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Testimonial – April 29th, 2012
This was the date I was brought back to tears on a baseball field. The last time this happened was eight years earlier – in May of 2004 when I was forced to accept that my college baseball career was permanently over. Now, I must admit that I am an emotional guy. I cried after striking out in little league (yes I was that kid), cried after losing games during our senior year of high school, and I still sometimes cry after every Chicago Cubs loss. I am very emotional and extremely passionate about life – everything I do is done to my fullest ability; I play the game to win, and I give everything my all.
However, the reason I was a bit emotional this past April was because of something that I had never experienced. At this time I was 26.75 years old and playing my first baseball season as a believer and follower of Jesus Christ. This year is different as I surrendered my old life for one that is new every moment.
Back in the summer of 2011, my life was in a tailspin. I was doing everything for Casey. I was focused on making money, driving nice cars, buying nice boats, and surrendering to a desire to possess things. I wanted to be the guy that everyone said, ” WOW look at Casey and all the cool things he does and has.” I was in a competition with friends, family, and people who I thought were friends of mine to be better at life than them. I remember back last year on May 17th I thought my life was going to get a ton better overnight. I had waited for three months to finally sell a business of mine and get that fat check. I would have more money than the majority of my friends would ever have. A check that I thought would make everything better. So May 17th came and went – I had that big fat check and immediately bought a few beers for some friends and did a little partying in the bleachers at Wrigley Field. I upgraded my condo to the best place in Chicago with a nice pool that all of my friends could use. I then proceeded to play a game to see how much fun I could have, tried to show off for my friends, and still have the coolest stuff in all of Chicago. It was exhausting. It cost me a ton of money and most importantly some really good relationships.
Summer came and went, and I had a ton of fun but then came fall. Baseball season was over, the Cubs season was over, and my other friends all had to go back to work. Then it was just me, and I was lost, broken, and looking for answers. I was always a guy that was about ME first and not a team player at all. I cared about MY bank account not the bank account of others. I cared about MY batting average and not our team’s record. I was always the first one to leave games and never offered to help the coach clean up the field or pack up the equipment. Shoot- I don’t think I ever volunteered for anything… ever. I wanted to do what I wanted to do- no exceptions. It was all about ME.
I have never been shy about asking others for advice, and I do praise Jesus for that. I had seen so many others that were stuck in their own ways and refused to get help from even the best of sources. I realized that I was a broken man, so I went and reached out to someone that I knew, liked, and trusted. He had what I wanted to have one day. He has a great business that actually has a real mission, an amazing family, a supportive wife, and some really cool kids. I sat down with him and told him my story. I was a broken man, someone looking for answers, and he had them for me. His answer was to get into the word of God. I blew off his advice at first and thought nothing of it. I asked myself how on earth would the Bible fix any of my problems? I thought I could just fix things myself, but I was completely wrong. I had gone to church growing up as a child, but I had despised it. It wasn’t fun, and I would rather be watching ESPN or playing some online poker to pass the time. I never had that connection and was living an empty spiritual life. I always believed there was a God, always prayed, but never really knew who Jesus was or what He did for me. The fact that my prayers were all about me probably didn’t help either! I just prayed for what I wanted, and it usually meant praying for more things!
Even though I had the best spiritual advice from a highly respected friend, I waited several weeks before I picked up the Bible. I continued doing some more ME things, and then finally hit rock bottom in October. I hopped on my bike, rode to Lake Michigan and opened up the book of John on a nice fall day. Almost instantly I was overcome with emotion as I found out who Jesus was and what He did for me. I was instantly forced to realize why things had gone so badly in the past. It was because of me and no one else; it was because of my selfish ways.
I was a great baseball player, but not a great teammate. I only focused on my batting average and thought if I just worked hard enough that was all the team needed to win a game. I was not a leader and have recently realized that I probably held the team down to some extent. When the going got tough, my emotions would get the best of me, and I would lose my cool. It was all about ME, I always thought, and I never had the eyes to “see” this or the power to fight it off.
