Colorado Rockies Pitcher Elevates Faith
Former Sun Devils pitcher, Reagan Todd, aims to live among angels.
After being at spring training for a total of one week in 2020, minor league pro-ball player Reagan Todd, along with the rest of his teammates, was instructed to return home. Major League Baseball postponed the season indefinitely, which would result in Todd’s entire minor-league season being canceled.
The left-handed pitcher from Centennial, Colorado, is hopeful this year will be different. The Rockies are set to play spring-training games in the Cactus League starting Feb. 27. The Arizona scenery is familiar to Todd. After graduating from Regis Jesuit High School in Aurora, Colorado, he played three years at Arizona State University, before transferring to Colorado Mesa University in 2017.
Selected in the 32nd round of the 2018 MLB Draft after his senior year, Todd is now aiming to move up in the Colorado Rockies’ minor-league system. Although his ultimate aim is to live among the angels one day, the former Sun Devil is already at a higher elevation in Colorado — physically, professionally and, most importantly, spiritually.
Even if Todd’s dream of playing in the major leagues is not realized, he has other options. The business major already has a startup business, Todd Urich Recruiting, which helps high-school student-athletes choose the right college. He has also considered joining the ranks of the military, motivated by his love of country. This affinity grew to new heights in Todd after a 2018 pilgrimage to the Holy Land, which he discusses, along with many other faith-related things, in this interview.
What were your top baseball memories from childhood?
In middle school I was part of a big tournament in Cooperstown, N.Y., with100 teams from around the country. It was remarkable to be part of such a huge gathering, and, aside from the thrill of playing baseball and meeting so many other players, we got to visit the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. I can’t think of anything more special, in the world of baseball, for a boy to do.
Then I had another top moment a few years later. As a junior in high school, I decided not to play football in the fall, which let me spend more time on baseball. That paid off in many ways, including a second-place finish at the state tournament as a senior. I hit a walk-off grand slam to advance the team in the postseason, and there was a photo in the newspaper of our chaplain’s reaction. [Jesuit] Father Kevin Dyer was wearing a Roman collar and also a Regis baseball hat, as he celebrated from the dugout. That was a special image because it combined baseball and Catholicism.
Even though I played many other sports, baseball was the sport I was most confident in, probably in part due to my father having played in college at Western Colorado University. I think maybe being left-handed helped, too, and how our high school was very much into baseball.
Former San Francisco Giants’ pitcher Ty Blach attended Regis, as well.
Ty, who is about six years older than I am, is a great pitcher and a great man. He would come back to Regis and conduct practices for the team on his own time and dollar. He influenced a lot of the guys at Regis who have gone on to play in college and professionally. I think Ty’s volunteering shows what kind of man he is, but, also, it shows how Regis helped him to be that man.
I’ve been able to work out near Ty recently as he rehabs his arm. Fans mostly see just the fun stuff, but there’s a lot of work behind the scenes for a pro athlete. Injuries might be the toughest thing to endure, so it can be inspiring to work next to someone who is pushing through that.
Was your high school named after the same Jesuit saint as the Regis High School in Stayton, Oregon, that Canadian Football League Most Outstanding Player Travis Lulay attended?
Regis Jesuit High School in Aurora is named after St. John Francis Regis. He was a French priest in the Society of Jesus. He wanted to be a missionary to North America, but did not leave France before dying in his 40s. Yet he can now do missionary work here in North America [via his namesake school]. His dedication to prayer, education, self-denial, purity and the sick and needy are being taught at Regis High School in Colorado.
That’s really inspiring and maybe one of the reasons I’ve been appreciative of military service. You might not end up being rewarded for it here. In fact, you might suffer a lot and die an early death. Yet, for those who believe in eternal life, the story is just beginning.
Another Catholic MLB pitcher I almost went to school with was Trevor Williams. He was at ASU during my recruiting trip in my junior year of high school. He was good enough to be drafted in the second round that year (2013), so he left for pro ball then. He’s another man who is not only a fine athlete, but a generous human being.
Trevor was part of ASU’s strong history of baseball success, which also included Willie Bloomquist, but were there other factors that influenced your decision to attend ASU?
I enjoyed the process of finding a university that had a competitive baseball program, but also a solid business program. For me, the ideal combination seemed to be ASU. I was recruited to the Division I school in Tempe and pitched there for three years as a starter and reliever. I enjoyed putting a lot of effort into baseball and enjoyed, among other things, playing in front of 8,000 fans in games against the University of Arizona, but my baseball success was mixed.
While at ASU I developed a good relationship with FOCUS [Fellowship of Catholic University Students] missionary David Cargill. FOCUS does just what their acronym suggests: They keep students focused on what they should be focused on. It’s so easy, the first time away from home, to get drawn into so many directions, so it’s great to be regularly reminded of what matters most.
With baseball, it’s funny how we can think that the man who puts the most effort into something will be the one who wins, but that’s not always the case. Life would be more predictable that way, but the strange thing I learned is that sometimes less is more. Sometimes just relaxing and playing freely — knowing that there are more important things in life — is the best way to achieve great results. It’s the mindset of a kid, really — just throw the ball around and enjoy that process for what it is, not for what it might bring you later.
I ended up transferring to Colorado Mesa University, a Division II school, after my junior year at ASU. That turned out to be a better fit for me athletically, because I was able to pitch and play outfield. It was also beneficial academically and socially, since I competed a business degree and met my fiancéé, Kylie.
