• Marin Sadler

Christmas or Coincidence?

How a Christmas shoebox led to becoming a Tampa Bay Ray.

To start this story, I must first explain, that the workings of it started over a year ago. We packed a Christmas box for a little girl. It was part of The Operation Christmas Child outreach. Basically, You fill a shoebox with goodies and send to a child to ensure they have a gift during the holidays. We were so very excited, unfortunately procrastination got the best of us. The last day of collection was upon us faster than we imagined. To our disappointment they closed early on the last drop off day. We called around and all collection locations were already closed. We were advised to hang on to the box and send it the following Christmas.

As embarrassed as we were to have missed the deadline, I truly think God was twiddling his fingers and creating what would end up being an intricate story only HE could knit together so beautifully.

That is our Lord, the master of details.

Now, fast forward to this Holiday season. This “off season" unlike any other, Casey entered into "free agency”. Free Agency is a term used in baseball to describe players who are now allowed to hear offers from all other teams. You see, in the past we have always been under contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates and have signed multiple continuation contracts with them. Therefore we have never been true “free agents”. However, this year we knew we needed to test the waters of uncertainty, take a leap of faith, and see what the Lord has in store for us. In order to do so, it meant doing a very difficult thing which was stepping away from the Pirates. A team who has essentially become family. A team that believed in my husband over and over again. A team that made his dreams come true, and our family is better because of them. To say change is easy would be lying. Change is hard, but it is also necessary sometimes to grow.

Things were pretty hectic around our house to say the least. We had no idea who we would play for next year, or where we would be playing, period! It was all quite scary. When offers did in fact start rolling in, that fear was replaced with anxiety, all emotions I am not proud to admit we struggled through. Truthfully, Christians struggle just as much with those emotions. Our faith in God does not dismiss human emotions, it can help us cope, but Christians are not exempt, by any means.

The first team we met with was a professional team from South Korea. Foreign teams are allowed to contact you before any American Team can. We were super excited about the thought of an opportunity that would take us across the world. We went as far as meeting with their scout for 3 hours discussing what life would be like over there. Yet, our hearts still wondered if any American offers were around the corner.

Then it began. The night free agency was official, and teams were allowed to contact players, we heard from a very familiar team. They made Casey an offer quickly. We were beyond humbled to say the least but something was holding us back. We knew we were not supposed to go to this particular team, at this particular time, but we didn’t know why? To some, we must seem crazy, why not go with a solid offer that is right in front of you? Why risk it? Then the next day it all made sense. Our agent sent us a text. It read “TB is interested”. My heart dropped as I ran outside to tell Casey. I had the most overwhelming sense of peace come over me. I have never felt that in baseball. The thought of playing in Tampa would be an absolute dream come true for us!

Is it to good to be true?

Fast forward to this year and our Christmas Box Story. We dusted off our packed shoebox and found the nearest drop off location, Casey took the package a day early to ensure we wouldn’t miss the deadline again! When he got to the little baptist Church they greeted him with celebration! The congregation was of retired age (hello Florida), and seemed thrilled each time someone brought in a box! When he went to fill out the paperwork he quickly remembered that he had forgotten a check. Since it was over a year, it had slipped our minds to include a check to cover the cost of shipping the Christmas box.

Casey got back in the car and drove to the closest bank. When he returned to the church the volunteers, to his surprise, admitted that while he was away they “googled” him by the name he had left on his partially filled out form. They noticed he was wearing a baseball shirt and looked like a player! They put two and two together.

They were giddy to find, that he in fact is a baseball player. They proceeded to ask who he currently played for. To which he the explained, that we ourselves are still waiting to find out! Then they asked if they could pray over him. In the middle of the prayer the sweet lady slipped in “Lord, please let him play for the Tampa Bay Rays”. When she finished praying Casey told them-that the Rays were actually one of the teams interested in him. He thought it was a pretty neat moment, but brushed it off as living in close proximity.

What happened next was the kicker.

As Casey was walking towards the door-an older gentleman randomly blurted “But, I want him to play for the Cubs”! Little did he know, or anyone for that matter, that the Chicago Cubs just so happen to make us an offer the night before. What are the chances that out of 30 MLB teams those TWO were the two mentioned in that small town church, that day?

When Casey told me the story, my eyes welled up with tears-it was truly unbelievable. Yet we were still left with little Clarity. Which team Lord? We know our hearts desire, but we want to go where you want us to go!

I wish I could say that the next day, all of our stress and tension melted away. But, it did not.

We had to turn down two solid offers-in hopes that Tampa would come through. During this time-I questioned if we were supposed to go to a different team. If it was our own selfish desires wanting to keep us close to home. I could only hope our vision aligned with what the Lord wanted for us, I could only hope and pray that Tampa would come through.

Then.... they came through!

We got the news from our Agent “Congratulations, You’re a Tampa Bay Ray”.

Someone pinch me! Casey is now apart of his daughters home town team! That is something we will always cherish. Often it seems that what we want in life, is not always what the Lord wants or has planned for us, which is why we prayed to go where he wanted us to go and tried to keep an open heart/mind. His plan is always better than our own. So when our hearts desire, aligned with his plan-it brought about many emotions. We don’t know what this year will bring, but we are humbled by the opportunity.

Was the prayer from that little church, that day, a fluke?

I will let you decide.

For us it was a reminder that He is with us, always. He wants us to lean on him, to trust him and that HE may have a pretty good sense of humor too!

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