In sports, we often liken an athletic contest to a form of “going to battle.”
Truly though, this comparison could not be further from reality.
Take Jason Grimsley, for example. The 15-year MLB veteran pitcher played for seven big-league teams and was a member of back-to-back New York Yankees World Series championships in 1999 and 2000.
Sure, you could say that Grimsley went to battle with his teammates. However, what he truly battled were the demons inside him, veering him off course from God’s plan.
A victim of abuse from a young age, Grimsley developed a tough mentality to hide the pain he was experiencing for years. He did not want to be considered weak, and this attitude was displayed during his time on the mound.
About halfway through his career, Grimsley made the decision to use performance-enhancing drugs. This was at a time when MLB did not have the strict testing procedures in place in today’s game.
“I saw it as a way to improve the health of my body to stay on the field longer or stay in the gym longer and possibly make more money for my family,” said Grimsley, 56, a native of Cleveland, Texas. “I knew I was just a number from day one. As soon as I couldn’t perform, I’d be done. I was going to do everything I could to increase my chances of staying on the baseball field.”
In 2006, federal officials raided Grimsley’s home looking for evidence that he was distributing illicit drugs. He retired from baseball and struggled with addiction, alcoholism, and depression, since he had lots of trouble dealing with life without baseball.
In August 2015, his life changed forever. As he was high on an ounce of cocaine and after drinking six bottles of vodka, Grimsley held a loaded gun next to his left eye and pulled the trigger.
It turns out Grimsley forgot to take off the gun’s safety feature. It wasn’t his time just yet. He was found six hours later in the woods and immediately taken for treatment for his anxiety, depression, and addiction. Through it all, his wife, Dana, and three children were by his side.
Grimsley viewed this episode as a second chance from God, believing there was a bigger plan for him. Baseball was no longer the sole purpose of his life; using his experiences to help others was.
“God loves me like He loves everyone else,” Grimsley said. “Sometimes we’re just too blind to the fact or led in different directions. Sometimes it takes a little more to open your eyes. God did really have a plan for me.”
In his book, “Cross Stitched: One Man’s Journey from Ruin to Restoration,” Grimsley discusses his struggles and conversion moment in great detail. All proceeds from the book are being donated to Emerging Grace Ministries, a nonprofit organization working to end adolescent sex trafficking.
“My goal was to help one person,” he said. “If it resonated with one, there will be others it could resonate with. I’m a firm believer in that we don’t learn a lot from our successes. Everybody loves a good success story. What people connect with more is their failures.
“When you think there’s no chance to repair the damage you’ve done, you’re just woefully wrong. There’s nothing that God cannot heal … including you.”
When looking back at how sports can be considered a “battle,” Grimsley said it didn’t take a lot of courage for him to play baseball. He always loved competing, and as he found out later through his struggles, baseball was just a game.
“When it comes to sports, you’re part of a team,” he said. “You’re all pulling on the same side of the rope in the same place. You’re all trying to win that particular game at that particular moment.
“When battling addiction, alcoholism, abuse, and depression, it is a lonely battle. Unless you have the proper team around you, you’re going to fail. That team is God, Jesus, the Church, your family, and friends. If you have the confidence to share with them, you’re going to make it.”
Grimsley overcame tough times on the mound in his career, but now he’s even more proud of how he’s conquered his inner demons during the battle to save his life.