Brewers’ Corey Knebel Recalls First Public Testimony

by Bruce Darnall · Print Print · Email Email

On June 15, 2017, the Milwaukee Brewers defeated the Philadelphia Phillies 3-2 with Travis Shaw hitting his 20th home run to secure the victory as closer, Corey Knebel, put the final nails in the coffin for his 16th save. It was a great game, and the Faith Night concert after the game was very special for Corey Knebel too. Corey, a 2017 All-Star pitcher, comments, “My parents were here for the game and the Faith Night concert with MercyMe. That night I gave a short testimony regarding my faith in Jesus Christ as my Savior. It was the first time I publicly shared my Christian faith. My dad said it was the coolest event hearing me express my faith in Jesus, even cooler than seeing my major league pitching debut. Hearing that meant so much to me.”

“My parents were here for the game and the Faith Night concert with MercyMe. That night I gave a short testimony regarding my faith in Jesus Christ as my Savior. It was the first time I publicly shared my Christian faith. My dad said it was the coolest event hearing me express my faith in Jesus, even cooler than seeing my major league pitching debut. Hearing that meant so much to me.”

Jeff and Melissa Knebel, Corey’s parents, are strong Believers who brought up Corey and his younger brother, Gatlin, attending Cedar Creek United Methodist Church in Bastrop, Texas, near Austin. During the 12 years they attended their church, Corey became close to Pastor Stan White, who Corey called his second father. Rev. White was a good family friend who spent a lot of fun times together.  The Pastor and Corey’s dad visited often making it a fun environment to grow up in. Corey states, “My dad has always been a strong Believer, and he is someone I look up to. I see him reading the Bible, and he has a good understanding of God’s Word. He has always encouraged me to read Scripture, but he never forced it on me. I remember dad saying it will come to a point in my life I will understand there is a greater purpose in life.  ‘Once you understand that you will know what I’m talking about.’”

Corey and his father communicated often, especially after games.  “Dad will send me a text after a game to share an encouraging word. He likes to talk about the games, and he is one I can talk with and is most comfortable with regarding my game. My dad is my biggest hero. Having him being a strong Believer has really helped me.”

“A New Follower”

Although Corey was baptized as a child and attended church often, even in college with his future wife, Danielle, their lives took on deeper meaning and commitment when they attended the Pro Athletes Outreach (PAO) conference last off-season. Corey explains, “I have always walked with the Lord, but it was at this PAO conference I gave my life to Christ. Danielle and I went together, and our lives were changed. We worship together with other players and families and had a chance to study God’s Word. We were inspired to publicly accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, and we were baptized in the hotel swimming pool with others who also decided to have a closer walk with the Lord. I’ve always believed in Christ, but I look at it now as being a new follower with renewed commitment. It has been a real blessing.”

Brewers’ chaplain, Steve Sonderman, shares, “Every time Corey comes to Bible study, he has an insatiable desire to learn and grow. While young in his faith, his desire to become more and more like Jesus in all that he does is contagious.”

Corey grew up in Bastrop, Texas, and went to Bastrop High School for three years and transferred to Georgetown High School for his senior year. Corey played basketball along with baseball. His next step took him to Austin to play for the Texas Longhorns where he was their closer for three seasons. He had 37 saves, second only to Huston Street (41). He received first team All-Big 12 Conference recognition in 2011 and 2012.  Corey was an education major and hope to finish his degree.  Danielle graduated from the University of Texas with a degree in Nutritional Sciences. Corey was selected by Detroit in 2013 in a special First Year Player draft.  Rangers acquired Corey in 2014 and the Brewers acquired him 2015.  He has become an All-Star closer.

While in college, Corey attended Austin Stone Community Church with teammates and friends. He met Danielle in the clothing store called Buckle, where she worked. Corey explains, “One day we were talking when Danielle asked me to go to Austin Stone with her, and I told her that is where I went to church. She usually went alone, and I told her I went with teammates and friends. But we made a commitment to go together. It wasn’t long before they were joined with Corey’s teammates and friends, and they all would go to church together every Sunday after his game. The only time we could go to church together was after our games at 7 PM at Austin Stone. It was awesome having her a Believer. She grew up Lutheran and I was a Methodist.  We decided once married we would attend Christ Lutheran Church (LCMS) in Austin. We joined Christ Lutheran this off-season. Our home is in the small town of Leander, Texas.”

