On game days Ryan Yarbrough, named the Southern League’s Most Outstanding Pitcher in 2016, follows a routine that ends with a question mark.
He gets to the ballpark extremely early, stretches in a certain order and drinks a Red Bull.
“I ask a teammate a question that I consistently do. I always feel like I misdressed. I always feel like I am forgetting something. ‘Hey man, am I missing some clothing?’ I don’t want to make a fool of myself. They are like, ‘No, you’re good man.’”
Although Yarbrough often questions his attire, no one questions his ability.
A lefthander for the Jackson Generals, Yarbrough helped them win the 2016 Southern League Championship Series for the first time since 2000, was a midseason and postseason All-Star, had a 12–4 record with a 2.95 ERA and was a part of a trio of
Jackson award winners that included Tyler O’Neill and Jackson manager Daren Brown.
As hand in glove, so is Yarbrough’s faith.
“Christ and sports go hand in hand. It gives you the opportunity to go out there and spread the Word. There are opportunities to meet people in our community at every level through the Generals’ events. It’s being a good person in the community,” said Yarbrough, 24.
When hurricanes hit Florida, Yarbrough, who is from Lakeland, Florida, put roofs on houses. He also went to Pennsylvania to a work camp. He wants his faith to be evident.
“From talking to me, the values I preach, going by how you treat people, I would want people to say, ‘Wow, he seems like a good person, a good Christian man,’” he said.
Yarbrough became a Christian through the influence of his parents and his grandmother.
“My mom led me to Christ. It was definitely big in our household — how we should go about things, what is right to do in certain situations, how to treat people. My core values are definitely based off what she taught me.”
Along with faith values, his parents instilled a joyful attitude.
“That is just how I was raised. My parents were always in good moods. There is no reason to get down in the dumps, especially when you are on the baseball field all day. I am doing the thing I love with Christ by my side and knowing that He is always there for me.”
Jackson center fielder Ian Miller said Yarbrough “always brought a positive attitude when things were going good or bad. Through injuries, complete games, great performances and bad performances, he was the same positive person through performance and spiritual mindset.”
Yarbrough’s parents talked to him about going to church — the family attends Resurrection Catholic Church, Lakeland — and told him to “trust everything to God.”
“I have always needed Him. I don’t know anybody who can say that they never needed Jesus. He has always been there every day. You have questions answered and when you need some support, He is always there for you. He died for us. It really makes an impact on you,” he said.
John Yarbrough sometimes sends his son a text with what has become Ryan Yarbrough’s favorite verse, Psalm 46:10: “Be still and know that I am God.”
“It’s something my dad always taught me. Whenever we have been going through something tough, he would say, ‘Be still.’”
Ryan Yarbrough’s testimony includes passing the same message to others as was given to him. During this past season, he pitched 128.1 innings in 25 games. He allowed 112 hits and struck out 99 during the regular season. He was twice named Southern League Pitcher of the Week.
Ryan Yarbrough started his college career at Santa Fe College in Gainesville, Florida. He transferred to Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, as a communications major and is two classes from graduating.
His 89-to-92 mph fastball is a pitch that “everybody knows is going to come. Being able to get guys out is pretty cool, a pretty good feeling,” he said.
One of Ryan Yarbrough’s career highlights was winning the Southern League.
“No one expected us to play this well. Going out there and winning a lot of games is special,” he said.
The championship season also allowed Yarbrough to share values that he has learned: “God is all around us all the time.”