Veteran pitcher Zach Duke has been around the league and then some over his 13-plus years in Major League Baseball. It looked like the starter turned reliever had a long term home with the Pittsburgh Pirates, but after six seasons there, he spent the next seven years wearing numerous uniforms including Arizona, Washington, Cincinnati, Milwaukee, Chicago (with the White Sox), and most recently St. Louis. But that hasn’t kept Duke from maintaining an unshakeable faith in God.
In this CSJ Conversation with Managing Editor Chad Bonham, Duke talks about how he’s managed to stay focused on being a Christian in the clubhouse and how he tries to serve the needs of his teammates:
Chad Bonham: How do faith and sports coexist in your world?
Zach Duke: I used to just pray to win the game and it was always a very selfish prayer that I’d do well. I’ve grown to realize that it’s not the right way to go about things. The deeper I got with my faith, the more I realized that it’s all about what you’re learning through the process and going through the trials and tribulations and the good times. It’s about the lessons you’re learning throughout the journey.
Bonham: What was the defining moment that led you to Christ?
Duke: I went to high school in Waco, Texas, and I had some good friends who were Christians. I got involved in a Bible study group with a college student when I was still in high school and I started to understand what it meant to have a relationship with God. It started to fill that void that you’re always trying to fill with other things. I’ve never felt so happy and complete from that moment on.
Bonham: How does your relationship with God help you deal with the game of baseball?
Duke: I’ve learned that there’s going to be good games and bad games. What matters is if you’re staying consistent with the professional aspect, with your family, with your spiritual life. Are you staying consistent and being the same guy no matter what happens on the field? Are you letting a setback on the field distance you from your faith?
Bonham: Do you feel like you have more responsibility to live a certain way because of your platform?
Duke: I try to strive to be a model Christian no matter what I’m doing. I try to live a godly life in every aspect including on the field, with my wife, with my parents, with friends or wherever. I try to be a godly man all the time. There are times you slip up but what matters is that you go to God and give it up to Him and ask for forgiveness.
Bonham: What’s your favorite Bible verse?
Duke: 2 Timothy 4:7. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
Bonham: How does your faith help you serve the spiritual and emotional needs of those around you?
Duke: I try to encourage everyone I come into contact with and be a guy who’s open to talk about whatever a teammate or a friend is going through. In the conversations, I’ll tell them I don’t struggle with that anymore because of my faith. They’re experiencing the same voids that I used to have in my life. My relationship with God has filled those voids with me. You’re not going to be able to fill those voids with anything else.
(Photos: MLB Pressbox; Keith Allison)