PAWTUCKET â From Garrett Mockâs vantage point, his capacity â relief pitcher for the Pawtucket Red Sox â represents only the tip of iceberg regarding exactly who he is.
Mind you, Mock wasnât always a devout Christian. The 29-year-old experienced a pair of self-described awakenings â one in 1998 and again in 2006 â that placed everything in proper context.
Nowadays when he takes the mound, Mock isnât 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.
âWhat is your foundation? If my ERA is good, then am I going to be inclined to be nice to people?â Mock said. âThatâs not necessarily a foundation to build life around.
âBaseball 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 thatâs my fuel and energy?â Mock added. âFor me, when thatâs my priority, everything falls into place.â
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, âAll he probably cares about is making it to The Show.â
Youâre probably better off sitting down with Mock in order to fully understand what exactly makes him tick. There youâll 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.
âYou can point to one little chapter in the Bible and wonder, âHow does it relate to our lives?ââ 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.
âIt was Bible study the whole time,â Mock shared about the times he spent with the elder statesmen of his family. âI didnât grow up with my folks making me go to church.â
As the years went on, baseball became more of a priority. Then came 1998 and the moment that served as Mockâs great awakening. He was in high school at the time.
âI had a point in my life where I had a lot of things going on that made me think âOkay, whatâs 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?ââ Mock said. âI got saved in 1998 by realizing thereâs a God. Heâs good and Iâm not Him.â
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 Diamondbacksâ farm system before getting traded to Washington (the righthander was selected by the D-backs in the third round of the 2004 draft).
âI had a family member who passed away while I was playing,â Mock recalled. âIt made me realize that whatever I think is important about baseball â am I going to get moved up to the next level? â became completely irrelevant. What mattered was the relationship I had with my family.
âIn 2006 I made a serious commitment to not just say Iâm a moral person and I follow God,â he added. âIâm going to take the Bible as Godâs instruction manual for life, and I want God to speak to me.â
As Mock grew more comfortable as a practicing Christian, he started to realize that he was not the only baseball player rich in faith.
âBaseballâs not going to last forever,â he said. âThereâs something to having that deeper relationship with people that has nothing to do with common traits.
âThereâs quite a number of (Bible) passages that talk about adoption,â he delved further. âThere have been times this year and in the past where Iâve met somebody whoâs a Christian and instantly itâs like I met a long lost brother.â
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 Godâs word close by.
Mockâs 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 Mockâs assurance that he was not on the outside looking in.
âThe thing is that (staying on the straight and narrow) is something that canât be done alone,â says Mock, his tone bordering on the serious side. âItâs been awesome this year because thereâs been a couple of guys on the team who Iâve gotten to spend some time with â total strangers during spring training.
âTo have that relationship where weâre not just encouraging one another as teammates, but also as young men definitely helps,â said Mock, presently Pawtucketâs team leader in pitching appearances (34 entering Tuesdayâs game against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre). âLetâs 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.â
Thereâs fine line to walk when mixing sports with religion, something in which Mock is fully aware.
âMy goal as a Christian is to be a guy whoâs there. Iâm not going to hold (Christianity) over you and have it be the point of every conversation,â Mock expounded. âItâs about being available and making them feel comfortable.â
The parallels between baseball and Christianity are endless, Mock feels.
âIf you bat .300, youâre an All-Star. That means you fail seven out of 10 times. Itâs important to remember that God likes you and that youâre going to fail,â said Mock. âHow you deal with that 1-for-10 slump is whatâs going to separate you. Theyâre not mad or judging themselves. Theyâre like âThatâs the way it goes.â
âAs a Christian, itâs about having that internal conviction that life is more than what our record is,â he said. âWe live in a world where your performance dictates your value. Weâre instantly held accountable, especially with a team as storied as the Red Sox' franchise.â
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, itâs all part of some master plan.