“The most important things to focus on when you think of your Christianity (faith) or your relationship with Christ,” states Stephen Vogt, catcher for the Milwaukee Brewers, “are the two commandments in the New Testament: you are to love God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind and to love your neighbor as yourself.*** As a Christian when we walk exuding God’s love and joy, and kindness and happiness, this world will be a better place and more people will want to run to Christ.” He continues, “I strive every day to be humble and show kindness and love at all times. I am not perfect, but I try my best every day.”
Stephen Vogt, a two-time major league All-Star while with the Oakland Athletics, was raised in a Christian family whose great-grandfather, Dan Friesen, was a pastor in a Mennonite Brethren Church for many years. “My dad, Randy, and mom, Toni, raised my older brother, Danny, and me in the Mennonite Brethren Church and were true followers of Christ,” shares Vogt. “At a very young age, Christian morals, beliefs, and principles were instilled into Danny and me.”
Having been raised in such a way, Stephen’s commitment to the Lord became real to him about the age of 13. “The opportunity at my church to be baptized came up”, explains Stephen. “I asked my parents if I could make a public proclamation of my faith. I truly believe the moment of baptism and confessing Jesus Christ as my Savior in public, in front of the church and my peers, was the confirmation I took my faith seriously.”
It was important to Vogt’s parents that Stephen understood the “Church” was not the building, not just about Sunday, and not just about an individual community member. “The ‘Church’ is a body of Believers coming together on a Sunday to set your mind right for the week,” states Stephen. “Every day you are worshiping Christ; every day your relationship with Jesus is most important.” The family never threw out the word ‘religion’ or said they were ‘religious people.’ The Vogts insist on being relational people. Stephen felt one of the biggest lessons learned from his father was how to be a leader in the household. “Dad emphasized how to be a leader in a Christian household, instilling the values and principles of a good relationship with Jesus and with others.”
“Stephen Vogt is a leader of leaders,” shares Steve Sonderman, team chaplain for the Milwaukee Brewers. “When he walks into a room, he owns it; he makes it a better place. I have been so encouraged by his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and his desire to serve him in any way that he can. He is a true servant leader in his family and on the club.”
Vogt grew up in the agricultural community of Visalia, California, which he claims “to be a neat place to grow up.” Visalia (about 130,000 people) is noted as the gateway to the Sequoia National Forest and is just south of Fresno, located in the San Joaquin Valley. He earned three varsity letters in both baseball and basketball at Central Valley Christian High School in Visalia. Vogt took his baseball skills to Azusa Pacific University, an NAIA, Division II school. He played a key role in APU’s participation in the NAIA Division II World Series, and Stephen earned NAIA All-American status. His career stats were a .448 batting average, 31 home runs, 294 hits and 199 RBIs. At APU, Stephen was active with the Fellowship of Christian athletes, as well as his high school FCA huddle group.
Stephen graduated in 2007 and was drafted by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the 12th round of the 2007 major league baseball June amateur draft. He made his major league debut with the Rays on April 6, 2012, against the New York Yankees. The Rays traded Vogt to the Oakland Athletics in 2013 and the Milwaukee Brewers signed him in 2017.
She Became More than a Friend
While at Azusa Pacific, a Christian University (presently NCAA Division II), Stephen met and became friends with an APU women’s basketball player during their sophomore year. They had the same major and attended several of the same classes. “Alyssa and I were both seeing different people at the time,” comments Vogt, “and we had just become good friends with not giving dating a second thought. However, we both became available about the same time. We started dating and soon knew we were meant for each other. We both had strong Christian backgrounds, and we took our faith very seriously. We knew our relationship was going to be a partnership, friendship, and companionship.” Alyssa and Stephen finished their senior year, and he went off for a short summer minor-league season. He came back for one semester to finish his degree. He graduated, and they were married two weeks later (December 29, 2007). Stephen and Alyssa are parents to daughter, Payton (6 ½) and sons, Clark (3 ½) and Bennett (1 ½).
