July 29, 2012

On Baseball: Faith and fastballs: It works for these Sea Dogs

By Kevin Thomas kthomas@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND - When reliever Josh Fields jogs in from the bullpen, entering a game in the late innings, the routine is the same.

click image to enlarge

Josh Fields, a reliever for the Portland Sea Dogs, is one of several players open about their spiritual faith. “There is a real person behind that uniform,” says team chaplain Bob McClure.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

"I throw my warmup pitches. They throw the ball around the horn. I get the ball back from the third baseman," Fields said.

"I always take off my cap and say a little prayer before I take the mound, just try to remind myself why I'm here.

"I'm not here to gain glory for myself."

Those who know Fields, or follow him on Twitter, realize the glory is not for the Portland Sea Dogs, or the Boston Red Sox organization.

Fields calls his mindset "an eternal perspective" as he talks to God before he throws a pitch.

But Fields also knows that Manager Kevin Boles did not summon him to lead a prayer revival on the mound (although the skipper often joins Fields and for the team's Sunday chapel service).

Fields needs to deliver his lively fastball, get batters out and win a baseball game.

"One thing I always pray for is 'God, make me an animal out here.' I want to dominate these guys. I want to go after them as hard as I can -- 100 percent -- and not back down."

Fields is one of several Portland players open about his faith. He will likely be one of the speakers this Tuesday, when the Sea Dogs host Faith and Family night at Hadlock Field.

Shortly after the gates open at 5:30 p.m., team chaplain Bob McClure and a few players will meet with fans in the left field bleachers, to talk about faith.

Faith and sports have had a relationship through the years. The Boston Red Sox, affectionately known as "Idiots" after they won the 2004 World Series, actually featured several faith-filled players on its roster (a fact we explored in a story published March 8, 2005: "Sox Credit Faith for Inner Strength").

Currently, there is the fascination with Tim Tebow, an NFL quarterback both criticized and celebrated for his public displays and pronouncements of his faith.

Tebow has said his faith makes him a better player. Others make the jump that Tebow is saying God helps Tebow's team win.

Others know better.

"Winning or losing. I don't think God cares too much about that," said Sea Dogs outfielder Peter Hissey who, like Fields, is a regular at McClure's chapel services, as well as the Bible study meeting the players put together.

McClure, who once played baseball for the University of Southern Maine and is now involved in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, has been the Sea Dogs chaplain for 17 years. It is a volunteer position, as McClure happens by Hadlock often, especially on Sundays.

He will have at least a dozen players and coaches attend his brief chapel service at the ballpark, while chatting with others when he can.

"Just build relationships with the guys and see where they're at," McClure said.

For these players, their spirituality is not another lever to improve their game, but a way to improve their lives.

"There is a real person behind that uniform," McClure said.

McClure said he has dealt with several quality players -- in character and ability -- through the years, but this 2012 Sea Dogs team stands out.

"It's a great group of young men," he said.

Fields, 26, came to the Sea Dogs last year after being traded to the Red Sox from Seattle. A former first-round draft pick, Fields said his first season in pro ball, in 2009, was a tough one.

"Really difficult a sense of isolation," Fields said. "I was constantly around things trying to pull you in different directions."

(Continued on page 2)

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