I just recently had a personal conversation with my college baseball coach, and as I shared this with him over the phone, he was overcome with emotion. He then let me know seven years later, that in a job interview after he left coaching college baseball they asked him, “What was the greatest challenge he ever faced” He simply said, “Casey Cavell.” The good thing for him was that he was able to do what other coaches couldn’t. He connected with me and kept me eligible and out of trouble just long enough to see us one win away from a conference championship. This man emulates the person I want to be – a guy who takes a kid with my (horrible) attitude and is able to get the best possible result from him. I was brought to tears running this morning thinking about this one little story.
After digging deeper into the word, I realized why my personal relationships had fallen apart. This was because I was conformed to the views of the world. I thought that I had to make more money, have the most Facebook friends, and have a ton of really nice toys. I was in a rat race of trying to build up cool things and have more fun than anyone else. However, it’s a game I recently realized I could never win, and it’s called the comparison trap. Once I got a nice car I wanted a NICER one. Once I had a nice big condo that was on a really high floor, I wanted a NICER BIGGER ONE THAT WAS HIGHER than any condo in Chicago. When I bought my first jet ski, I went out and bought a faster one two years later. My life was on this never-ending cycle of trying to become bigger and better at everything and because of this many relationships fell apart.
I realized I was a broken man and after digging deeper into God’s word, engaging in constant prayer, and associating myself with followers of Jesus Christ, I finally came to Christ on November 4, 2011 I asked Him to become my personal savior, take control of my life, as I surrendered everything to Him. This was very hard for me as I thought I could do everything myself. However, after I realized what Jesus had done for me and I surrendered my life to Him, I didn’t have to do anything- it was already done, it was His plan, and He is in control.
We all want a few things in life, and I am assuming those would be peace, love, and joy, and I was no different. I just thought money, things, and fun would get those for me. Once I found Jesus Christ and started living my life orbiting around Christ’s love for others, I found that true peace. I was no longer out at dinners with friends thinking about how I could make money off them or what work I needed to do the next day to build Casey’s empire. I was no longer finding fulfillment in searching for some new dumb crazy thing to buy to show off to friends. I just loved people for people and tried to live my life with Christ-like disciplines.
Ever since coming to Christ I have been living my life centered on Him and doing my best to be a disciple of His, not a mere Christian. It’s hard; it’s the hardest thing I have ever done. Sin is everywhere and being a 26-year-old single guy, still possessing a bunch of really cool stuff makes it that much more difficult. However I know who Jesus is; I know He died for my sins, and this is a battle I won’t lose. I will not be conformed to earthly views, and I know my time on earth is temporary and this one earthly life is my only chance to make a difference.
Last Friday night is a prime example of how I am actively following Jesus. I was asked out for beers with some buddies and knew I could stay out all night drinking, doing a little dancing (or a lot), sleep in, and do what Casey wanted to do. However, I also knew that I had a full day planned watching little league games and helping to market our new Baseball & Softball Academy here in Atlanta. I passed on the opportunity for instant gratification- something my old self would never have done. I passed because I realized I have been put in a place of leadership. God has given this position to me, it’s temporary, and it can be taken away at any time. I realize that God wants me to be a steward of this position and take care of what He has given me. So I chose not to go out and drink, dance, and party. I chose to get to bed early, get up early, and help build a business that will help the seven guys that work for me remain employed and working in an environment that they love to work in while having an opportunity to feed their families.
