“Baseball had become my god; it was all about baseball,” says Juan Pierre, a career .296 hitter with 543 stolen bases.
“Everything else was secondary, even my faith. Baseball kept me away from God,” Juan says.
Juan was born in Mobile, Ala., and grew up in Alexandria, Louisiana. “We all attended church very faithfully, he says. “But it wasn’t until 2009 when I finally developed a personal relationship with the Lord.”
Juan was drafted out of high school by Seattle in the 30th round. He did well in his academics and was hoping to play D-1 baseball. However, all the D-1 schools wanted to redshirt him.
“I did not want to redshirt and watch others play baseball for a whole year,” he said. “I decided to attend Galveston (Texas) Junior College. It was the first time I played baseball year round. I had a great year there. I got drafted again by Seattle but in the 42nd round. I thought, I am going backwards.”
Juan had an even better year statistically his sophomore year but he was not even drafted. He could not believe it.
But eventually, after transferring to South Alabama University, Juan was drafted in 1998 in the 13th round by the Colorado Rockies.
In less than three years, he made his major league debut on August 7, 2000.
“I had been successful in baseball,” Juan says, “Coming up to the Big Leagues in 2000, playing 7-8 years with good stats, won the World Series with the Marlins. Life was good!”
Juan played three years for the Rockies and three years for the Marlins. In 2006 Juan played for the Cubs and became a free agent. “That’s why you play baseball – to become a free agent,” Juan explains. “It is a part of baseball. I signed a five-year contract for 45 million dollars to play for the Los Angeles Dodgers. I thought it could not be better than this.”
The first year with the Dodgers was in 2007. Juan had a good year batting .293 with 196 hits, scored 96 runs and had 64 stolen bases. “I was used to playing every day. I felt it important to play every day as the stats will come along,” Juan explains. However, the Dodgers fired their manager and brought in Joe Torre.
Thinking everything would be great with a Hall of Fame manager and coming off a good year, Juan was disappointed to find himself on the bench on opening day, 2008. “When opening day came, I was not in the lineup. Torre said he was going to go with two young kids – Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier – who are now all-star players. I was back on the bench.”
Having four more years on his contract, Juan became frustrated and bitter.
“I called my agent to get me out of here; but I did not realize God was working on me. I was healthy and in the prime of my career, but God was dealing with me. I just did not know it.”
However, Jones missed several games because of an injury, and Juan ended up with substantial playing time and having a decent year (2008).
“I was still not listening to God,” Juan says. “As I was playing in the 2009 season, I injured my knee. It was my first injury ever, and I went on the disabled list.” Just before the trading deadline, the Dodgers signed Manny Ramirez. Juan was again back on the bench. But once again, Juan ended up with playing time when Ramirez spent time on a 50-game suspension.
During the off-season before the 2009 spring training, “I picked up my Bible and started reading. I did not understand all of it, but kept on reading. At spring training, I looked up the Dodgers’ team chaplain, Rev. Chad Johnson.” Juan confesses, “I heard Pastor Chad speaking at chapel, and it cut through me. Wow, I never heard the Word like this! That was my defining moment.”
Pastor Johnson and Juan began meeting and reading the Bible. Pastor Johnson walked him through the Scriptures, which became clearer to him. Juan adds, “I began to understand more and especially God’s plan of salvation. I realized what God was doing to me. God broke me down.”
“The way I see it, God was getting my attention and dealing with me,” Juan says. “I surrendered it all to Him: my life and my career. I said, ‘Here is my life; I cannot figure it all out on my own.’ There was a peace that came about me.”
Rev. Johnson says, “I was available to him as chaplain to lend an ear and give encouraging words from the Lord. It was during this time that Juan made a commitment to a personal relationship to Jesus. He understands his platform, and he understands that God has lifted him up to be an impact for the Lord.”
Juan’s wife, Liz, who he met while with the Florida Marlins – she was working in their business office – says, “It wasn’t until Juan was playing with the Dodgers and things started to get tough for him in baseball did the Lord really start opening Juan’s eyes about what was really important. The Lord had to knock Juan off his feet because baseball was his number one priority.
“It was during this time we met Pastor Chad,” Liz continues. “It was then Juan started to invest his life in the Lord and the Lord became his first priority. It was during this time I too gave my life to Christ.”
Today, Juan is focused. “He is really focusing that his relationship is right with the Lord every single day,” Liz adds.
“Juan is such a gentle spirit,” says former teammate, Scott Linebrink, now with the Atlanta Braves. “His commitment to growing in the Lord served as an inspiration and kept me accountable. You need teammates like Juan who are always encouraging and uplifting.”
Scott continues, “Juan is often referred to as the hardest-working man in baseball. He seeks after Christ with the same intensity.”
Juan has been with the Chicago White Sox two years now and has played solid baseball.
Juan says he likes Psalm 37 and especially the verse that says, “Delight yourself in the LORD, And He will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4, New American Standard Bible).
“Jesus is my life,” stresses Juan. “When things happen, I ask, ‘What would Jesus do in this situation?’ When I play ball, it is all for Him and the glory goes to Him.”
Mickey Weston, White Sox chaplain and director of Unlimited Potential, Inc, says, “Juan has been a breath of fresh air in my life. He has such a humble spirit for a man who has played in the major leagues for 11 years.“
“Juan most of all seeks to glorify God in each and every area of his life,” Weston adds. “He is probably the hardest worker of anyone I have come across in baseball. He is very disciplined and wants to get the most out of his ability so it will bring glory to Jesus Christ.”
Visit http://athletesinaction.org for other great AIA Sport ministries stories.
Bio: Juan Pierre is an outfielder with the Philadelphia Phillies, and has played Major League Baseball since 2000, playing for the Colorado Rockies, Florida Marlins, Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago White Sox.