Chris Coghlan is, all at once, eager to share his beliefs but concerned about how they’ll be received. Religion can bring peace, and religion can start wars. Coghlan knows how off-putting some people find vocal faith today, as movements gather to escort God out of school, out of court, out of the Pledge of Allegiance and off the dollar bill.
Do you talk to God in the outfield? “Yes,” baseball’s best rookie says. “It isn’t praying. It’s a conversation. Like you’d have with a friend. It’s a relationship.”
How much temptation surrounds you in the major leagues? “Every single day, it’s a battle,” he says. “Women. Drugs. Alcohol. So many things grasp at you. It’s easy to get caught up in the things that surround this game.” You don’t drink? “Maybe a glass of wine or a beer with dinner,” he says. “Not to excess.”
How do you handle lust as a single man? “Praying,” he says. “Surrounding myself with other believers. Fellowship.” Sex? “I don’t feel comfortable answering that question and opening up doors with my teammates,” he says.
Sports is America’s great escape, the playground sanctuary surrounded by life’s tensions, and many fans prefer to visit it without being inconvenienced by having race, politics or religion being brought near the fun and games. “I’d like to thank the Lord,” in the interview after a big hit is often followed by rolled eyes, head shakes and the question, “What? God didn’t like the pitcher?” The only criticism you’ll find of University of Florida messiah Tim Tebow, an All-American in every way, is that he is too preachy when he isn’t performing circumcisions while on religious missions.
So Coghlan isn’t thumping you in the face with a Bible or shoving judgmental holier-than-thou down your throat. He’s sharing his truth, which he isn’t suggesting needs to be your truth. Again and again, he says, “I don’t think I’m better than anyone else in this world. Please make that clear. Please emphasize that.” The best one or not, he’s still a rookie, finding his voice, and he’s just answering questions honestly, which is how he aspires to do everything. Ichiro Suzuki, another Rookie of the Year once, stretches his hamstrings in all that downtime players get between pitches in the outfield; Coghlan recites Scripture.