Standing 6′ 7″ and scaring the scales at 275+, I had always been able to hit a ball a long way. In the mid-1990s, while working for American Airlines and having the ability to fly for free, that made it easy to play all over the USA. I was at a sporting goods show in Atlanta in the spring of 1997 when a Florida sports business owner approached me, and he asked me would I like to play softball in a prison. I’ve been a believer in Jesus since I was 13, so it seemed logical to play with a prison softball ministry, or at least give it a try.
I went to that prison, and God radically changed my heart and desires. I no longer wanted to play softball at an elite level but wanted to start my own prison softball ministry. I found a team in North Texas called “Texas Sports Reach” and went with them a few times and also went with a team out of New Jersey called the “Saints Prison Ministry.” I then found my lifelong mentor, Robby Speer, who ran the National Ministry call “Sports Reach” based out of my home state, Kentucky.
The confusion for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and us was that there was already a Texas Sports Reach team. So with Robby’s blessing, I started a group called Messengers Prison Ministry based on 2 Corinthians 5:20.
“So we are Christ’s official messengers. It is as if God were making his appeal through us. Here is what Christ wants us to beg you to do. Come back to God!”
Messengers Prison Ministry has been a consistent presence in Texas Prisons since 1998. Playing several times a month and ten months out of the year at our peak, we had two men’s teams, a women’s team, and a youth team. My wife of 33 years Donna taught a “Post Abortion” Counseling class in Gatesville, TX, at the death-row-unit. The Lord blessed our ministry and my family.
In 2012 I retired from American Airlines and went to Afghanistan for a year and turned the leadership of the ministry over to my son-in-law, Steven Razo. He had a great teammate Jimmy Silva, and with them at the helm, the ministry continued to thrive.
In 2015, I accepted a position with United Airlines in Denver after doing Defense work for the last several years. Then, this past summer, we took a team to the Territorial Prison in Canon City, CO. I called Robby and asked him if there were any Sports Reach teams in Colorado. After learning there were not, I decided to start a Colorado Sports Reach team. The Department of Corrections here in Colorado realizes the value of what we do. I love taking teams into prisons, especially on Sundays, when the Christian inmates are in Chapel, which leaves the hardened tough guys out in the yard for me to share the Gospel to.
The Long Ball is what I use to reach these men. At 55 years old, I have still not had an inmate be able to out-hit me, and God uses my abilities to reach these men. If you are fast or can jump well or play great defense, God can use you. If you have an athletic skill, God can use you and your talents in a prison. Colorado is a great state, Denver is the best City, and a lot of men need to hear about Jesus.
Are you ready to come with Sports Reach next summer (2020)? We’ll be going on a week-long mission trip where we’ll play ball in the best summer weather in the U.S and take some time to go white water rafting.
Visit the Colorado Sports Reach site at coloradosportsreach.com.Back to blog