Justin Masterson, pitcher for the Cleveland Indians, is often called Mr. Clean, not because he is perfect nor is he a cleaning machine, but because of his shaved head. This 6’6” power pitcher with a bald head is actually a quiet, humble Christian who happens to be a professional baseball player.

“Justin is a quiet big guy who can always be counted on no matter what the circumstances might be,” says teammate Matt LaPorta. “He is as strong of a person for Jesus as you can get, a great guy who really cares for others. We often read Scripture or a book at our homes, and then we will come to the ball park and discuss it.” Masterson grew up as the son of a pastor, with his dad, mom, an older sister and younger brother. “Justin has always been active in church, including participating in the praise band either on drums or with his guitar,” says his father, Pastor Mark Masterson. “All four years in high school, Justin was a student leader in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) huddle group. When he was a freshman, there were only a few kids attending FCA meetings; when he graduated, there were upwards to 60 kids coming to meetings.”

“I had the desire to learn more about Jesus”

The young Masterson says: “I can remember going to the church camp at Ludlow Falls, Ohio, three years in a row around six years old. There was a lady there that talked about Jesus. I accepted Christ as my Savior [there] at a young age; and as I went along, I just tried to continue to grow in my faith. I had the desire to learn more about Jesus.” 

“Eventually, it went from people making fun, to one of respecting me”

Throughout his school years, Masterson received plenty of ribbing for being a preacher’s son, and kids would get on him if he made a mistake. “I actually welcomed it because it gave me an opportunity to say I am no different than you and I am not perfect by any means, but I am saved,” he says. “Eventually, it went from people making fun, to one of respecting me.” 

Masterson made his high school baseball team as a catcher. By the time his junior year rolled around, he wanted to try pitching. He hooked up with pitching coach, Richie Moody, who worked with some of his mechanics of pitching. His ball speed jumped from 79 mph to 89. The colleges then started looking at him for his pitching.

Bethel College, a Christian school near South Bend, Ind., with a good baseball program—and where his sister attended—won out. Then during the summer of 2005, Masterson played in the Cape Cod summer baseball league. There he met Bruce Billings, a pitcher at San Diego State. Billings said they could use him there, and Masterson transferred to play under Hall of Famer, Tony Gwynn. “Tony Gwynn is a quality guy, and he is a great example of how to treat people,” Masterson says.

After his junior year (2006) at San Diego State, Masterson was drafted 71st overall by Boston. He made his big-league debut on April 24, 2008; and in the middle of the 2009 season, he was traded to Cleveland. 

She told her friends, “I am going to marry him.”

While still at Bethel College, Masterson met Meryl Ham. 

“I first saw Justin in a classroom my freshman year, his sophomore year,” Meryl says. “I told my friend, even before I met him, ‘I am going to marry him.’ It was just the way he carried himself, always talking to people, giving people hugs, opening doors for people. I was impressed by his actions, so adorable. That was before I knew he played baseball or anything about his walk with the Lord.” 

They were married in November, 2007. Meryl, who has a cookie business called Homeplate Cookies, says, “Justin is very talented musically; and at our wedding, he surprised me when he wrote a song and sang it during the service. It meant a lot to me when Justin said his priorities are God, family, then baseball. Justin is my rock.” On January 25, 2011, the Masterson’s had a baby girl, Eden Joy. 

 “I try to let my actions reflect my faith” 

“I am very thankful for every day I am given and for the life I have been blessed with,” Masterson says. “I know the reason I am on earth is to glorify God. The way I treat people is the way I think Christ would treat people.” His father comments: “I see Justin as a real, genuine, Christian person. He has a heart for reaching out to people and see them come to Christ. He is unashamed to talk with others about his faith.”

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Masterson says his favorite way to “talk” to people about his faith is to be the best example of how to treat people. “I try to let my actions reflect my faith,” he says. “I also try to be a positive [influence] on my relationship with my wife where we can grow together in the Lord.” 

Both Masterson and his wife are involved with the Invisible Children ministry, and last May Justin and LaPorta shared their Christian testimonies at the Faith Family Day in Cleveland.

A favorite Bible verse for Masterson is Philippians 4:11, where the apostle Paul says, “Not that I complain of need; for I have learned, in whatever state I am, to be content.” Masterson says, “I am content with what God has given me. I try to use my abilities, my talents, and my resources for His glory and honor.”

By Mark E. Darnall and Bruce A. Darnall
Photo credit: Dan Mendlik/Cleveland Indians