Legend Keynotes Annual Patriot Baseball Banquet

Andy Pettite Interviewed by Reagan Ratcliff

“You are a winner if you know Jesus Christ,” said five-time World Series Champion and Yankee pitcher Andy Pettitte at the annual DBU Patriot Baseball Champions for Christ event hosted on the DBU campus on January 31. Pettitte encouraged the up-and-coming Patriot roster to continue pursuing excellence on and off the field and that more important than making the big leagues is being a godly man in the eyes of the Lord.

The evening led off with a banquet held in the Great Hall of the Mahler Student Center where Dr. Herb and Barbara Pedersen received the DBU Patriot Legends Award.

Following the dinner, guests gathered in Pilgrim Chapel to hear from Andy Pettitte as he shared memorable highlights from his baseball career and reflected on living faithfully for the Lord in an extremely competitive and highly publicized vocation. 

Opening remarks were given by Jonathan Teat, Vice President for Administration and Enrollment, and a welcome by Dr. Adam Wright, DBU President, who spoke of DBU’s “high level of excellence rooted in our faith in Christ.” Connor Smith, Director of DBU Athletics, then recognized the Patriot team after their sixth straight trip to both the Missouri Valley Conference and NCAA Division I Baseball Championships.

Dan Heefner, DBU Head Baseball Coach, spoke of the loss of several great senior players in the new roundup of MLB draft picks, but he also expressed his excitement to see new talent emerge during the regular season. This is Heefner’s 13thyear at the helm of the Patriots, and he holds the 17th-highest win total among active college baseball coaches.

“Our program is built on development,” Heefner shared, stating that the team goal of winning is centered around the strategy of increasing each player’s potential more every day. He also attributed DBU’s success to the humility that is fostered on the team through a shared faith, a “tremendous team chemistry,” and team-bonding experiences that occur on annual mission trips through the Global Sports Missions Initiative.

Pettitte was presented with his own monogrammed DBU Baseball jersey before sitting down with Reagan Ratcliffe, Director of Athletics for Media Relations, and interviewed about his stellar 18-year career pitching for the New York Yankees, his thoughts on family, and his walk with the Lord on and off the mound.

Pettitte’s love for the game developed as a young boy growing up in Houston, with his dad even building him a pitcher’s mound at home to practice. At the same time, Pettitte’s faith was being nurtured after giving his life to the Lord at a weeknight revival service. He reflected on how pouring into the Word at a young age, making good moral choices in high school, and eventually marrying a preacher’s daughter all prepared him for his platform as a Christian leader on the public stage of America’s favorite past time.

Pettitte, a 22nd-round MLB draft pick in 1990, played ball at San Jacinto College in Houston before signing with the Yankees as a 23-year-old rookie, first in the minor league class, and then making his Major League debut against Kansas City in April of 1995.

Pettitte described how playing with the famous New York team was not only a tough environment for such a young pitcher in the big leagues but a challenging mission field for a Christian. Yet, knowing that followers of Christ were to expect persecution, Pettitte was unapologetic about his faith.

“The guys knew where I stood for the Lord,” he said, and Pettitte was able to go on and win their respect not only for his stance but for his excellence as an ace on the mound. Now in their 40s many of these same men continue to reach out to Pettitte even after retirement. “Show your faithfulness, and the Lord will honor it,” he said.

Without a World Series title since 1978, Pettitte had the honor of leading the team through a championship victory against the Atlanta Braves in 1996. Pettitte endured a hard loss in Game 1 and was even booed off the field and had tomatoes thrown at him. It was “extremely difficult to get over,” he remembers, but he rallied with an unbelievable peace from the Lord to go on to win the club their first pennant in nearly two decades.

After securing additional World Series titles in 1998, 1999, and again in 2000, Pettitte played a few more seasons before becoming a free agent and accepted an opportunity to return to Texas to pitch for his hometown Houston Astros in 2004. This allowed him the blessing of being nearer to his family and to even to walk with a dear church friend through his last days of battling cancer.

In 2007, Pettitte once again donned a Yankee jersey, joining New York for his fifth and final World Series Championship in 2009 against the Phillies.

“I don’t deserve this but thank you, Lord,” he later thought to himself after descending the mound of his last postseason complete game in front of a chanting hometown Houston crowd in 2013. Pettitte’s velocity had decreased a little, but his confidence and knowledge of the game had reached its peak.

Over and over throughout the night, Pettitte attributed his success to God, the prayers of his loved ones, and to working with other great players, including Christian friends like Hall of Famer and Yankee closer, Mariano Rivera.

Now with four grown kids, Pettitte is thankful to be home more with his family while serving as head baseball coach at Second Baptist School in Houston and continues to work with the Yankees by pouring into a new generation of developing players.

After pitching for so many years to sold-out crowds and winning several World Series trophies, Pettitte closed the evening by saying how being a doting grandfather has been “the greatest thing in the world” and that nothing has ultimately changed who he is inside like knowing Jesus Christ.

Written by Dr. Michael Whiting

Dr. Michael Whiting is the Director of Written Content in University Communications at Dallas Baptist University.