Tennessee Smokies pitcher Zach Hedges likes to give what he has received.
“I love showing people encouragement and I love being positive in that sense and having a smile. I love being able to connect with people wherever they are and letting them know they are loved. God loves them as much as He loves everyone. I love being able to do that and just love on people,” said Hedges. “It blows my mind of how God shows his love to me in every way.”
A Christian ministry major with sports emphasis at Azusa Pacific University, Hedges wanted to be a witness to his team and on campus.
“I realized through the things I do day in and day out, I will show and prove who I want to be in life. Hopefully it will show there is something different. I don’t think I am better than anyone else. I realize that I am not. That is why I have this relationship with Christ. I need Him in my life.”
When Hedges was about 4 or 5 years old his sister Lindsay began talking about “this guy named Jesus. She was good friends with Him. I was like, ‘Dude who is this guy?’ I want to be like Him. My sister is the one who encouraged that to me. I realized at a young age I wanted Christ in my life, to have someone to lean on and to give me strength and encouragement during hard times,” he said.
When he was about 8 or 9 years old his faith became “really tangible.” When his parents divorced, his mother, Laurie, raised him and his sister.
His faith grew stronger. Through the hard times he developed a passion for sports which allowed a “super connection” to people.
During his freshman season at Azusa Pacific in 2012 he was 7-0 with a 3.30 ERA. He had the lowest ERA (2.74) at Azusa Pacific during the 2014 season. At the end of the 2014 season Hedges was chosen by the Cubs in the 26th round of the Major League Draft.
He played rookie ball in Mesa, Arizona, in 2014, and spent the 2015 season in South Bend, Indiana. He struck out 80 while going 8-8 with a 4.16 ERA.
At Myrtle Beach in 2016 he was a Mid-Season Carolina League All-Star. He was 7-8 with a 2.89 ERA and 63 strikeouts.
Being an all-star was “huge” and his biggest thrill along with being drafted.
But he remembers where his talent comes from.
“I want to go out there and glorify Him in baseball. I always write ‘Audience of One’ behind the mound before my first pitch,” he said.
Who God created him to be is a process that Hedges continues to figure out, he said.
“As of right now it’s to be a baseball player,” he said. “Knowing that God has brought me here for a reason, and I can play baseball well and showcase that and try to find ways to show what God has done in my life every day.”
‘Opened my eyes’
During the summer of 2013, Hedges went to Haiti, working in Port-au-Prince and in rural areas in the country.
“That really opened my eyes. People who had absolutely nothing were so joyous. There was this church in a tent city. It must have been 105 degrees in this place. It was a metal-sheeted roof. People were dancing and singing and laughing. To see that was unbelievable — how God can do that for us. That was cool,” said Hedges.
Hedges attends The Bridge Church in Chino, California, and says staying connected to his faith is important.
“Faith has been such a deep thing in my life for a long time. If that had not been there I feel like there would have been a void, something missing in my life.”
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