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Ian Desmond, Washington Nationals

by carmine on May 9, 2013



By:John van Vliet

Spotlight Athlete Archive

Ian Desmond is a premier professional baseball player. The All-star shortstop for the Washington Nationals is second-best on his team with a .282 batting average, four homeruns, 11 RBIs and four stolen bases in 32 games played this season. He leads the 17-15 Nationals with 11 doubles.

Desmond, from Sarasota, FL, has been a solid player for the Nationals since his MLB debut in 2009. He was named an All-Star in 2012 and helped lead his team to their first postseason appearance in 2012.

But perhaps where Desmond has made his biggest impact has been off the field and in the life of one particular fan.

Ethan Brown, 20, is diagnosed with Neurofibromatosis Type II, a disease in the brain that effects auditory functions. Through some Twitter exchanges via Unashamed Athletes, Brown got connected with the Nationals’ All-Star. The two communicate a couple times a week. Desmond has even invited Brown to a few games and was able to get Brown an autographed baseball from his all-time favorite player, Chipper Jones.

Desmond and Brown have developed a friendship and talk about anything from baseball to their own walk with God.

“Ethan’s faith absolutely strengthened me,” Desmond said in an interview through e-mail. “To know fully that God has a plan for you, and to be happy, not scared, nervous or anxious. When times get hard in life, baseball or whatever situation, and to have Faith in God and His plan and to find contentment: Ethan defines this.”

This kind of impact on a young person’s life is the kind of power a professional athlete who is unashamed for God can have. But in the last few years, Desmond has had to find his faith again after losing it for some time to the game he loves.

Desmond said his faith was instilled in him as a child while attending a catholic school. As he became older, baseball consumed his life and took church time away from him. When he reached the minor league ranks, Desmond said baseball was the only thing on his mind.

“When I started taking baseball more seriously, most of my weekends were spent at the at baseball fields all over Florida and not in church. Baseball became such a blessing to myself and my family that there was a price to pay.”

He added that baseball “superstitions” and his drive to make it to the big league got in the way of getting back to the Lord.

“I would get frustrated at the chaplain for coming in to my work, the clubhouse, on Sundays,” Desmond said, “and trying to take the little time I had before games to prepare. I carried a Bible around with me on every road trip knowing that one day I would open it, as I had in the minor leagues from time to time. But for me it didn’t seem like the time, I had wanted to be a big leaguer my whole life, I was ‘too’ focused.”

With his focus on baseball, Desmond began to notice that he was becoming someone he was not. He was putting up a baseball front, he said.

Then on New Year’s Day, 2011, Desmond made a commitment to read his Bible twice a day. Starting in the New Testament, Desmond would read a chapter a day. His relationship with God began to grow and the little things he learned as a kid were becoming a part of his life.

His faith was tested early into the 2012 season. Desmond was battling a nagging injury, requiring frequent therapy and treatment sessions. One Sunday prior to a game, the team chaplain approached Desmond saying chapel would be at 11 a.m. Desmond’s treatment was at the same time. “When I walked in to the chapel room,” he said, “and the chaplain looked at me kind of surprised. I smiled, sat down and had never felt so blessed. I knew at that point my walk with Christ was real.”

Since then, Desmond’s walk with the Lord has been strong. The presence of God in his life has affected the way he carries himself around the clubhouse. He encourages everyone to live their life filled with God’s love and to step out in faith when the time comes.

“When your life is filled with the Holy Spirit and it is illuminating, people can’t help but notice. They will want what you have and it’s up to us to be prepared to testify to them when they are ready to hear what we have to say.”

Desmond’s favorite Bible passage is Romans 5:3-4, which says:

“Not only so, but we also glory in our suffering, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

Just as Brown has battled through his disease by living life to the fullest in Christ, Desmond does not let any hardships let him down. We can live the same way. Desmond adds, “On your journey with Christ, down the narrow road, there will be obstacles. If you lean on Him, He will help you overcome them. Rely on yourself and you will be headed down the wide road. Give God the glory always and how can you lose?”

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