Now for those of you that knew me previously, I am still the same fun Casey to an extent, but my selfish ways are gone. I will no longer be buying the round of shots at the bar or all the cool toys for you to use. I am using my money to fund mission trips like the one we took to the Dominican Republic this summer and to using my money to bring others closer to Christ. I realize that my parents gave me the world. They helped me in every way any parents could help their son, and I am very grateful. However, this time I realized that it’s not about me. I realize that 99.9 percent of kids were not given the opportunities that I was given in life. I had a great house, my parents had a steady income, they are happily married, and my mom made me an awesome breakfast every morning. Just last week we had fifty inner-city kids over to our place of business, and we were able to enjoy their company and share life lessons with them in a fun and laid back approach. Just two months ago I had fifty college baseball players that I had the opportunity to share my testimony with. I know for a fact that a few of these kids and young adults have been positively impacted by what God gave me the ability to share. They now see what I didn’t see until I was 26 years ago, that Jesus Christ should be at the center of your life.
Now that is what I am doing with the rest of my life, sharing the great news of Jesus Christ. I might not have the biggest house, the nicest car, or go on the best vacations. However, I am going to be giving glory to God the entire time. My life on earth is temporary, my leadership position can be taken away at any time, and it’s my goal to show others the love that Christ has for them and what He has done in my life.
I am playing in a very competitive men’s baseball league here in Atlanta, and we just had our sixth game of the year May 29th. The group of guys is mostly ex-pros still trying to live the dream. I knew I still had what it took, so I signed up, started with the team six weeks ago, hoping to share my story within the game of baseball. This season I am playing with a brand new attitude; the old Casey is gone, I am reborn. The “ME, ME, ME” attitude is gone, and the “How can I help the team” attitude is here. My best years of baseball may be behind me (may not be), but that is not what I am about. I am about being the best teammate I can possibly be and the best representative of Jesus Christ that I can possibly become.
So, after last night’s 6-5 thrilling win in extra innings, it came to a tipping point. I was benched in the third game of the season. The old “Only Me Casey” would have thrown a fit, launched some bats on the field, told the coach he was an idiot, and probably damaged the water cooler beyond repair. The new “Saved Casey” asked,” What can I do to help the team? Can I coach third?” So I did and that helped the team win a few games. I was into the game, coaching third, helping warm up the pitchers between innings and serving our players in any way possible. I was also developing friendships inside the dugout and learning about these guys and each of their lives. I wanted to know who they are, what they have going on in their lives, in hopes of showing them the love that Jesus Christ has for them. With Jesus Christ we are unstoppable, and it’s my goal to spread that news to others. So yesterday we had a few guys out of the lineup, and I was given a chance to play. They inserted me in the nine hole (last in batting order) and stuck me out in right field. Yes, RIGHT FIELD, the same position that I was asked to play in high school where I threw a temper tantrum, and then was forced to transfer schools because I had a few choice words for the coach.
So I got my butt out to right field, backed up every play, then ended up playing a little bit at shortstop later in the game. Now at the start of every game, I say to the coach, “Let me know what you need me to do to help the team.” This attitude for three straight weeks has gotten me back into the starting line up.
So in the top of the 9th inning when I simply had to throw a guy out at the plate to end the game, I instead overthrew the catcher. I would have normally been out of the game mentally and would have had no chance to come back and be any sort of a leader or have any impact in the game. I would have thought that I choked and cost the team the game. This time I had the attitude that I would get another chance and help the team win the game. So I took that positive mindset to the plate, led off with a single in the bottom of the 10th, but unfortunately got thrown out at second because of a sac bunt right back to the pitcher. The guy was safe at first, but he was mentally out of the game for causing me to be out. I got in his head, cheered him up and told him one thing – to “SCORE” All he had to do was score, and we would win the game -it didn’t matter if he just made an awful play, it was a team game It wasn’t about him and the mistake he made, it was about the very next play. After helping him to refocus his energy in a positive way, and following the next hit leaving men at first and second with one out, our coach called me over to coach third base. This coach is in the Georgia Baseball Hall of Fame and in six little weeks, I won his respect and the respect of the dugout This was a new feeling for me. “Amazing,” I thought to myself. I didn’t even care if I wasn’t going to score the winning run, I just wanted one of my teammates to have this joy.
