I’ve always enjoyed the game of baseball, and at one time tried out for one of the major league farm clubs. It was fun, but I could tell by the reaction of the coaches that I wasn’t going to be successful at that level of play. While there, I couldn’t help but observe the older players’ reactions when the coaches told them they should give professional baseball up, and that the baseball lifestyle would be difficult on their families. They literally pleaded with coaches to stay; after so many years of pouring their hearts and souls into making it to the big leagues, they couldn’t accept rejection.
Since then, my interest for the sport has waned. But recently a friend told me about a baseball player he had read about in Sports Illustrated, and I was curious to see how he was able to adjust to the reality he faced.
According to Sports Illustrated writer Ted Keith, “In his first big league outing, John Paciorek had three hits, two walks, four runs scored, and three RBIs. He never played in the majors again…what John Paciorek accomplished as an 18-year-old on September 29, 1963, was not just remarkable; it was also historic.”
But after this historic debut, Paciorek was plagued by physical problems, which developed later on while he was training in the minors. Surgery and a back brace didn’t help. At the age of 24, he realized that he was going to need something to fall back on if his physical ailments continued.
Taking control of his life, he enrolled in college. During one Thanksgiving recess he went to the campus religious center and found all the doors closed with the exception of one with a sign reading “Christian Science Org.” He entered the room and found “such a comforting feeling.” He picked up a copy of Mary Baker Eddy’s Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures and had this to say: “Everything I was reading in there reminded me of something I had felt all of my life and I could never express. When I read in that book, ‘Your sins are not forgiven until they are destroyed,’ I thought, Wow, that makes sense. I was reading things that made so much practical sense, and that made an impression on me.”
Where many other players would have continued to struggle to achieve their baseball dream, John joined the Christian Science Church, majored in physical education, and started teaching. He now teaches physical education at Clairbourn School in San Marino, California.
Through prayer John has redirected his life from being an outstanding major league baseball player to being a mentor to others. With his passion for baseball, and his “voracious appetite for knowledge,” John is serving others as they attempt to achieve excellence in baseball as well as in life.
According to writer Ken Carpenter, because of everything that had happened, John “was forced to start searching for better things, higher things, which he found in a spiritual inclination.”
photo taken from Jinx!’s photostream