Everyone’s timing to complete or achieve a task or goal varies from person to person. For Darnell Coles, hitting coach for the Milwaukee Brewers, God’s timing for him to share his testimony is perfect.
“I truly believe the good Lord put me on this earth for a reason,” states Darnell, “and that is to uplift people. Sometimes you never know what the Lord’s plan is for you, but his timing is always perfect.” He adds, “He knows what’s best for us; and maybe it is not what we want. But at the end of the day, if it brings people to the Lord, I’m good with it.” (Jeremiah 29:11: “’I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord….”)
At an early age Coles knew the church was going to be “a big part of my life and Christ was going to be the main focal point of my life.” Cole’s mother and grandmother took Darnell, his brother, Dennis, and sister, Darlene, to their Baptist Church every Sunday. Darnell was baptized at age 7 or 8 though he didn’t fully understand it all. Over time he would attend church, Sunday school, and Bible school. Sunday dinner with the family was always a time of prayer and discussion about the Bible, faith, and Jesus.
The Good Lord Snatched Me
At 16 years old he went to church in the neighboring city of Colton with his friend, Joe Hernandez. Darnell shares, “I went to church with my friend and his mother, Josie. She actually introduced me to the Lord in a way I have never known or felt. I remember vividly my heart was ready to walk down at altar call, but for whatever reason I was not.” He continues, “Finally the good Lord snatched me and I went forward to the altar. I got down on my knees and prayed I wanted to accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior. Now I am trying to be a good witness.”
Darnell was born in San Bernardino, California, but he grew up in Rialto, a neighboring city. His mother, Velma, who now lives in Arizona near Darlene, made sure Darnell and his siblings knew the Lord because she knew the magnitude of accepting Jesus as Savior. Darnell shares, “I am happy mom knows the Lord, and I am glad she made sure I was growing in my faith. A person still must have their prayer time to have quality time with the Lord so he can point us in the direction he wants us to go. There is not a day goes by I don’t thank the Lord she is my mom because she is a special woman.”
Darnell shares about his immediate family, “I am married to my wife, Shari, and we have three adult children DJ (Darnell Jr), Jared, and DeAnna. DeAnna has three beautiful children Isabella, Victoria, and Luke which makes us proud grandparents. We have been married 33 years, and our children and grandchildren are Believers. I am truly blessed, and I know if something would happen today they would go to heaven with me.”
Football Was His Love
Coles attended Eisenhower High School in his hometown and starred in football and baseball. He was offered full ride scholarships in both sports at UCLA. He was Southern California high school Athlete of the Year in 1980, and he made several all-state teams in both football and baseball. Football was his love, but he sustained an injury his senior year with a dislocated kneecap. Baseball became his first choice, especially when he was drafted in 1980 in the first round (6th player overall) by the Seattle Mariners. He made his major league debut on September 4, 1983 for the Mariners. Darnell played several positions in both infield and outfield throughout his major league career (14 years).
During Coles’ career there were teammate role models who impressed upon him how important his walk with the Lord was and the impact it can have. “There were guys in my life, like Frank Tanana, Brett Butler, Harold Reynolds and others, who were true Believers that challenged me and held me accountable throughout my career. They helped me to understand the true meaning of being a Christian and how to walk in the light of Christ.”
Fellow coach Lee Tunnell, bullpen pitching coach, comments, “Darnell is a guy that is a joy to be around every day because he lives from the inside out. Every day his personality is so consistent. The only way it can possibly be within the ups and downs of the baseball season at the major league level is a sincere walk with the Lord. I just see consistency and joy.”
Keeping You Grounded
Darnell and Shari have attended a couple of Pro Athletes Outreach (PAO) conferences where there were worship services, seminars, and fellowship with other professional baseball players. Darnell explains, “I know and continue to have a great relationship with the whole group at PAO. During a baseball season when you are unable to attend church services the gifts they give by means of text messages, emails, and Bible verses, go a long way in keeping you grounded. It is always a blessing when we have our weekly chapel service here at our ballpark.”
Carlos Subero, Brewers first base coach, added, “Our first day in spring training our manager, Craig Counsell, went over each person on the staff. When it came to Darnell, who I had never worked with yet managed against, Counsell’s words were: ‘This guy, you will never see upset.’ In the midst of the biggest storms last year Darnell was as stable as anyone. I think those are great words that you hear from a brother in Christ. You want to try to be Christ like.” Subero adds, “I never heard DC say a bad comment. It is beautiful because you can get trapped easily in this game of performance of wins and losses. When the offense was struggling, Darnell put all the weight on himself. He looked for the good and worked on that. I think that is what Christ is about. Christ does not focus on our sins, but focuses on our good points and how He can shape us.”
“John 3:16: ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life’ is the one verse I truly believe in,” states Darnell. “It is the one I read the most and the one I gravitate to the most. Jesus came to live among us to preach and teach. He lived a sinless life; though given every opportunity to sin, He chose not to. To fulfill the Scriptures Jesus chose to die on the Cross so we might have eternal life. I trust the fact that Jesus had a plan to save us. He mapped it out, and He did everything possible to save us. By the grace of God, I am saved!”
Always Full of Joy
Marcus Hanel, Brewers bullpen catcher, comments, “I tell you if you want to see someone with the Spirit, it is Darnell. He is always smiling, always full of joy. It seems he has that peace that can only come from the Lord and Savior. He walks around with the unbelievable quench of something (Spirit) you want. He is walking it and living in it. He is a very contagious person to be around, and I love how much energy he has. He knows he serves a greater God.”
“As for witnessing my faith,” states Darnell, “It is my hope people see the good Lord’s light shining in me and the importance and relevance of that each day. I hope
they might come ‘to ask what makes you so happy, and your energy doesn’t change.’ My energy doesn’t change because I want to touch people’s hearts and bring them closer to the Lord.”
Darnell knows his baseball career as a player, manager, and coach placed him on a platform where people could see his actions and the way he carries himself. He hopes they see how his faith shines through so it might open an opportunity for conversation when he can share his faith in Jesus. “Having a platform,” shares Darnell, “enables me in the Lord’s time to touch other people’s lives and to bring them closer to the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”
Brewers’ team chaplain, Steve Sonderman, sums it up, “Darnell is one of the most joyous Christians I have ever met. No matter what the circumstances might be, he is always positive and Christ focused. May God multiply him 100 times.”
Written by Bruce Darnall, Lake Mills Wisconsin
Photos credited to Scott Paulus/ Milwaukee Brewers