Faith, Family & Baseball
It’s a whole new ballgame for retired Major League Baseball pitcher Eric Stults. After playing professionally for 14 years, pitching for several major league teams, most recently for the Atlanta Braves, Stults decided in 2015 that it was time to turn his focus to his family.
“I wanted to take a back seat to my kids as opposed to them taking a back seat to me,” says the 2002 business administration major, who was also named Player of the Year in the NCCAA that same year.
“They wanted to start playing little league and do things at school, and they weren’t able to do things so [easily],” he says, adding that the major leagues can be demanding on a family’s time.
“It was pretty much seven days a week for eight months out of the year.”
During his professional career, Stults started 274 games and executed two shut outs. He credits his success and longevity in the game to Christ.
“My faith was the only thing that kept me going,” he says. “[In the major leagues] it was easy to let my self-doubt get in the way, and it was kind of human nature to feel, ‘why don’t you just quit?’ … Once I was able to allow God to take the reins, that’s where my faith came into play. And the older I got, the more I understood that.”
Being a professional Christian baseball player also posed challenges for Stults.
“[By] being a Christian [in the major leagues], you were definitely a minority,” he says. “There were challenges of being around things that weren’t uplifting.”
But with the trials came several opportunities to speak and share his faith — something that was instilled in him as a Bethel player.
Not only did Stults gain a foundation in Christ at Bethel, he also learned proper pitching methods on the field — teachings he hadn’t received in high school.
“We had great players and some good teams,” recalls Stults of his time at Bethel. “Bethel played a huge role in giving me the opportunity to get drafted.”
Bethel College Athletics inducted Stults into its Hall of Fame in 2011.
Now, as Stults settles into the next inning in his life, he satisfies his baseball cravings by coaching his son’s little league team.
“It was refreshing to see their genuine enthusiasm,” he says of coaching this past summer. “They didn’t care if they won or lost.”
Stults plans to continue coaching his son’s little league team, and he has some interest in giving baseball clinics or pitching lessons on a small scale, something he’s no stranger to. In 2013, he and fellow Bethel-turned-major league pitcher Justin Masterson put on a pitching clinic at Bethel.
Every now and then, Stults will turn on a major league game and watch for a few minutes to get his fill of baseball, and that’s all he needs.
“Baseball was a priority, but it wasn’t the most important thing in my life,” he says. “My relationship with God and family were above baseball.”
He now looks forward to spending as much time with his family as he can.
At Bethel, Eric Stults was a four-year letter winner in baseball and a two-year letter winner in basketball. He was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 15th round in 2002 and throughout his career, pitched for the L.A. Dodgers, Hiroshima Toyo Carp, Colorado Rockies, Chicago White Sox, San Diego Padres and Atlanta Braves.
View more photos from the Stults family photo shoot on campus here.