For Milwaukee Brewers right fielder Corey Hart living his dream came with a price he wasn’t willing to pay.
So he turned to Christ.
Hart and other athletes with stories of faith will share those at a Saturday event in Caledonia.
Caledonia resident and Brewers bullpen coach Marcus “Koos” Hanel; Racine native and safety for the Seattle Seahawks Chris Maragos; Racine native and former catcher for Milwaukee Brewers minor league team Jason Jaramillo; and catcher for the Dodgers AJ Ellis will be speaking at Hart’s event called “Heart to Hart” at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Grace Church, 3626 State Highway 31.
“I was always looking for things, negative things…and I was so worried about being the best baseball player and the best you know, whatever,” Hart said in a video promoting the event. “Following Christ exceeds that, it’s another level of happiness and understanding.”
Hanel graduated from Horlick High School in 1989. He played for minor league clubs for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Atlanta Braves, and Arizona Diamondbacks for 9 seasons.
But Hanel said he sees his baseball career as a platform for helping people.
He and his wife Jill started the non-profit charity to help the community. As part of Koos for Kids, Hanel and Jill donated 800 coats to MPS students. And Hart wanted to get involved. Hart’s event Saturday is technically a spin off of Hanel’s charity.
“We didn’t want to hammer people for Koos for Kids, but Corey wanted to share his story and faith with others,” Hanel said.
For the first 40 minutes of the event, each of them will give a little background on how they got into baseball, their first homerun, and how their faith has helped them overcome obstacles in their career, Marcus said.
“Jason is going to talk about being a local guy from Racine and he’ll talk about the trials of getting into the big leagues and then being in the minor leagues,” Marcus said.
Hart plans on talking about his faith, and sharing his passion for living a life that is Christ-centered.
Eight years ago, Marcus realized that God gave him baseball to use as a platform to help others, which is the reason he started Koos for Kids. Since that revelation, he’s always been open to helping his teammates find their way to Christ and Marcus saw a change in Hart last year when he was struggling with his own faith.
Wayne Beilgard, the chaplain for the Milwaukee Brewers, said initially when Hart started with the Brewers, he didn’t want anything to do with Beilgard or religion. But Marcus saw Hart was struggling with not seeing his children because they were getting older and in school. So Hart enrolled his kids in a Christian school in Arizona so that he could see them more during spring training.
“So his daughter came home one day and she was reading the bible. And she said, ‘Dad what’s this mean,’” Marcus said. “So he started reading it. Then she asked to go to church. Then a neighbor, who was a firefighter, just started working on him. He didn’t care that Corey was a baseball player…and something changed.”
But that didn’t mean Hart’s faith instantly eased the struggles he had and he was still having a hard time on the field.
“I saw this and I said, ‘Man, you want me to pray for you?’” Marcus said. “And he said,
‘Yeah, I’d like that’ and I prayed for the situation he was in and for his ability to get through this.”
Then Corey showed up in chapel, which started at 6 a.m., in the spring of 2011. He got hurt in spring training and he felt that people doubted him. He didn’t want a miracle, but rather he prayed for God to show him that what he was doing was real and he ended up hitting three home runs.
“Corey saw that certain guys loved the Lord, and he was hearing these messages at church, and he was reading the Bible and living his faith,” Marcus said.
After the roundtable, they’ll have a raffle, then Christian singer Jeremy Camp will perform.
“We’re partnering with Youth for Christ on this,” Marcus said. “We’re telling people about the gospel, but we’re also sharing about how it’s helped us personally. So this is an event that is not just about baseball.”
Marcus realizes that a lot of people will be going to the event to see Hart, but he hopes people will understand that there are sacrifices that players have to make with baseball.
“Just because you make millions, there are still trials that come with it and there’s almost an emptiness that comes in getting the money, but you realize how Christ uses you and make you a better husband and friend,” Marcus said.