So I headed out to third and waited for a full count to put the runners in motion, pretty risky move as a strike him out/throw him out DP(double play) could easily occur. The gamble paid off as the hitter laced one into left field, and as I waived the runner home, the smile on the guys’ faces was priceless. The guy who was in tears at first base after getting me out at second was now at the bottom of the dog pile with a huge smile on his face. It was a team game, and this year, for the first time in my life, I put others first, and we did something that was only possible because of the love of Jesus Christ and the ability He gave me to lead when He transformed my miserable life into a very different, joyful, purposeful one.
Yes, this is baseball, but it’s so very much more. Jesus is the reason this all happened, and I know that I must give Him all the glory. It has been my goal this season to develop real relationships with these young guys and show them what Christ has done in my life.
Long after the game was over coach, another player and I were sitting around chatting it up. He told me, “Casey you are no doubt the most valuable person on this team.” He went on to say, “It has nothing to do with your playing abilities, but your attitude.” He continued by mentioning that he can put me in the outfield, coaching third, or playing shortstop, and I do a great job and keep the guys with a positive attitude. He even added that the last few years we would have never ever won any games like this, but with my attitude and the way I am able to get the guys to stay positive and focus on the next play it has put life back into this team. The old Casey would have never done these things and would have just laughed and had some smart unappreciative thing to say about the coach’s comment, but the new Casey knows that Jesus has transformed me and now I am grateful and hold these words and experiences deep in my heart to save for the opportunity to show more of Him to others. I am also learning that often Jesus speaks to me through the verbal words and the silent actions of others, and this makes me appreciate other people more.
My only wish was that I could share this story with all of those teammates that I had in the past and especially my coaches. That is why I am writing this testimony, to put on paper what many always hoped would happen – that Casey Cavell would finally figure it out. Well guys I did, I figured out that without Jesus Christ, I have no chance at all and with Him, I cannot lose. I have also figured out that I am far from perfect; I am a sinner, and will continue to sin. However, I have an awareness of sin and that is new for me; I am also a sinner saved by grace – and that is also new for me and is what keeps me striving to be a better person and to be more Christlike in my daily walk. I know I am going to have problems and struggles, but now I have a friend in Jesus to turn to that makes all things better.
I have been a teammate in the past, but at 26 years old I have found Jesus Christ and he is helping me be a better person, teammate, and leader among people. I have been given many unique talents, been raised by a great family, and now it’s my turn to give others that were not given what I was – a chance at living a fulfilled life. A life that is not fulfilled with temporary possessions and pleasures, but a life that is filled with a desire to serve, to help, and to love others while glorifying Him and thanking Him for transforming me and my life. What a great way to live!
In my brokenness last summer I read an article that was about finding your purpose. It told you to ask yourself this question, “If you could do anything in your life and knew you wouldn’t fail what would you do?” That was supposed to be the answer to what are you passionate about? I recently was cleaning out old documents from my filing cabinet after the move to Georgia, and I found what I had written. I had no memory of writing this and no idea it existed. I had three things written down…..
1. Make an attempt to come back and play professional baseball
2. Hire a personal trainer, and get in the best shape of my life
3. Start a new business, and hire my friends to run it!
I was brought to tears just last week because each and every single one of these things has happened in my life within the past eight months. I am in the best shape of my life thanks to a trainer, playing professional level baseball, and started a brand new business revolving around this great game of baseball that my friends run for me. I would consider each and every single person helping me run this business a great friend of mine.
The Senior Pastor of my church, Andy Stanley, stated just a few weeks back that our goal as a Christian is to “Love One Another.” That is what being a Christian means- loving your neighbor as yourself. I am living a life following Jesus Christ, and I cannot be stopped. I live each and every day giving glory to God and loving everyone!
It is my hope that one day you can experience the love, joy, and peace that Jesus Christ brings. I love you and would love to have the opportunity to share with you the promise of Jesus Christ.