Frank Pastore
Photo courtesy of the
First Baptist Church of Palmdale
Cincinnati Reds pitcher Frank Pastore.
Photo courtesy of the 
First Baptist Church of Palmdale


A Big-League Skeptic Finds Faith At The Cross

Written by Frank Pastore
Excerpt from, POWER OF THE CROSS  1998 by Tim LaHaye.
Published by Multnomah Publishers, Inc.  Used by permission of Tim LaHaye Ministries.

Excerpt may not be reproduced without prior written consent.


It was early summer, I was seventeen years old, and life just couldn't get any better.  I was young and healthy with a bright future before me.  I was senior-class president at Damien High School in La Verne, California.  I had earned an academic scholarship to Stanford University, was dating a popular trophy (i.e., cheerleader), and the Cincinnati Reds had just offered me the largest bonus in Reds history to pitch for them if I would just pass up my scholarship and sign on the dotted line.
     The decision was really simple.  I truly had only one guiding question: Which of the two paths will bring me the greatest happiness?  Translated, that meant "What's the quickest way to become rich and famous - major league baseball or law school?"  At seventeen, that was no contest.  I signed with Cincinnati on June 6, 1975, and a few days later began my professional career with the Billings Mustangs of the Pioneer League.
     Four minor-league seasons later, in Riverfront Stadium on opening day, 1979, before a sellout crowd of fifty-six thousand, I appeared in "the Show" as the youngest player in the National League.  I was only twenty-one, and I brought with me my beautiful young bride of seven months, a blazing fastball, and a burning desire for success.  My boyhood idol, Tom Seaver, had started the game but got into trouble early; I was called on to relieve him and get the team out of the inning.  When manager John MacNamara called for me out of the bullpen, I floated to the mound with a standing ovation ringing in my ears.  After a few brief words, Mac handed me the ball, and with a wink from catcher Johnny Bench (J.B.), I proceeded to do what I had done my whole life.  I threw fastballs as hard as I could, hitters swung and missed them, and I was told how wonderful I was for performing so well.  I loved every second of it.  I did well that day and I enjoyed doing the postgame interviews almost as much as I enjoyed the standing ovations.  After all the minor-league bus trips, and all the minor-league paychecks, I had finally made it - I had finally made it to the major leagues!

One Pitch From Humility

After the game, J.B. called me over to his locker.  Back then, rookies were seen and not heard in the clubhouses, so when a veteran - especially a Hall of Fame veteran - spoke to you, you jumped.  I'll never forget the advice he gave me on that storybook first day.  "Kid," he said softly, "there's two things you need to know about playing in the major leagues.  First, it's harder to stay here than it is to get here.  And second, never get too cocky or too arrogant, because you're always only one pitch away from humility."
     Great words of wisdom from one who had done it all and seen it all!  He was right, of course, but at the time his advice went in one ear and out the other.  At twenty-one, I already knew the meaning of life - to be happy - and the best way to be happy was to be rich and famous, and the quickest way for me to become rich and famous was to pitch in the major leagues for a long time.
     Over the next five seasons I set out for more, and along the way I accumulated all the right trappings of a successful young professional.  I bought all the right status symbols (a Porsche, Mercedes, house, condo, etc.); I earned the respect of my peers (I became the Red's Player Rep); I put a little money away just in case, started an off-season construction business, had two great kids, remained absolutely faithful to my wife, and avoided abusing drugs and alcohol.  Basically, I played life by the rules.  Most of the guys on the team considered me a "goody-good" because I didn't drink, do cocaine, or cheat on my wife.  By default I hung out with the Christians, because they didn't do those things either.
     For twenty-seven years I was a practical atheist, an evolutionist.  I rejected Christianity because I had been convinced it was false.  Very simply, if there is no God and no afterlife, then our existence is utterly meaningless.  Since there is no meaning to life, all that is left is to create meaning in this life as you go.  For me, it was in winning the "survival of the fittest," and in our culture that translates to "He who dies with the most toys wins."  I thought I could create my own happiness, my own meaning, if I become rich and famous.
     Funny thing was, although I became somewhat rich and sort of famous, I wasn't any more content than I was on the day I signed with the Reds.  Even living the American dream didn't bring fulfillment.  Playing life by the rules didn't bring it either.  The issue isn't what is outside, the issue is what is inside.
     Since the first grade I had been taught to doubt the existence of God: The universe had just popped into existence out of nothing, evolution was a "scientific" fact, miracles can't happen, the Bible's been changed, etc.  During my whole life I had accepted the government's humanistic propaganda that the teachings of Darwin, Marx, Freud, Hume, and Kant had all combined to make religion obsolete.  As these thoughts raced through my mind, my heart was drawn to the quality of life I had observed in my Christian teammates.  When I found myself wanting to yield to my emotions and pray, I had to remind myself that "God" wasn't real.  He was merely a crutch for intellectual weaklings, an excuse for mediocrity and failure, a placebo for psychologically imbalanced people - although also an effective and soothing pacifier for whining, injured professional athletes.
     Although I may have all the external signs of success, internally there was something wrong.  Something was missing.  There was a hole in my life that more wasn't filling.  I tried to fool myself that the next good game, the next sports car, the next winning season, or the next contract would do the job - but they never did.  I slowly began to lose faith that  baseball would ever make me happy and fulfilled.  I remember looking around the clubhouse one day and coming to the realization that although most of these men had become rich and famous, only a few were truly happy.  That was very disturbing.  Since I was six years old, I had wanted to be just like them - but if they weren't happy with all of the money and all of the success they had, what made me think I was going to be any different?  The only guys on the team that seemed to be "together" were the guys I regularly made fun of behind their backs, those religious fanatics who brought the Bible into the locker room and on road trips, those born-again Jesus freaks who believed in the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, and people rising from the dead.
     Back then, I would not have considered myself a religious person - I was a realist.  I was a realist because I believed only in what was real and true - things like science, history, psychology, chemistry, and physics.  I believed that some being call "God" may have caused the Big Bang, but I knew that evolution was a fact, that morality was culturally relative, and that environment and chemicals could account for all human behavior.  Those were the things I had been taught in school.  I did not believe that Jesus Christ was God, that He had been born of a virgin, that He had risen from the dead, that the Bible was inspired, that there was a literal heaven and a literal hell, or that there had ever been prophecies or miracles.  Simply put, I just didn't believe Christianity was true.

