Faith, Hope, and Glove

The following first appears in the Summer 2019 issue of Marian Helper magazine. Order a free copy.

Before every start, Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher, 27-year-old Trevor Williams, clutches a crucifix and prays a simple prayer that reflects a lifelong journey of faith and devotion. That prayer is: "Jesus, I trust in You."

"It's a terrifying prayer to pray as a pitcher, because there is always, 'Jesus, I trust in You - comma - but I'd love to have zeros today,'" he said. "It's a terrifying prayer to pray, especially when I'm in a skid."

His trust in Christ, however, has helped him accumulate plenty of zeros. Last season, his best with the Pirates, he started 31 games, winning 14 and registering 126 strikeouts. He had the second best ERA in the Majors for the second half of the season.

One of the best seasons of his life, however, had little to do with baseball. Upon receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation in high school, he experienced a new season of faith.

"When I got confirmed is when I had a conversion of my heart," he said. Trevor found himself interested in starting new devotions, attending daily Mass, and spending time in Adoration. "I started making every decision as best as I could to build the Kingdom of Heaven," he said. "It's either every decision you make is going to help destroy the Kingdom of Heaven or help build up the Kingdom of Heaven. That's when I started taking it more seriously."

As his love for Christ grew, so did his talent for pitching. After high school, Trevor spent three years at Arizona State, where he made a name for himself as a starting pitcher and earned All-American.

While Trevor worked on honing his delivery on the field, off the field he refined his knowledge of the Catholic faith. Though he ended up graduating with a degree in U.S. history, he spent a year studying early Christianity, and he doesn't regret it.

"I knew the Catholic Church was the truth and the full truth, but it really clicked in my brain when I started studying early Church history," he said.

In 2013, the Miami Marlins picked Trevor early in the second round of the Major League Baseball (MLB) draft. Thanks to his firm faith in Christ, he didn't fear the spotlight stealing his devotion. He had some help staying grounded thanks to his faithful wife, Jackie. They have a 3-year-old son, Isaac. "My wife is my rock," he said. "She keeps me humble and helps me understand baseball is not the most important thing in the world."

In fact, instead of letting his success destroy his faith, he's learned to let baseball sanctify him. "Jesus humbles me sometimes on the baseball field," Trevor said. "It's a very humbling game. The highs are very high and the lows are extremely low. When I say, 'Jesus, I trust in You' before I go out on the mound, I trust He's either going to build me up or He's going to bring me down. If I go out there and get blown up, it's a sanctifying moment, it's a learning moment. It's something that I need to overcome and learn. 'Jesus, I trust in You' - if I get hurt out there, I trust in You, and I trust in Your plan."

Since Trevor was picked high in the draft, he made it up the ranks in the minor league system fairly quickly. In October 2015, the Marlins traded him to the Pirates, where he would play for their triple-A affiliate, the Indianapolis Indians.

At the same time, his dad, Richard, was battling cancer. "He had stage 4 double-cell lymphoma," Trevor said. "When he was diagnosed with that, he was given 60 to 90 days to live. His time was running out. I wanted to make it to the big leagues so bad so he could celebrate it with me."

Richard dreamed of his son making it to the big leagues as much as Trevor did. "He was always in my corner growing up. He took me to all these baseball practices, pitching lessons. Pretty much every one of my starts in college he made the drive from San Diego to Phoenix," Trevor said.

In the 2016 season, Trevor was pitching well for the Indianapolis Indians, but he believed his dad was running out of time. "There were about 10 or 12 people who were called up before I was called up," he said. "I always knew in the back of my mind I was good enough to become a big-league pitcher, but you just didn't know when it was going to happen."

This trial helped Trevor learn to trust in God's perfect timing. "Finally, I was called up in September after my dad went through chemo - and he was cleared of cancer!" he said. If Trevor had been called up in the spring, his father would have been too sick to attend the game. "It was perfect timing," Trevor said.

In his first big-league appearance, with his dad looking on, Trevor pitched three scoreless innings, recorded three strike outs, and earned his first win.

"Then we got to share a really awesome embrace after the game," he said. "Even though it seemed like we were running out of time - I didn't know if he was going to be healthy or not - we were able to share that moment, one of the most raw emotional moments of my life."

Trevor continues to make a name for himself as one of MLB's rising stars. All the while, his faith keeps him grounded in his true identity. "I'm going to [play baseball] as long as I can," he said. "[But] first and foremost, I'm a child of God, then I'm a husband, then I'm a father, I'm a brother, I'm a son, and then I'm a baseball player. That identity of being a baseball player is going to be stripped away eventually."

As he continues to compete at the professional level, Trevor has learned to make his career as a big leaguer into a continual prayer. "I can't live a Benedictine lifestyle as a professional baseball player," he said. "But it's something that I strive for. I love the 'work and pray' aspect. In baseball, there's so much monotonous work and monotonous drills. ... I love that if today I'm just working on lifting my leg up in my delivery, then I'm going to be the best leg lifter for Christ every time I'm doing this. I'm praying, 'Make me better for You. Help this to build the Kingdom of God.'

"I understand that baseball is not the most important thing in the world. I don't know why I'm still playing baseball. I really don't. There are a lot more talented people than I am," he said. "I just know that as long as I have this platform, as long as I'm in the big leagues, I'm going to use it as much as I can to build up the Kingdom of God and not be afraid to let people know that there are Catholic athletes who are devout, who can be positive role models."


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