PAWTUCKET — From Garrett Mock’s vantage point, his capacity – relief pitcher for the Pawtucket Red Sox – represents only the tip of iceberg regarding exactly who he is.
Mind you, Mock wasn’t always a devout Christian. The 29-year-old experienced a pair of self-described awakenings – one in 1998 and again in 2006 – that placed everything in proper context.
Nowadays when he takes the mound, Mock isn’t just seeking to get the opposition out; he aims to continue to stay true to his spiritual side that he first tapped as a teenager growing up in Houston, Texas.
“What is your foundation? If my ERA is good, then am I going to be inclined to be nice to people?” Mock said. “That’s not necessarily a foundation to build life around.
“Baseball is a game based on failure. and is that failure going to dictate my life or is my faith in Jesus Christ going to be the thing that’s my fuel and energy?” Mock added. “For me, when that’s my priority, everything falls into place.”
If you knew nothing about Mock and happened to cross paths with him on the street, you would probably take one look at his hulking 6-foot-4 physique, be impressed by his size and maybe strike up a conversation that begins with what he does for a living. Upon receiving a reply, your next thought probably entails, “All he probably cares about is making it to The Show.”
You’re probably better off sitting down with Mock in order to fully understand what exactly makes him tick. There you’ll find a caring and compassionate person who owes much of his present day disposition to what is written in the Bible. In fact, Mock refers to the scripture passages as a means to help him deal with the varying temptations that may arise over the course of a season.
“You can point to one little chapter in the Bible and wonder, ‘How does it relate to our lives?’” Mock said about the significance he places on the written word.
To speak freely and comfortably about a subject matter all while in a male-dominated atmosphere demonstrates just how comfortable Mock is in his own skin. He did not grow up in a religious setting, though his family recognized the importance of attending church services on major holidays such as Easter. Other than that, he brushed up against organized religion upon visiting his great grandparents, both missionaries.
“It was Bible study the whole time,” Mock shared about the times he spent with the elder statesmen of his family. “I didn’t grow up with my folks making me go to church.”
As the years went on, baseball became more of a priority. Then came 1998 and the moment that served as Mock’s great awakening. He was in high school at the time.
“I had a point in my life where I had a lot of things going on that made me think ‘Okay, what’s going to be at the center of my life? Is it going to be me with my happiness and frustration or it is going to be God?’” Mock said. “I got saved in 1998 by realizing there’s a God. He’s good and I’m not Him.”
Mock was more inclined to share the instance that led to him deepening his faith in 2006, a year that saw him start the season in the Arizona Diamondbacks’ farm system before getting traded to Washington (the righthander was selected by the D-backs in the third round of the 2004 draft).
“I had a family member who passed away while I was playing,” Mock recalled. “It made me realize that whatever I think is important about baseball – am I going to get moved up to the next level? – became completely irrelevant. What mattered was the relationship I had with my family.
“In 2006 I made a serious commitment to not just say I’m a moral person and I follow God,” he added. “I’m going to take the Bible as God’s instruction manual for life, and I want God to speak to me.”
As Mock grew more comfortable as a practicing Christian, he started to realize that he was not the only baseball player rich in faith.
“Baseball’s not going to last forever,” he said. “There’s something to having that deeper relationship with people that has nothing to do with common traits.
“There’s quite a number of (Bible) passages that talk about adoption,” he delved further. “There have been times this year and in the past where I’ve met somebody who’s a Christian and instantly it’s like I met a long lost brother.”
Mock came over to the Red Sox after spending the previous 5 1/2 seasons in the Nationals' organization. It was with Washington where he made his major-league debut, the laurel achieved in 2008, and where all 55 of his appearances in the bigs have materialized.
He signed a minor-league deal with Boston roughly a month before the start of the 2012 season, a fresh start that also served as a prime opportunity to meet players who shared his zest for keeping God’s word close by.
Mock’s icebreaker with his newfound Pawtucket teammates was simple, that of sitting at his locker with the Bible in his lap. Naturally, the act prompted curiosity that eventually took the form of a small Bible study group that further augmented Mock’s assurance that he was not on the outside looking in.
“The thing is that (staying on the straight and narrow) is something that can’t be done alone,” says Mock, his tone bordering on the serious side. “It’s been awesome this year because there’s been a couple of guys on the team who I’ve gotten to spend some time with – total strangers during spring training.
“To have that relationship where we’re not just encouraging one another as teammates, but also as young men definitely helps,” said Mock, presently Pawtucket’s team leader in pitching appearances (34 entering Tuesday’s game against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre). “Let’s share what our fears and worries are and juxtapose that with what God says about us. Having that relationship can help get a guy back on track to the point that the camaraderie is contagious.”
There’s fine line to walk when mixing sports with religion, something in which Mock is fully aware.
“My goal as a Christian is to be a guy who’s there. I’m not going to hold (Christianity) over you and have it be the point of every conversation,” Mock expounded. “It’s about being available and making them feel comfortable.”
The parallels between baseball and Christianity are endless, Mock feels.
“If you bat .300, you’re an All-Star. That means you fail seven out of 10 times. It’s important to remember that God likes you and that you’re going to fail,” said Mock. “How you deal with that 1-for-10 slump is what’s going to separate you. They’re not mad or judging themselves. They’re like ‘That’s the way it goes.’
“As a Christian, it’s about having that internal conviction that life is more than what our record is,” he said. “We live in a world where your performance dictates your value. We’re instantly held accountable, especially with a team as storied as the Red Sox' franchise.”
Thanks to be guided by a definite set of principles, Mock is able to stay even keeled, knowing that regardless of how he fares on the mound, it’s all part of some master plan.