While at Mesa, I had thoughts of serving in the military, but ended up playing baseball well enough to be drafted into another arena of life. I’m pursuing baseball now in the minors with the Rockies, but I still have a deep respect for the military and serving our country. I have so much to be thankful for as an American that giving something back in military service seems like a great option.
I’m also running my own little college recruiting startup. It’s a way to use my business degree and personal experience to help high-school students — especially athletes — find the right college for them.
Did you find 2020 to be as disappointing as Mike Sweeney did, from a minor-league standpoint?
We arrived at spring training; and after a week, were told to go home. It was very disappointing, since things like that just don’t happen under normal circumstances. I still practiced and in October was invited to a fall instructional camp. We played against other organizations, I met up with some old buddies and was even able to play in front of Rockies’ scouts and front office personnel. It was kind of like a fall spring training, so in the long run, there was some opportunity for me, despite the season being cut way back.
I think most people are expecting things to be going back toward normal this season, so hopefully that will be the case. What I can say about the Rockies, regardless of how 2021 turns out, is that they give minor leaguers every possible opportunity to move up. Minor leaguers get to practice, work out with and talk to major leaguers, so there’s not the divided atmosphere that some clubs can have.
That’s something I’ve always had a deep appreciation for: teamwork. Every man on the team — every man in the organization, really — is part of a living, breathing body that has a purpose. It’s like the metaphor often used for the Church: We have different individual functions, but we interact together as one whole entity with the same overall goal in mind.
Have you always taken the faith seriously or was there a specific time you started to do so?
I have always taken the faith seriously, thanks to how my parents raised me. Nonetheless, there will always be moments for growth in our relationship with God. One of the biggest for me was doing a pilgrimage in the Holy Land two years ago.
The awesome 10-day trip, which I went on with my family, was led by Tim Gray of the Augustine Institute, which is based just minutes from where I grew up in Colorado. We had daily confession and Mass available on the trip, and we were learning more about Old and New Testament times and places than I thought was even possible.
One of my favorite parts was going into the cave were Jesus presumably “hung out” quite a bit next to the Mount of Olives. Also, being in the cistern where Jesus was imprisoned before his death was moving. The God whom the world cannot contain submitted to being contained so that we would be set free.
The highest point of the trip was probably going to Mass at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. Witnessing the consecration at that place was incredible. True, the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ at any Mass, anywhere in the world, but when you’re actually at the physical location on the globe where Our Lord died and was buried, only to rise again three days later, you can’t help but be moved by the experience.
It’s just an overpowering sense of the love of God, whose concern for us was so great that it was taken to the extreme of dying so that we would live. Life, death, resurrection and love are so pervasive in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. It’s an encapsulation of what we believe in as Christians.
The Holy Land subconsciously turned my faith from something that my parents taught me to believe in to something that is completely my own. It really pushed me closer to getting married and starting a family, so I can pass along what had been given to me.
Did the pilgrimage make praying easier?
I think so. I got to see some cool landscapes and eat good food, but it was also an opportunity to confirm how blessed we are in the United States. Prayers of thanksgiving, along with those expressing trust in God and love of God, are highly important.
Study is important, but it will be meaningless without prayer. We can pass a test on the faith, but so can an atheist. Being a good Catholic is not a matter of having a high IQ, but of living out what you know to be true — and prayer is what enables us to do this. It is the link, along with the sacraments, to God’s grace.
Do you have a favorite Catholic book?
I came across a Benedictine, Father Augustine Wetta, on YouTube, talking about humility. I like learning about the faith from priests specifically, but what made Father Wetta interesting is that he seemed like a regular guy who just happened to be a priest. He had a strong sense of humor and stories from his life before ordination — these things made him very accessible.
Father Wetta wrote a book called Humility Rules, which is about the importance of that virtue. Without it, we can’t really be Christians; but with it, we can do all things through Christ, who strengthens us.
Humility is helpful in any walk of life, but baseball seems particularly suited for it. Just when you think you have the sport all figured out, you fall flat on your face — and fast. Getting a hit three times out of 10 tries is considered good, so you know there is so much failure in baseball.
Humility Rules can help players to frame and navigate failure. Ultimately, humility is meant to get us to heaven, but in the meantime, it can help us lead happy lives. St. Augustine said that if you conquer yourself, the world lies at your feet. In other words, once your problems are overcome, or at least subdued, you are freed from sin, are able to help others, and accomplish things that pride would have prevented.
Are there other books you’ve found helpful?
He Leadeth Me, which is the story Father Walter Ciszek, a Jesuit priest who was imprisoned in the Soviet Union in the first half of the 20th century. He had thought, before being imprisoned, that he was doing very well in his spiritual life, but he was reminded, quite forcefully, of his weaknesses and desperate need for God’s help.
I read He Leadeth Me last year, during what would have been a complete spring training, and I plan on reading it again this year, in what will hopefully be a complete spring training. There’s another the book, With God in Russia (also on Father Ciszek), that I’m interested in, and The Shadow of His Wings (about a priest in a Nazi prison) that has similarities.
Those books might also help with a military career one day.
They certainly might, but in the meantime, I’m trying to do my best in baseball and see where that goes. Regardless of which profession I’m in, though, being Catholic is the constant.
There are all kinds of saints, but some of my favorites are Augustine, Ignatius of Loyola, John Francis Regis, Benedict, Martin de Porres, Sebastian, Padre Pio and Michael the Archangel. They remind us that there is a battle for salvation. It can be rough and confusing at times, but we can proceed in it with joy, since God is with us every step of the way.
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.
His latest book is Apostolic Athletes.