Boston Red Sox Pitcher Justin Masterson Speaks at Pentagon

Alex McVeighSenior Analyst IJune 24, 2009

The closest thing on this site to breaking news, this is a story that I wrote for my paper about Justin Masterson, pitcher for the Boston Red Sox.

Boston Red Sox pitcher Justin Masterson, in Washington D.C. for a three-game series against the Nationals, was the featured speaker at the Pentagon's weekly prayer breakfast. Masterson spoke about how his faith affects him as a professional athlete and the impact God has had on his life.

The Pentagon Chaplain’s Office holds three such prayer breakfasts each week, Tuesdays are for Senior Executive Service and Government appointees, Wednesday is open to any Pentagon employee, and Thursdays are for general officers.

They offer a free (though donations are always appreciated) continental breakfast, which includes fresh fruit, muffins, doughnuts, water, juice, and coffee and a guest speaker. Sometimes it’s a military speaker, sometimes it’s a someone like Masterson, who has a broader appeal.

With athletes like Michael Vick and Alex Rodriguez garnering headlines for questionable behavior, the chaplain’s office was glad to bring in an athlete that can serve as such a positive role model.

“So often we hear about the athlete that messes up,” said Walt Day, who served as a chaplain leader for the Red Sox from 1995 to 2008, as well as other New England sports teams. “Justin is unusually mature in his faith, and he’s got the spiritual sense to try and reach out to as many people as he can.”

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Day introduced Masterson to the crowd of service members from all branches, as well as many civilian employees of the Pentagon, recalling Masterson’s days in the minor leagues. Even then, Masterson would make it his habit to reach out to players in as many ways as he could. He even learned Spanish so he could communicate with players that were new to the country.

When Masterson took the stage, he answered some baseball questions first. He called Rodriguez of the Yankees and Vladimir Guererro of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim the two toughest hitters he’s ever faced. He recalled batting a few times last season during interleague play.

“I hit last year. Well, I swung,” he said, drawing a big laugh.

He then spoke about how his faith has kept him humble, throughout his career, as well as handling the pressure. Sometimes you strike out the side, sometimes you give up two runs, he said.

“But God is there, and he appreciates me, even when the fans are booing,” Masterson said.

Many members of the audience were there for the first time, and Masterson made quite an impression on them.

“To have a professional athlete come out and talk about his faith, it’s really something,” said Sgt. 1st Class Tracy Thomas of the Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Department. “It’s nice to hear from other professionals who use their spiritual sense for strength.”

Masterson stuck around to sign some autographs and greet some fans, both casual and rabid. With the Red Sox visiting Washington, D.C. for the first time since baseball returned, Day and Masterson both thought it was important to take advantage of the opportunity.

“We’re glad to do anything we can to help the military,” Day said. “We really appreciate what the men and women here to for this country, and we’re happy to help in any way we can. Baseball is nothing compared to military life.”

Masterson was happy to speak to such a receptive audience, made eve more special by the fact that he was in the Pentagon.

“There’s a lot of greatness here, people with a lot of authority, what better place to spread the good news?” he said. “I’m not trying to knock down anybody’s door with my faith, I’m just trying to share some truth and kindness and talk about how good God has been to me.”