By Bill Sorrell
Correspondent, The Alabama Baptist
Blinded — that’s how Travis Denker said he felt when his major league baseball experience ended and his career began a downward spiral.
In his 15 seasons in professional baseball, he was signed and released, then signed and released again, over and over until he had played on 20 teams. In 2015 he ended up in the Mexican League, a move he said was rock bottom.
“I thought God was taking the big leagues away from me,” he said. “I was very mad at Him. I was like, ‘God why haven’t you given me any success? I thought you loved me.’”
And he started drinking.
“I felt like I was in a downhill spiral. I had no way of getting out of it,” he said. “I started using something else besides God to cope with my problems.”
When Denker finally hit the point of repentance, he remembers hearing a word from God. “He said, ‘This isn’t who I called you to be and you need to pick a side,’” Denker said. “That is the day I became a follower of Christ.”
Changed by Christ
Since that day, his life has been different. God began to change him, he said. His approach to the game has changed too. Hitting a major league home run was once his biggest thrill. Now it is watching players who are wrapped up in baseball see the bigger picture of what Christ has for their lives instead of only what baseball has to offer.
“Once you get God involved it becomes so much bigger,” Denker said. “The thrill for me is seeing people’s lives change.”
In June 2016 he signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
He played in Mobile for the BayBears in 2016 before relocating to Jackson, Tennessee, for the Generals’ 2017 season. The 32-year-old infielder is batting .277 this season with three home runs and 20 RBIs, including four in a 5–1 victory over Mobile on July 26.
Wealth of experience
J.R. House, manager of the Jackson Generals, said Denker brings a wealth of experience on and off the field.
“He really enjoys helping younger guys,” he said. “He has been a pleasure to have.”
Denker has become a mentor to the other players, both in baseball skills and also in life, House said. “He goes around and talks to the guys and makes sure that everything is OK in their lives on and off the field.”
Evan Marzilli, Generals center fielder who was recently traded to the Reno Aces in Nevada, led the team’s baseball chapel with Denker. He said Denker is “very influential with the other guys on the team. He speaks the Word well. He is not a forceful person. He is laid-back and everybody gravitates to him.”
Denker said he wants to use that position to influence other players for Christ.
“If God wants to use this platform of baseball, then I am going to give it everything I can,” he said. “Whatever He wants to use, I want to be used here. We are called to tell people about Christ and His love. That is the plan. I have been so fulfilled in my life. When people ask questions about something, I can share that and that is better than hitting a home run.”
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