Frank Pastore - 1984 Topps Baseball Card.                 Frank Pastore - 1985 Topps Baseball Card.

The Pitch That Brought Humility

Then on June 4, 1984, in Dodger Stadium, all of that changed.  J. B.'s prophetic words were fulfilled.  I was cruising to a 3-1 victory with two outs in the eighth inning, when I made the pitch that eternally changed by life.  Dodger Steve Sax rocked a 2-2 fastball off my right elbow and my whole world-view shattered in one painful instant.  Immediately, I knew my arm would never be the same again, and my career, as I had known it, had come to a tragic end.
     The crack of the bat still echoed through the stadium as every eye focused on me as I clutched my elbow and grimaced in agony.  The eerie silence was broken by a collective gasp as the crowd turned to watch the replay on Diamond Vision.  As I glanced up to take a peek at it myself, everything seemed to be happening in slow motion - it was like a bad dream - and I just wanted to wake up from the nightmare.  "Why, God? Why!?"  I prayed desperately on my way to the training room, but I had to remind myself no one was listening.
     Deep in my heart, I knew my life would never be the same.  I had always derived my sense of security and self-esteem from my athletic performance.  Baseball had been my god and my source of identity.  For twenty years my identity was in being a baseball player, not in playing baseball.  I had confused what I did with who I was, like many others.  I was no longer going to be a baseball player.  I had lost my identity; I was a nobody.  That frightening reality crashed down upon me in thunderous waves of terror.
     As unlikely as it may seem, it was in the midst of all this that I was introduced to the concept that God was real.  As I walked into the training room, my small but faithful group of friends - the Christians - asked me whether I would mind if they prayed for me.  "Of course you can pray!"  I said.  "You can do anything you want if you think it'll help."  How cute, I thought, the religious fanatics want to pray for me.  Isn't that just like uneducated people to turn to a mythical god in a crisis situation?
     Not long after that, Tommy Hume, the Red's Chapel Leader, invited me to his house for a barbecue and, if I wanted to stay, a Bible study.  Tommy had asked me to come to Bible studies many times over the years, and I always came up with some lame excuse not to go.  However, this time I agreed.  I tried to tell myself that I couldn't stand the fact that these guys were so "together" while I was falling apart.  On the surface, I acted as though it really bugged me that they were so naive.  But deep down I wanted to know more about the Jesus they prayed to.
     I arrived at Tommy's house and said hello to the regular bunch of guys: Duane Walker, Tom Foley, Danny Bilardello, and was introduced to a guy named Wendel Deyo, whom I recognized from some of the chapels I had attended.  (They didn't tell me he was the national director of Athletes in Action and a twenty-year veteran of working with overpaid, prima-donna, insecure, non-Christian athletes.)  After the hamburger-and-hot-dog thing was over, we got down to business.  Wendel gathered us to start the study.  Now, I had never been to a Bible study.  Heck, I didn't even own a Bible!  But I knew all about the Bible - it's unhistorical, it contradicts itself, you can make it say anything you want to, and it's been changed many times over the past two thousand years.  But most of all, I was convinced it was simply wrong; there had never been any miracles - we just hadn't figured a scientific way to explain some things yet.  One day we'd know how something came from nothing, or how all those Egyptians soldiers drowned in only six inches of water but 3.5 million Jews made it through unharmed!  As soon as the opening prayer ended with "amen," I came out shooting.
     I launched all of my hurt, anger, and confusion in a fierce salvo of blasphemous missiles aimed at religion and Christianity.  I fired for half an hour, attacking everything about Christianity.  The guys were blown away - they looked like that guy in the popular commercial who's reclining in a chair in front of a speaker, his hair blown back by the incredible volume.  They didn't interrupt once throughout the whole tirade; I didn't give them the chance to.
     When I finally stopped, believing I had successfully enlightened the guys to the truth about reality, Wendel spoke up for the first time since the amen.  "Wow.  I've never heard anyone articulate their views with such passion and reason as you've just done.  Frank, I simply can't answer most of the questions you've raised; boy, I don't even understand most of the questions!  The guys had told me you were smart, but they didn't tell me you were this smart!"  With my good arm I was patting myself on the back.
     "But, Frank," Wendel continued, waving to the rest of the guys, "we don't want to believe in myths, stories, or anything that isn't true or real.  We want to believe in what's true.  Right guys?"
