Young Baseball Star Discovers True Identity
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“I just became very, very anxious about my existence,” said Alex. “I started to question, ‘What am I doing here? Like what is this life all about?’”
For the first time in his life, Alex Degen struggled with his identity. For years he had been confident in who he was---a baseball player. By his senior high school season, Alex captured the attention of some division one schools, like Rutgers and Kentucky.
“My identity was most definitely firmly in baseball. Every time I woke up in the morning, I would say the first thought I had is ‘I'm a good baseball player, this is awesome.’”
Though he had an excitement for baseball, he found the idea of living for God dull and laughed at friends for attending Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
“I was like, ‘just live your life Bro, like that's all you gotta do.’ You know? ‘Be your own god, live your own truth.’”
Alex graduated high school and accepted a scholarship to the University of Kentucky. “Outwardly I was saying, ‘Like yeah, I'm very humble,’ but like inwardly I was like, ‘Come on. I'm kind of a big deal now. Like I'm the star of this town, it's a small town. Like I'm the local boy. I'm doing good for myself.’"
Alex arrived at the University of Kentucky ready to make a name for himself. However, his perspective on life was about to be drastically changed.
Will Dawson: So you put your head down, you're going about your business and then you're approached by some guys, tell me about that.
“They stopped me and they said, ‘Hey, man, like what's going on? What's your name?’ I said, ‘I'm Alex.’"
The students shared the gospel with Alex and invited him to a bible study.
“I just kind of was like ‘What? (SLIGHT LAUGH) Like this is weird what's happening right now?’ I was like, ‘Let's see what this book of rules has to say.’”
Alex decided he would study the bible…to prove it wrong.
“Every part of me just kept trying to find flaws in it. Every part of me was like, ‘Okay, I'm going to figure out like what's true. When what I wanted to be was just like, ‘Hey, like I don't really care, I just want to live my life and...I'm going to die one day, like whatever (SLIGHT LAUGH) who cares?’”
The more he studied the bible, the more troubled he became because it challenged his entire belief system.
“I became very, very anxious about my existence. And became just very worried about like—almost like dying and just like, I became very panicky all the time and it was not a comfortable experience from that point. And that really lasted for about a month kind of on and off, I had trouble sleeping, was just brought down to a very low point, and so you can imagine my response to that was, ‘Why did I start doing these Bible studies?’ Like ‘I was doing fine my whole life and I started doing this and now I'm feeling this way.’ And I continued to reject it, to reject the gospel, I was like, ‘I don’t want anything to do with this God, IF He exists, if He's going to make me feel the way that I’m feeling right now.’”
Will Dawson: So what happened?
“So as anybody would have done, I wanted to start feeling joyful again. And so one night I was just kind of sitting in my dorm room and I was just like, ‘I'm tired of feeling this way. Like this emptiness, this lostness, this brokenness, this search for purpose.’”
Alex decided to read the bible not as a skeptic, but as if it were true.
“I woke up the next morning and I felt as good, just like mentally and just like I wasn't perfect yet. I wasn't at a point yet where I could say like I was better, I was convinced that, you know, God was with me and that Jesus truly did die for my sins, but I felt better. And I did it the next night again. I read John, John 2, John 3 and I kept feeling better and at that point I was just kind of chasing a feeling. I was like, ‘Okay, there's something to be said about this. There's something in my heart that's happening right now that's digging me out of this hole.”
Alex believed the gospel and gave his heart to Jesus.
Will Dawson: How did your life begin to look different?
“God broke me down and he emptied me so that I had to rebuild my foundation from the bottom up, but this time not in baseball, not in school, not in family, or friends, or sports or whatever, I had to build it from the ground up with a firm foundation with Jesus at the bottom and everything else falling below Him.”
Those around him began to notice a change.
Coach Mingione says, “I started finally realizing, ‘Hold on there’s something different about this guy.’”
Kentucky coach Nick Mingione says that Alex has become a great teammate and a servant leader.
“A leader is someone who knows the way, shows the way and goes the way and I think about Alex and there’s no question he’s that,” says Mingione.
Now in his final season at Kentucky, Alex hopes to become a major league pitcher. However, he knows whatever happens he has peace with the one who controls it all.
“Yeah, to get to the next level to play professional baseball, that's been my dream since I was, you know, since I can remember obviously,” says Alex. “But at the end of the day if that doesn't happen, that's not what my identity's in, right? If I don't get picked up by a team, if I don't get drafted, nothing's going to change. Nothing's going to change about the way God loves me and what Christ did for me.”
Coach Mingione says, “If you told me in 3, 4, 5 years from now he’d be knocking on the door of the big leagues, I’d be like, ‘Yep I can believe it.’ If you told me he’d be asking me to come speak at his church because he’s a pastor, I’m like, ‘Yep. I can believe it.’”
“Everything changed when Jesus died and for me,” says Alex. “Especially now, making these spiritual realizations each and every day and week and month. It's life-changing news. It's not baseball, it's not school, you know, these things are all great, we can use all these things, these platforms and do whatever, but at the end of the day it comes down to Christ and Christ crucified and-what that death was and what it stood for and how we respond to that.
That one man became sin for all of us, so that we no longer have to be condemned by that, but in Him we truly do become the righteousness of God and that's all that matters.”
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