YOUR ULTIMATE CHOICE Articles
Juan PierreJUAN PIERRE, A GREAT PLACE IN LIFE
Juan Pierre, left fielder for the Chicago White Sox, is a career .296 hitter with 543 stolen bases, now in his eleventh season of major league baseball. “I am in a great place in my life right now,” Pierre says, “My faith is stronger than ever.”
But it was not always like that.
“Baseball had become my god; it was all about baseball. Everything else was secondary, even my faith. Baseball kept me away from God,” Pierre says.
All-State in Two Sports
Juan was born in Mobile, Ala., and grew up in Alexandria, Louisiana. “My mom was Baptist so she knows the Bible, and my dad was Catholic, so we grew up in the Catholic church,” Pierre explains. “We all attended very faithfully. But it wasn’t until 2009 when I finally developed a personal relationship with the Lord.”
Living in a small town, Pierre and his buddies constantly played sports. He actually liked basketball more than baseball. He had offers for basketball scholarships, but he realized he was too small for much success. He was all-state in both sports.
Pierre was drafted out of high school by Seattle in the 30th round. He did well in his academics and was hoping to play D-1 baseball. However, all the D-1 schools wanted to red shirt him.
“I did not want to red shirt and watch others play baseball for a whole year,” he said. “I decided to attend Galveston (Texas) Junior College. It was the first time I played baseball year round. I had a great year there. I got drafted again by Seattle but in the 42nd round. I thought: I am going backwards.”
Pierre had an even better year statistically his sophomore year but he was not even drafted. He could not believe it.
Finally, the Big Leagues!
Pierre enrolled at South Alabama University, a D-1 program, for his third year in college. “I told my mom, ‘If I do well and get drafted, I am going to accept it. I don’t want to risk coming back my senior year and not get drafted.’” Pierre did have a very good year and was drafted in 1998 in the 13th round by the Colorado Rockies.
In less than three years, Pierre made his major league debut on August 7, 2000.
“I thought it could not be better than this.”
“I had been successful in baseball,” Pierre says, “Coming up to the Big Leagues in 2000, playing 7-8 years with good stats, won the World Series with the Marlins. Life was good!”
Pierre played three years for the Rockies and three years for the Marlins. In 2006 Juan played for the Cubs and became a free agent. “That’s why you play baseball—to become a free agent,” Pierre explains. “It is a part of baseball. I signed a five-year contract for 45 million dollars to play for the Los Angeles Dodgers. I thought it could not be better than this.”
“I called my agent to get me out of here.”
The first year with the Dodgers was in 2007. Pierre had a good year batting .293 with 196 hits, scored 96 runs and had 64 stolen bases. “I was used to playing every day. I felt it important to play every day as the stats will come along,” Pierre explains. However, the Dodgers fired their manager and brought in Joe Torre.
Thinking everything would be great with a Hall of Fame manager and coming off a good year, Pierre was disappointed to find himself on the bench on opening day, 2008. “When opening day came, I was not in the lineup. Torre said he was going to go with two young kids—Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier—who are now all-star players. I was back on the bench.”
Having four more years on his contract, Pierre became frustrated and bitter. “I called my agent to get me out of here; but I did not realize God was working on me. I was healthy and in the prime of my career, but God was dealing with me. I just did not know it.” However, Jones missed several games because of an injury, and Pierre ended up with substantial playing time and having a decent year (2008).
“God Broke me Down.”
“I was still not listening to God,” Pierre says. “As I was playing in the 2009 season, I injured my knee. It was my first injury ever, and I went on the disabled list.” Just before the trading deadline, the Dodgers signed Manny Ramirez. Pierre was again back on the bench. But once again, Pierre ended up with playing time when Ramirez spent time on a 50-game suspension.
During the off-season before the 2009 spring training, “I picked up my Bible and started reading. I did not understand all of it, but kept on reading. At spring training, I looked up the Dodgers’ team chaplain, Rev. Chad Johnson.” Pierre confesses, “I heard Pastor Chad speaking at chapel, and it cut through me. Wow, I never heard the Word like this! That was my defining moment.”
Pastor Johnson and Pierre began meeting and reading the Bible. Pastor Johnson walked him through the Scriptures which became clearer to him. Pierre adds, “I began to understand more and especially God’s plan of salvation. I realized what God was doing to me. God broke me down.”
“I surrendered it all to Him.”
“The way I see it, God was getting my attention and dealing with me,” Pierre says. “I surrendered it all to Him: my life and my career. I said, ‘Here is my life; I cannot figure it all out on my own.’ There was a peace that came about me.”
Rev. Johnson says, “I was available to him as chaplain to lend an ear and give encouraging words from the Lord. It was during this time that Juan made a commitment to a personal relationship to Jesus. He understands his platform, and he understands that God has lifted him up to be an impact for the Lord.”
Focused on Number One
Pierre’s wife, Liz, who he met while with the Florida Marlins—she was working in their business office—says, “It wasn’t until Juan was playing with the Dodgers and things started to get tough for him in baseball did the Lord really start opening Juan’s eyes about what was really important. The Lord had to knock Juan off his feet because baseball was his number one priority.
“It was during this time we met Pastor Chad,” Liz continues. “It was then Juan started to invest his life in the Lord and the Lord became his first priority. It was during this time I too gave my life to Christ.”
Today, Pierre is focused. “He is really focusing that his relationship is right with the Lord every single day,” Liz adds.
“The Hardest-working Man in Baseball”
“Juan is such a gentle spirit,” says former teammate, Scott Linebrink, now with the Atlanta Braves. “His commitment to growing in the Lord served as an inspiration and kept me accountable. You need teammates like Juan who are always encouraging and uplifting.”
Linebrink continues, “Juan is often referred to as the hardest-working man in baseball. He seeks after Christ with the same intensity.”
Pierre has been with the Chicago White Sox two years now and has played solid baseball.
“He will give you all your heart’s desires.”
Pierre says he likes Psalm 37 and especially the verse that says, “Delight yourself in the LORD, And He will give you the desires of your heart ( Psalm 37:4, New American Standard Bible).
“Jesus is my life,” stresses Pierre. “When things happen, I ask, ‘What would Jesus do in this situation?’ When I play ball, it is all for Him and the glory goes to Him.”
Mickey Weston, White Sox chaplain and director of Unlimited Potential, Inc, says, “Juan Pierre has been a breath of fresh air in my life. He has such a humble spirit for a man who has played in the major leagues for 11 years.
“Juan most of all seeks to glorify God in each and every area of his life,” Weston adds. “He is probably the hardest worker of anyone I have come across in baseball. He is very disciplined and wants to get the most out of his ability so it will bring glory to Jesus Christ.”
By Mark Darnall and Bruce Darnall
Photos from Chicago White Sox