“A Joy to be Around”

“Corey is a joy to be around,” comments bullpen pitching coach, Lee Tunnell. “His personality and his temperament really reflect Christ. I know in the last couple years he gave his heart to the Lord. You can see him winning the spiritual and mental battles to go along with being a top-level closer because it really is a battle. I know his walk with the Lord helps him do all that.”

Corey finds his time with team chapel and sharing with other Believers rewarding in his spiritual growth. He states, “I enjoy the time when some of us are hanging out talking. It was brought up of the need for daily devotions and reading of God’s Word. I find developing a daily routine helps to discipline my time to reading The Bible. I also have a little booklet called “God’s Promise for Your Every Need.” It gives what the Bible says about different topics, and I like taking that into my day.”

Finding the time to read Scripture can be a struggle for players. Like everyone, finding time is not always simple. Corey and teammate, Chase Anderson, have a routine they use to keep each other in check. “Most days,” shares Corey, “Chase and I will take a few minutes to get together when we arrive at the ballpark. We ask each other what we read today, and we then discuss it and how we can apply it to our daily lives. That has been helpful”. Teammate Chase Anderson shares, “Corey is a very happy soul. Very cool to see him growing this year in his faith and understanding what it truly means to live the Christian lifestyle.   I’m trying to make an impact on his life for the King. I’m so thankful to be in the position this season to have the Lord working through me for him and others. I’m very thankful for Corey wanting to get to know Christ more, and thankful for him and all the guys who love Jesus!”

“Getting More Comfortable Praying”

Corey feels to build a relationship with Christ one must talk to the Lord. He explains, “A person needs to talk with the Lord to become closer to him. That, of course, is praying. I never used to pray out loud because I did not know how to do it and know exactly what to say. I am getting better at it. I often now talk to the Lord out loud in private. I talk to the Lord about everything that’s going on at home and at work, how thankful for all he’s provided me. I know there is a greater purpose God has given me through baseball. I am getting more comfortable praying, and I pray the Lord keep shining His light on me to help me spread His Grace and Glory.” Philippians 4:13 is a verse Corey finds special. It reads: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Corey shares, “Every time I go in to pitch I repeat this verse over and over in my mind. I find it gives me more confidence, and I know the Lord is going to be with me regardless the outcome. It not only gives me confidence when I pitch but also when I witness my faith.”

“My brother, Gatlin, is in college, and my hope is he sees what my PAO experience meant to me and my accepting Jesus as my Savior be a

Philippians 4:13 is a verse Corey finds special. It reads: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Corey shares, “Every time I go in to pitch I repeat this verse over and over in my mind. I find it gives me more confidence, and I know the Lord is going to be with me regardless the outcome. It not only gives me confidence when I pitch but also when I witness my faith.”

witness and model for him to continue his faith journey.” This off-season Corey looks forward to sharing his faith at Fellowship of Christian athletes (FCA) events. Back at his high school, Coach Adam Foster has an FCA huddle group meeting every week. Coach Foster approached Corey. “This off-season Coach Foster asked me to do a couple of FCA events for him,” comments Corey.  “He would like me to talk a little baseball and sports. It will also give me an opportunity to share my faith in Jesus and to explain that God has given me the talent for a reason, to share about God’s grace.”

“Danielle and I hope to do mission trips someday in the off-season,” states Corey. “Danielle sees Anna and Chase Anderson going to the Philippines on mission trips, and it is one of Danielle’s goals to go there. We are now expecting a child so we’ll have to see how it plays out this year.”

New teammate and fellow reliever, Jared Hughes, shares, “When I first met Corey Knebel I knew there was something special about him. After getting to know him, I realize that something special is the Holy Spirit shining through him. He is a genuine, loving, honest, and forgiving man who devotes his life to serving others. He is constantly finding ways to make a positive impact on our team and in the local community.”

Written by Bruce A. Darnall, Lake Mills, Wisconsin

Photos by Scott Paulus, Milwaukee Brewers

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