Fay: Reds pitcher Lorenzen revels in community service as his Christian duty

Baseball provides 'a platform to glorify God'
Fay: Reds pitcher Lorenzen revels in community service as his Christian duty
Posted at 7:00 AM, Dec 10, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-10 09:33:23-05

CINCINNATI -- Some pro athletes view community appearances as a chore.

Reds pitcher Michael Lorenzen views them as a duty.

That's why Lorenzen made 11 stops in six days this week to connect with fans at events around town.

Why would Lorenzen spend a week of his offseason in the Cincinnati cold when he could have been back in California?

"I'm doing as much as I can because I'm not here full time right now," he said. "I've always known that this game was going to be used as a platform to glorify God. I want to take advantage of my time here. I was here for Redsfest. I did this last year, too.

"It's just all about forgetting all the stuff that comes along with baseball selfishly, the self-glorification. Taking my eyes off myself, focusing on the community and becoming a servant."

Reds pitcher Michael Lorenzen views community service as a duty, not a chore.

Like all born-again Christians, Lorenzen considers himself saved. But, in Lorenzen's case, he was saved from something that could have easily kept him from being what he is: A major-league player with star potential.

His life path changed at age 16.

"I was drunk and high on a pier in Huntington Beach," he said. "Some guy was sharing about how Jesus died for my sins. I had known the story, because I live in America. But I was never taught the story.

"My parents were alcoholics. They met through drugs. My brothers were big partiers. That was the lifestyle I was going to follow. Those were influences on my life. My dad left when I was 10. I was free to do whatever I wanted. I had my brothers and that was it. They were in trouble all the time.

"I was going down a path that didn't lead to here. The message that guy shared when I was high and drunk, it hit me. I was actually in sin at the time. It changed my life. It showed me that I was being selfish with my talent."

Lorenzen's talent was prodigious even then. He was always the fastest kid with the best arm on his team.

"I was the best out of the family," he said. "My older brother was drafted by the Dodgers in 2000. I was 8 years old when he was drafted. I always knew I was going to get here.

"I saw it was possible. That's what I worked toward, but there were other things that were distractions as well. I had no guidance. My role models weren't very good. I was going down the same path."

His older brother Jonathan's path to the big leagues ended abruptly.

"He was arrested a couple years into pro ball and released by the Dodgers," Lorenzen said. "That was the path I was going down."

That path changed with that chance meeting on the pier.

Lorenzen reconnected with his father, Clif, after getting to the big leagues; Clif died unexpectedly in August. Lorenzen's signature moment as a big-leaguer came when he hit a home run in his first at-bat after returning from Clif's funeral.

Lorenzen is confident enough in his abilities to say he would have made it to the big leagues even if his life hadn't changed.

"Baseball-wise, sure," he said. "But that really doesn't matter. You can be the best talent in the world. But if you're a terrible human being, you're still going to be miserable."

Lorenzen is far from miserable.

Thursday night, he was at the downtown library, reading to kids, answering questions and signing autographs. Lorenzen got the kind of questions you'd expect from 6-year-olds.

"You ever been hit in the head by a baseball?"

"Lots of times."

"How many home runs have you hit?"

"Just one."

Lorenzen was patient and took time with each kid in the autograph line. He did the same at stops at City Gospel Mission and Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center earlier in the week. He also spent time at Urban Youth Academy on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday.

"I enjoy it because I know that is what God has called me to do," Lorenzen said. "Right now, it's great because people love it. But there's some things that God calls me to that people won't enjoy, and I still love it because I know that's what God has in store for me."

Lorenzen isn't overbearing with his message, but he's glad to share it. Maybe he could turn someone else's life around -- the way that guy on the pier did for him all those years ago.