     "Right!"  they all answered in chorus, almost on cue.
     "So, will you help us?" he asked, placing the bait before me.
     "Of course, guys.  You're my friends.  I don't want you guys building your lives of lies," I said, smelling the bait.
     "Great.  Here's how you can help us.  I just happen to have brought some book," he said reaching behind the couch to grab some small paperbacks.  "These books present and defend Christianity better than we can.  Will you have a look at them, and as you read, maybe write in the margins where the authors are wrong and why, so that we can think clearly about all these things?  Then after the next road trip, we can all get together again, and then maybe we can become happy and fulfilled, just like you!"
     "Sure, I'll be glad to help.  Really, guys, disproving Christianity won't be very hard.  I'll start with Genesis and prove to you why the creation story is an unscientific myth," I said, swallowing the hook, line and sinker, and pole, and dock.
     Wendel handed me three books.  Now mind you, I had never met an intelligent Christian before - I thought the term was an oxymoron like jumbo-shrimp - because before whenever I had asked a Christian a serious question, they would invariably respond, "I don't know, but Jesus loves you!"  That doesn't help a whole lot if you don't know who Jesus is!  The titles of the three books handed to me were: Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis; Scientific Creationism by Henry Morris; and Evidence That Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell. 
     That night, I began reading Mere Christianity.  I read all night.  The next day at the ballpark, I snuck off the bench during the game and hid in the weightroom to continue reading.  I started out with the intent to help my friends get their thinking straight, and of course found myself even further confused.  Over the next three weeks, I read and reread the books.  I devoured them.  I can remember the guys coming over to me several times to ask how things were going and telling them that I was still working on disproving the Bible, but that it was just taking a little longer than I expected.
     Then it happened.  I was in Pittsburgh reading Evidence That Demands a Verdict in the clubhouse during the game, when the lights came on.  It was my very first "Oh!" experience - "Oh!" is the most popular word in heaven among new arrivals.  The reality that a personal God had spoken the universe into existence out of nothing; that His Son, Jesus Christ, had died on the cross for my sins and the sins of the world; that He validated His testimony by rising from the dead before hundreds of witnesses; and that Jesus was the way, the truth, and the life, and that the only way to heaven was through Him - hit me like the blazing sun would smite the eyes of someone who had spent a week in a dark cave.
     "Jesus, you're alive!" I whispered.
     Simultaneously I had two powerful emotions.  The first was joy - my sins could be forgiven!  The second was anger - I was ticked off that I had been lied to my whole life.  It was naturalistic evolution, secular humanism, and the other atheistic ideologies that were myths, not Christianity!  Not once was I ever told there were good reasons to believe in God or Christianity.  I was simply told that evolution was a fact and to ask questions about it was to be heretical and unscientific.  Not once through elementary school, junior high, or high school did I hear that there were problems - huge, gaping problems - with evolution.  I realized I had been deceived my whole academic life, and I was furious.  I could have died and gone to hell because people wanted to repress intellectual freedom and force their agenda on me!  Why couldn't they just have presented the arguments both for and against Christianity and let me decide for myself, based upon the evidence?  The issue should have been Truth, not Ideology.
     I prayed, "Lord, I know that I am a sinner and that Jesus came to save sinners, and that He came to save me.  Forgive me of my sins.  I'm asking You to come into my life and change me.  Make me the person You want me to be.  I now promise to follow You, to the best of my ability, every day for the rest of my life.  Thank You, Jesus, for being my Savior, I now want to make You my Lord.  Amen."
     It was only about two months after making that pitch in Dodger Stadium that I gave my heart, my mind, and my life to Jesus Christ.  Nine years earlier I had gone into pro ball to get rich and famous.  Finally, I was rich - rich with the knowledge that my sins were forgiven and that I would spend eternity with Jesus Christ in glorious fellowship.  And I was famous - I may not have been in Cooperstown, but I was in the Lamb's Book of Life.  Despite the injury and all the uncertainty of my career, I knew the void in my heart I had been trying to fill my whole life had finally been filled.  My wife, Gina, came to Christ a short time later, and when our daughter was born in October of 1984, we named her Christina to commemorate our commitment to Him and to honor her.

