I jumped at the opportunity to interview Tom Roy, former baseball player for the San Francisco Giants, and President of Unlimited Potential Inc. (UPI). UPI is a world-wide ministry that serves Christ through baseball, and Tom has appeared at speaking events and in baseball clinics in over 60 countries.
Tom graciously gave his time to discuss how baseball has informed his view of Christian mission; how we can navigate failures and successes; and how we can make a difference for Christ wherever we work, play, and live.
|Tom Roy & his wife, Carin.|
ZBLOG: Tom, I challenge you to tell me about UPI in the time it takes to run to first base.
TOM: (Hmmm…I am a very slow runner!) The purpose of UPI is to Reach, Teach, Train for the purpose of Sending ballplayers onto the mission field in the clubhouse, the community, the church and the entire world.
ZBLOG: UPI does a lot of cool things, but what is it about the ministry that gets you most excited? What makes you think, "This is why I do what I do"?
TOM: I get fired up to see God working in the hearts of men to be men and reach their world — to see the light go on about what living an authentic life with Jesus looks like. Jesus said in John 17, "I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but rather that you protect them from the evil one." Infiltrating their culture with Jesus gets me excited.
ZBLOG: I like how you say "infiltrating" our cultures for Jesus. How would you advise someone who wants to do that, but doesn't know how to get started? Do you have any tips on being salt and light?
TOM: Yes I do —
- Care for people! Ask about them. There is often more power in asking good questions than having the right answers.
- Don't see them as projects, but as people. Develop a genuine relationship. If the timing is appropriate, ask what they think of Jesus. Or ask if they have a spiritual philosophy.
- I used to think every soul I met was like the final out of a game. Now I see that God sometimes allows us be a starter, sometimes a middle man, sometimes a set up man and once in a while a closer. HE will bring people to himself.
ZBLOG: You mention in an audio clip on upi.org that being "released" from the San Francisco Giants was traumatic, but God used that to prepare you for your ministry. This is very interesting — could you talk about your release experience and how God has used it?
TOM: Most athletes face a day when they have to leave the game, whether it is due to an injury, a decision made by their team or another reason. If God is in control, a release is not a demotion but a call-up. At first, my release was very painful since baseball was my identity. But it also led me to humble myself and truly follow Jesus. The short time in the game gave me credibility with others in the baseball culture around the world and opened doors to talk Jesus with them.
ZBLOG: Has your experience with baseball given you a new perspective on issues every Christian deals with?
TOM: Most definitely. Athletic competition exposes a lot about how we think. For example: How do we define a win? Why do we compete? Why do we give up when down? How do we handle success? How do we handle defeat?
ZBLOG: Could you share some of what you've learned about how to handle success, and how to handle defeat?
TOM: Jesus defines both as learning experiences. I was once told, "You win some, you learn some." If God is in control, it is great to be alive... whether in the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat, because He has every event covered! The question is whether I am ready to learn from both success and failure. It really is about who gets the glory.
You can learn more about UPI's ministry at www.upi.org and stay connected when you subscribe to the UPI newsletter. For more of the story on what God has done in Tom's life and through UPI, check out Tom's book Released: A Story of God's Power Released in Pro Baseball. All proceeds of Released go to UPI.
(-Adam Forrest, Zondervan Internet Team)