If the playoffs are anything like the regular season, the Los Angeles Dodgers will plow through the National League field. This is what catcher/third baseman Kyle Farmer has been hoping and working for. However, even if the team does not succeed in the postseason, the Atlanta, Georgia, native has enjoyed the regular season immensely, which featured 104 victories, just shy of the team’s single-season record of 105.
Also included in the Dodgers’ season was winning 53 straight games in which they had a lead (breaking a 111-year-old MLB record) and many individual accomplishments through the efforts of players like Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager, Yu Darvish and Alex Wood (a teammate of Farmer’s at the University of Georgia).
Farmer’s father, Bryan, who had played in college and reached the AAA division in the Atlanta Braves’ organization, passed along a reminder of faith when his son was about to enter the University of Georgia. It was a crucifix he had worn on a chain around his neck for years, which the younger Farmer has now done for more than nine years himself.
Kyle Farmer, who is engaged to be married next year, may one day give the crucifix to a future son. In the meantime, he is focused on doing well in the playoffs, which start Oct. 6 for the Dodgers, who play the winner of Wednesday’s Colorado Rockies/Arizona Diamondbacks wild-card game. He recently spoke of the Dodgers’ success from the perspective of a practicing Catholic.
What ingredients have gone into the Dodgers’ success this season?
It all begins in the clubhouse, where everyone respects each other and everyone has fun doing what they do. We’re a very positive group of guys that concentrates on getting the job done rather than on the negatives. Combine that with the great talent on the team, and you get a fantastic record.
Whether we lose in the first round of the playoffs or win the whole thing, the regular season on its own has been tremendous. I’ve been able to be a part of it, not only because of hard work, but because of a positive “can-do” mindset.
Have you always been a positive “can-do” guy with baseball?
I thought I was, but an experience earlier this season made me see how much more positive I needed to be. When taking batting practice with the Dodgers’ AA team — which I had been with for three years — the hitting coach stopped me and asked if I thought of myself as a Major League player. I said, “Yes,” but he said he didn’t think I really thought that, based on how uninspiringly I was hitting.
I was taken by surprise, but I had to admit he was right. Then I saw in the Bible how important our thoughts are, even to the point of defining what kind of man someone will be. It’s not the things around us that determine who we are, but how we think that determines who we are. Our thinking is the basis for all our actions, which, in turn, means it has a big influence on what happens to us.
In order to accomplish anything, we first need a clear image of it and think it’s attainable. Then we’ll happily do what’s necessary to achieve it, because there aren’t doubts about whether the work is worth it. The clear image also helps us to overcome roadblocks that come up, as they inevitably do. It’s an attitude that doesn’t even notice, laughs at, or uses setbacks, depending on exactly what they are.
Your close friend, Chance Veazey, suffered a big setback in 2009 but has done well since then.
Yes, Chance was going to be my teammate at the University of Georgia, but before the season began, he was in a motor scooter accident. He was paralyzed, which would be difficult on anyone, but he had a very good group of guys around him after the accident, which boosted him and helped him see what was possible, rather than dwelling on the negatives.
Now when we’re around Chance, we don’t even see the wheelchair; we just see a buddy. He’s doing very well as an insurance salesman, and he has a can-do attitude that makes the success possible.
Pittsburgh Pirates’ pitcher Trevor Williams also knew someone from college who became paralyzed. Do you know Trevor and, if so, have you spoken to him about that?
Trevor and I played on Team USA in 2012, so we got to talking about common interests. We both wear a crucifix on a chain, so we talked about that and other Catholic things, but we didn’t talk about accidents of our buddies. I do know that, for both of us, the accidents were times of deep thought and opportunities to exercise Christian virtue, which made us better people.
Have you always taken the faith seriously or was there a specific time you started to do so?
I’m a little different, in that my parents were Catholic and I was baptized Catholic, but we started going to a Methodist church. However, I was sent to Catholic elementary school, Christ the King in Atlanta, where I decided to return to the Church myself.
I saw everyone else at the weekly school Mass going up to receive Communion, so I wanted to be able to participate in that, too. I loved the traditions of the Church and how God is always with us in so many different ways. I was taught more about being Catholic and then I became a practicing Catholic in fourth grade.
I also went to a Catholic high school, Marist, which would have been great enough, but it so happened that the priests there loved baseball, so it made my experience all the greater. The priests would go to the games and really took an interest in what happened, which probably helped as far as results. Marist has won six state championships since 1990 and was a runner-up on five occasions during that time.
You were able to associate being Catholic with playing baseball.
Not in the sense that I would pray for a hit in a close game or try to use God as a tool for success, but I did — and still do — see baseball as one of the many areas of life that God has dominion over. He’s everywhere, and baseball fields are not exceptions.
Something that helped me carry faith to college was what my dad did when I got a scholarship to the University of Georgia. He had played in college and gotten to the Atlanta Braves’ AAA team, so when it was my turn to leave home and start playing at Georgia, he wanted to pass along something faith-related that he had carried with him in college and professionally — his crucifix on a chain. I’ve been wearing it ever since.
Your parents have supported your decision to be Catholic.
They’ve been supportive, and they were the ones who made it possible, really. They had me baptized Catholic, and they sent me to a Catholic school, so that was the foundation of my decision.
My grandmother is the only other practicing Catholic in the family — although that will change soon, since I’m engaged to be married — and she would take me to Mass every Sunday. She’s a diehard Catholic, so her influence has helped me to continue to value and live out Catholicism.
What are some of the most helpful things about Catholicism for you?
Confession is the first thing that comes to mind. I know a lot of people are scared to go, but I’ve loved it since I was in the fourth grade. It makes the forgiveness of Christ present to us right here, right now, in a personal, sense-perceptible way. Because you can hear the words of absolution, you’re not left in doubt about being forgiven; you know you’re forgiven of the sins you’ve confessed
I still remember the first time I went to confession and the thrill of being cleansed of my sins. It was a feeling of being reborn and starting anew, since the negatives of the past had been taken care of. It’s like taking out the garbage, which will be gone forever and make the inside of your house look better and be more functional.
There’s an analogy in baseball, too, a game which has lots of failure in it. If you strike out or make an error, the worst thing you can do is get and angry and refuse to accept that it happened. That will only preserve it in your mind and make it more likely to happen again. On the other hand, if you humbly accept and admit that it happened, you’re able to move on to positive things because the negative ones have been released.
Do you find prayer helpful as well?
Prayer is very helpful. It’s meant for any time and any place, but the two big times I pray are in the morning and night. When I get up, I thank God for another day and ask for his protection of me and my family. Prayer when going to bed is similar, and during the day, I’m a big Hail Mary guy, even if I don’t end up praying a whole Rosary.
Praying at all takes faith because you have to believe that there’s a purpose behind it, that there’s a God listening and waiting to send us help to do his will and that salvation is very real and very possible. That’s the most important thing in life, but baseball is sort of a microcosm of that, since you have to start with faith that good things really can happen. Then you proceed with a purpose that could only start with the right mindset.
Register correspondent Trent Beattie writes from Seattle.
His book, Fit for Heaven (Dynamic Catholic, 2015), contains numerous Catholic sports
interviews, most of which have appeared in the Register.