 



I retired from baseball in June 1987, and because I had signed a professional contract out of high school, I became a thirty-year-old college freshman at National University in Irvine, California, that fall.  In two years I received a degree in business and my wife and I decided to spend some time in ministry before going on to law school.  We raised support and joined the national office staff of Athletes in Action, the sports ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.  While of staff, I had the chance to speak often and found I enjoyed answering people's questions about Christianity more than just about anything else.  Walter Martin, Josh McDowell, and Henry Morris were my heroes, and I read nearly everything I could get my hands on that those guys wrote.  After almost two years on staff, we decided that I could best serve the evangelistic effort of the church as an apologist, so we changed our plans from law school to graduate school - the only question was, Where?
     We researched the best programs at the best schools and concluded that the top apologetics program in the country was being run by J. P. Moreland at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, near Los Angeles.  Although I had played for seven season in Cincinnati, we never lived there year 'round; Los Angeles was our home.  So we started the program in June 1991, and I graduated with a Masters in Philosophy of Religion and Ethics in December 1994.  I currently direct the Talbot Institute for Biblical Studies, a church-based training ministry to help churches establish their own lay institutes for Christian education.

Guest speaker Frank Pastore at Loma Linda University.

Frank Pastore, luncheon guest speaker at Loma Linda University,
shares his personal experience with spiritual growth.                     

Photo courtesy of  Loma Linda University, School of Dentistry.

 


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Credits:
Frank Pastore's portrait and Cincinnati Red's pitching photos, courtesy of the First Baptist Church of Palmdale.  Used by permission of Nathan Filion; images can not be used without written permission of the First Baptist Church of Palmdale - http://www.fbcpalmdale.org/

A Big-League Skeptic Finds Faith At The Cross, excerpted (chapter nine, pages 127-136) from POWER OF THE CROSS 1998 by Tim LaHaye.  Published by Multnomah Publishers, Inc (ISBN 1-57673-212-6).  Used by permission of Tim LaHaye Ministries - Gareld Murphy, Executive Director.  Excerpt may not be reproduced without the prior written consent of Tim LaHaye Ministries.

Tim LaHaye Ministries - PO Box 21796, El Cajon, CA 92021
http://www.timlahaye.com/

Multnomah Publishers, Inc. - P.O. Box 1720, Sisters, Oregon 97759
http://www.multnomahbooks.com/

Frank Pastore baseball cards, 1984 Topps Chewing Gum, Inc. & 1985 Topps Chewing Gum, Inc.  Printed in the U. S. A.  Topps Chewing Gum, Inc. - http://www.topps.com/

Frank Pastore guest speaker photo (Thurdsay, February 8, 2001 - LLU Dentistry alumni, '60 class reunion), courtesy of  Loma Linda University, School of Dentistry.  Loma Linda University - http://www.llu.edu/

Frank Pastore - Director: Talbot Impact Ministries - http://www.talbot.edu/

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