The Vogts make Olympia, Washington, home, where Alyssa grew up. After graduation, she had a basketball coaching opportunity at Evergreen State College in Olympia. Unsure if Stephen would make it in the pros, Alyssa took the opportunity to coach basketball, having played for Azusa Pacific. She coached two years at Evergreen State, and she then took three years off when Payton was born. She went back into coaching basketball at a local high school, and now she has taken off the last year and a half. Once life settles in, she hopes to return to coaching. Stephen, Alyssa and their family attend Evergreen Community Church, an Assembly of God church, in Olympia.
Teammate Chase Anderson comments, “Stephen is such a great teammate, friend, and Christ follower. He works so hard each day, and there is not a better guy out there. He cares so much and is selfless when it comes to the team and his family. That’s what I admire most about him as a fellow Believer. He really resembles Christ in his serving attitude and work ethic each day.”
Colossians 3:23 takes on significant meaning on how Stephen lives daily: “Whatever you do, do it wholeheartedly for the Lord and not for man.” No matter what he does, Stephen expects to do it wholeheartedly for the Lord. I Peter 4:10 is a second verse important to Stephen: “Use whatever gift you have received to serve others for the glory of the Lord.” Stephen shares, “We all have different gifts, and it is important to use those gifts for the glory of the Lord and do it wholeheartedly.”
Live by Example
One can see this positive attitude in the way he witnesses his faith. “The best way to show Jesus in your life”, states Vogt, “is to live by example in the way you show love and kindness to others and doing things for others. I love talking about God and talking about my faith and my relationship with the Lord. Though I have been on many mission trips out of the country, Alyssa and I have found it most satisfying to take our kids to volunteer our time at different places and just shine the Light.” The Vogts feel everyday life is their mission field. “It is great to be able to help people outside our community, but it is as important to be a missionary in your community and devote time in your normal everyday schedule.”
When asked how Jesus changed his life, Stephen shared three characteristics he sees in Jesus’s life. He shares, “I really think Jesus Christ has filled my heart with love, kindness, and joy. Jesus loved everyone regardless of status, choices, or beliefs. That’s what rubbed off on me. I find the good in people even if they might look down on me because of my faith. I just love on them and show kindness and joy. I believe Jesus put that in my spirit and in my heart.”
Currently being on the Brewer’s disabled list, Stephen recently had a chance to participate on the Brewer Live show in the
broadcast booth with announcers, Brian Anderson and Bill Schroeder. When asked if he would like to go to the booth when he hangs up his spikes, his reply was he wanted to stay in baseball. He comments, “I am going to stay in the game of baseball after I retire. The game of baseball is my greatest love outside of my family and faith. It has given me so much, and I’d love to give back, whether in broadcasting or coaching. I would like to coach and become a major league manager.” He adds, “I enjoyed my one night in the broadcast booth. It was a lot of fun.”
“After playing with Stephen, it was evident early on what he stands for,” states Dan Jennings, a Brewers teammate. “He is always a joy to be around, and he always makes sure to balance his Christian lifestyle with his natural humor. Everyone who is around Stephen can attest to his positive attitude and being a positive Christian brother.”
Stephen Vogt is convinced a personal relationship with Christ is just like any other relationship here on earth. “You are talking with Christ throughout the day,” explains Vogt, “you are checking in, you are listening, you are reading God’s Word. The Bible is God’s love letter to us. The closest we can be to the Lord is reading His Word, praying, and talking to him throughout the day.” He continues, “I know my walk is not always what I want it to be and the pace I’d like it to be, but I can tell you my walk is at its best when I am constantly checking in with God throughout the day. In a relationship we must be in constant contact and constant communication. Reading His Word is an important part of that.”
*** This statement can be found in Mark 12:30-31, Luke 10:27, Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 22:37 (“strength” is not included in Matthew).
By Bruce A. Darnall, Lake Mills, Wisconsin
Photos by Scott Paulus /Milwaukee Brewers