last year) and asked him if he would sign a baseball for a sick boy in the hospital," Dr. Christie Boen explained. "Albert refused to sign the baseball for my mom, saying he preferred to go to the hospital, meet the boy and sign a baseball while there.
"When Albert, Deidre and my mom got to the hospital, the cancer had spread throughout his body. The doctors had already removed one of his legs. When Albert signed the little boy’s artificial leg, you would have thought the world had been handed to him. He was so excited. The little boy passed away just a few months ago and it was his brother that was invited to stand by Albert during the National Anthem.
"Stories like that just goes on and on throughout the year. These Christians on the Cardinals touch so many people. We’ll never know how many until we get to Heaven."
Those in the crowd of 47,000 who intended to stay for the Christian Day post-game activities began making their way to the seats behind the Cardinal dugout after a wicked curve ball from Jason Isringhausen set down the last Pittsburgh batter on strikes. The stadium atmosphere seemed to change as the organist started playing "How Great Thou Art."
"The most important thing in my life and in Albert’s life is Jesus Christ," said Deidre Pujols, who also attends West County Community Church with her husband.
"I know there are many young people here today who are going through struggles, but Jesus knows what you are going through. In the public school system it’s not that easy to talk about God. But you can show them (God) by the way you treat people."
Hagan told how his wife became a Christian five years ago and now "my kids have a Christian mom."
"I am so thankful as I stand here today that I will not get to Heaven by the deeds I do, but what Jesus did for me. He was the only perfect one," Hagan said.
Hagan replaced long-time Cardinal broadcaster Jack Buck who died last year. Hagan added that he was also thankful for the knowledge that "while on his death bed Buck accepted Jesus Christ as his savior."
In addition to Eldred and Pujols other Cardinals who emerged from the Cardinal dugout to acknowledge their faith in Christ were catcher Mike Matheny, outfielders Eli Marrero and Orlando Palmeiro, pitchers Jason Simontacchi and Lance Painter, and Coach Dave McKay. Marrero did not speak to the crowd, but shared in a message on the back of his baseball card how the witness of teammate Matheny had impacted his life.
"In March of 1998, I was diagnosed with cancer. I was 25 and on top of the world. I had it all, a beautiful wife, a healthy baby boy and a promising career in baseball. Even with all of that, I was missing something. I was missing Jesus Christ," Marrero wrote.
"After a brief conversation with Mike Matheny he posed a question to me. He asked if I was 100 percent sure I was going to heaven. I answered, I was pretty sure. Mike told me I could know for sure because Jesus loved me. He died on the cross for me, and by believing in Him, I could know for sure I was going to be saved and go to heaven."
Eldred capped off the afternoon, telling the fans he wanted to "give them the definition of a Christian."
"Jesus lived and was crucified on a cross for us, for everybody," Eldred said. "Everybody here will be responsible to accept or reject him.
"He died. Why? Because all of us are born with a sinful nature. You have to come to a point where you know you are a sinner … . You have to believe that Jesus is the mediator between God and man … . You need to repent and ask for forgiveness. If you ask Him to do that sincerely, He will do that."
Eldred said he came to know Christ while attending a Bible study with the Milwaukee Brewers in 1990.