Kyle Gibson, a starting pitcher for the Minnesota Twins, realizes everyone has struggles in life. For Kyle, it was trying to figure out his purpose in life. He wanted to play baseball, and baseball really ran his life and was his identity. When Kyle got hurt, he realized he needed to change. Kyle explains, “I realized unless my identity changed, my identity was a hurt baseball player. If you are not playing, what is your identity? It is really nothing. It is easy to lose your self-worth like that; but, if you have your identity in Christ who is never going to fail you, then that is the best place you can have your identity.”
Gibson grew up going to Calvary Baptist Church every Sunday in Greenfield, Indiana, with his parents, Sharon and Herold, and older sister, Holly, EXCEPT when baseball season started. Since 7 years old, the family was gone almost every weekend from March to October going to baseball or softball tournaments or games. There was very little time for church over the summer.
When Kyle was 15 years old, he was trying out for the varsity baseball team when he hurt his elbow. That summer was the first time Kyle did not play baseball. Kyle shares, “It was the first chance for me to dive into my faith. I got a chance to go with my church youth group to a week long church camp in North Carolina. By the end of it, I could feel there was something going on. The second to last day there was an alter call at our service for anyone who wants to meet with the youth leader. I made that walk, and I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior that night (July 7th, 2003). It was the coolest life-changing event ever.”
The church camp was pretty special to Gibson. Later, he found out there had been a number of people in his youth group praying for him over the last couple of years because of his random attendance. Kyle, comments, “My parents had been members of that church ever since I was born. I went to Sunday school and pre-school there. We just did not devote the time to our faith. For the first time, baseball was not around and God used that moment to better my life for eternity.”
The summer when Gibson was hurt, Kyle was supposed to play in a really big tournament in his hometown. Kyle and his dad had been part of the organizing group. “I was going to be bummed out not playing,” shares Kyle. “It was one of those moments I realized for the first time that baseball was not everything in my life. I had so much fun working the tournament and watching my buddies play. It was pretty cool.”
The Gibson family has always been a close family. Holly was a pretty good softball player that eventually was the ticket into Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky, to continue playing softball. Kyle and Holly’s parents took them everywhere for their games. Kyle comments, “I remember very vividly in high school going to watch my sister play softball. She was really good. We had a lot of good family trips that surrounded baseball and softball.”
Kyle never thought he would miss his sister when she went off to Huntington University for her first two years before she transferred to Transylvania. Like most siblings, they would argue and fight. But Kyle really did miss Holly. He shares, “Holly was a wonderful role model for me, and she was willing to share with me when I was trying to figure out life.”
Gibson went to the University of Missouri, but almost didn’t. He was drafted after his senior year in high school by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 36th round. Two days before the fall semester was to start, Kyle decided not to sign with the Phillies and chose to go to Missouri.
“I enjoyed all three years at Missouri,” shares Gibson, “it was a blessing. We were a pretty special team and pretty good all three years. The coaching staff was awesome. I was drafted in the first round by the Twins in 2009. Two former Missouri teammates (Aaron Crow and Nick Tepesch) have been in the big leagues also.”
There was another reason Missouri was special. He met his wife, Elizabeth, the first October of their freshman year. However, they never started dating until the start of second semester. “I met Elizabeth through her roommate who was from Indiana,” shares Kyle. “I began to take an interest in Elizabeth.”
Kyle continues, “I got to know Elizabeth, who was a gymnast on the Missouri team, through the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA). Once I got to know the woman she was and how she lived her life, it drew me to her even more.”
Kyle was drafted by the Minnesota Twins after his junior year, and they became engaged that year in December, 2009. They were married on November 27, 2010, and they now have a beautiful daughter, Hayden (nearing 2 years). “It is a pretty cool story knowing I was 2 days away from not even going to Missouri. Then six months later, I met my wife,” comments Kyle.
“Witnessing for Christ is one of the cool parts of my life,” states Kyle. “Elizabeth and I realize we have been put in this specific spot (professional baseball) to do God’s work.” Bible verses he shares when he is asked for an autograph are Ephesians 2:8-10. “First part of this Scripture,” comments Kyle, “talks how by Grace we are saved through faith and not by something we do. The second part is ‘for we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.’ That is where I get my life’s motivation. I have been put here to be a follower of Christ but also to play ball and witness.”
The Gibsons have unique opportunities to witness through sports camps, trips to Dominican Republic to participate in “One Child Matters” ministry, and through the “Bright Hope Ministry.”
Kyle and Elizabeth have increased their involvement with FCA. “FCA was a big part of our college experience. The Missouri state director of FCA, Scott Ashton, was the FCA leader at the University of Missouri when we were there. He had such an impact on our lives we had him read Scripture at our wedding. FCA was very important because it allowed us to keep our faith through college and allowed God to be the ‘Rock’ of our marriage.”
Each home stand this year Kyle, who made his major league debut on June 29, 2013, brought an FCA group from around Minnesota to come to Target Field. Kyle, Blaine Boyer and other teammates would share about their life and faith with the group. The FCA group would be treated to batting practice and later the game.
Teammate Brian Dozier shares about Kyle, “I met Kyle 6 or 7 years ago. When you meet someone, you tend to look at their values and life
style. I knew immediately that his walk of faith is important to him. Kyle and Elizabeth do a lot of good things during the season with community work, leading others to Christ. At our last Faith Night at Target Field held after a ball game, Kyle gave his testimony so the people heard his story about coming to Christ and his faith walk with Christ.” Dozier adds, “Kyle and Elizabeth have taken mission trips in the off-season as have my wife and I. Living a Christian life style and letting others see Christ living in him are most important to Kyle.”
A Scripture verse that has taken on meaning comes from the conference theme for Pro Athletes Outreach (PAO) which is called “Increase Conference.” John 3:30 is “He must increase in importance and I must decrease in importance.” Kyle explains, “That is something I honestly enjoy thinking about. It is a really cool verse, very simply put, God’s presence and God’s outwardly presence in your life need to increase as your outwardly perception is decreasing. I think the more I focus on that verse the more Christ like I can be.” Gibson adds, “That is humility. I read where God oppose the proud, and the opposite of pride is humility. It is pretty scary to think about. When God says He opposes the proud and you find yourself being prideful, you are literally fighting against God. You want to have as much humility as possible.”
Twin teammate Blaine Boyer talks about Kyle’s walk with the Lord. “Kyle is awesome. He has a unique walk, but his walk is different because he is a ‘thinking mans’ Christian. He really likes to digest things and critically think about conversations we have about theology. He likes to absorb and give his take on it after he’s done thinking about it. It is fun to walk with a guy that has that outlook, especially from the Kingdom standpoint. The man is passionate and disciplined. He is an absolute warrior for the Kingdom.”
Christ has given Kyle the “ability to live and play as passionately as possible.” He allowed baseball to dictate where to find his self-worth and how to enjoy life. “As I got older in my faith, I no longer worry about going 0 for 4 batting or getting shelled pitching. At the end of the day God still loves me. There are times when Christians are said to not be very aggressive or competitive. That is not the case. I have been put here to do this (play ball), and I take that very seriously. I feel it is part of my race. God wants us to ‘run the race’ and to ‘finish the race’ (2 Timothy 4:7; Hebrews 12:1).
Gibson continues, “I would be lying if I said I was not competitive on the mound because I am. I try to be as competitively Christ-like as I can be and still understand this is still part of my race. I am not here trying to waste God’s blessings. God has blessed me with a good arm and healthy body and a great family that supports me. I am not about to waste that.”
Written by Bruce A. Darnall, Lake Mills, WI
Photos provided by Minnesota Twins