The Arizona Diamondbacks have gotten off to a slow start this season, with a disappointing record of 29-40 as of June 12. However, left-handed pitcher Joe Thatcher is not letting those early results get him down. Aside from his knowledge of baseball being a quirky, failure-filled game, the Kokomo, Ind., native finds his greatest joy in being a husband and father.
The 32-year-old shared reflections on his family — and the value of perseverance and prayer — with Register correspondent Trent Beattie.
What do you think of this season so far?
The season has not gone as we had hoped. We had high expectations as a team, so the slow start we’ve gotten off to has been disappointing. But it's not from a lack of work or will. This is just how baseball goes sometimes. You can have bad results one month and great ones the next, all the while not changing a single thing in your own preparation.
Do you have favorite baseball memories with your father?
I have a lot of baseball memories with my father, who went to Indiana State University and played baseball under head coach Bob Warn. I would later attend the same school and play for the same coach, which was a special thing.
Long before college, though, baseball was at the center of most things my father and I did together. From a very early age, it was a bonding activity in which I was encouraged and inspired to be as good of a player as I possibly could. I was very fortunate to have that strong paternal influence behind me.
I remember my father taking me to my first major-league game in Chicago and taking several other family trips there to watch the Cubs or White Sox. When I got older and started traveling for my own games, he was always willing to come along and spend weekends going wherever I went. I will always be grateful for the amount of time and money he spent on baseball so that I could get the most out of my abilities.
Do you plan on having similar memories with your own children?
I have an 11-month-old boy named Jack, my wife Katie’s and my first child. I just hope that I can be the father to him that my father was for me. I am sure that baseball will be a part of our relationship in some form. Hopefully, I still have many years left to play and he can be a part of my career and experience some of the big-league life with me, but family has become the most important part of my life now. I will do whatever is necessary to spend time together with my wife and son.
What are your favorite things about marriage and fatherhood?
Being a new father has changed my life completely. Before marriage and family, baseball was what was important to me, but now I feel a great responsibility to be the father and husband that my family counts on me to be. Coming home from a game (whether good or bad) is always a joy. My boy does not care how his daddy pitched; he is just always happy to see me. The love of a child is pure and unaffected by worldly concerns, which can only help us adults have a purer perspective on things.
You weren’t drafted out of college, but you made it to the majors and are currently in your eighth season. How important is perseverance to you?
Not getting drafted out of college was a disappointment, but looking back now, it was truly a blessing. It’s funny the way that God works, because the outward appearance of things can be very different from the inner truth. No matter what happens to us, God is constantly working everything for our good.
I really enjoyed playing Independent League ball, through which I got to meet a lot of great people. It also gave me a few years to mature as a person and as a player before I got my chance at professional baseball. However, it did take a lot of perseverance to stick with it and keep playing through the tough times. Even in those times, though, I felt that it was what I was supposed to be doing with my life and that God had a plan.
The beauty of baseball is that you can relate it to every aspect of life. The game itself has so many wonderful moments, but at the same time, some moments of incredible frustration. Yet you can learn from all of the ups and downs and then take those lessons into other areas of life.
Is it difficult to maintain a sacramental life and prayer life in pro baseball?
It can be very difficult for professional baseball players to attend Mass at a church on Sunday mornings, but there are ways to step away from the game and fulfill our necessary spiritual commitments. Catholic Athletes for Christ has been very helpful in recent years. More and more stadiums around the league are offering Mass on the weekends. In addition to that, my wife and I try to get to Mass during the week at some point when we are not on the road.
Being in professional baseball and traveling as much as we do, I love knowing that I can walk into any Catholic church in the country and feel at home. I’ve been to Mass at cathedrals such as St. Patrick’s in New York City, and I’ve been to Mass in many smaller churches in little minor-league towns. Yet in any church, no matter the size or the location, that same pull is there: It’s the members of the body of Christ being drawn to worship God together. This connection felt among all Catholics throughout the world is my favorite part of the faith.
Being a member of the body of Christ helps your own prayers to be not only for yourself, but for others as well. You also know that others are praying for you. We won’t know in this life exactly how the prayers of others on earth or in heaven have helped us — or even that certain people were praying for us at all — but after death, we’ll see how it worked. I do know already, though, that my parents have prayed for me, and, now, I pray for my son.
Do you have a favorite Bible verse?
Philippians 4:13 — “I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me” — is my favorite verse. My mother used to make me and my brother and sister read that passage over and over. Before every game growing up, I would read those words to myself. Looking back, she was ingraining those words into our minds so they would always be available to us. And I believe that there are no truer words in the world. God is great, and anything is possible — including a dramatic turnaround during a baseball season — when you trust in him.
Register correspondent Trent Beattie writes from Seattle.