Los Angeles Dodgers’ outfielder, first baseman Van Slyke relies on faith to stay levelheadedcomment (0)
April 17, 2014
By Bill Sorrell
Playing hide-and-seek with his brothers, Scott Van Slyke climbed a pine tree that was 50 feet tall. He fell, and on the way down to the ground, hit every branch. Bleeding, Van Slyke, then 10, ran inside and told his parents Andy and Lauri Van Slyke. They asked him if he was all right. Although he answered no, they could tell he was OK and told him to go back outside.
“That was the rule during the summer; you had to be outside,” said Van Slyke, an outfielder and first baseman for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Since he began playing baseball at age 5 and watching his father play Major League Baseball for 13 seasons, Van Slyke has spent most of his summers outside.
“Playing in the big leagues has been my dream since I can remember,” said Van Slyke, 27. He skipped college and was drafted from Missouri’s John Burroughs School. He was the Missouri Gatorade Player of the Year in 2005.
“I wanted to get a jump start. I feel like I got a great education at John Burroughs,” he said. “I could have gone to college and learned a few more things, but baseball is what I wanted to do for my profession. It’s a game that hasn’t changed. It is a [melting] pot of what America is — Latinos, black people and white people. The players get better. Even the guy who is most talented is not promised a spot on a big league team. It is definitely how much work you put into it. Always play hard and have fun and don’t take it too seriously.”
Drafted in 2005 by the Dodgers, he has gone from his professional debut with the Gulf Coast Dodgers to Los Angeles in 2012.
He’s been an all-star with Triple-A Albuquerque, Single-A San Bernardino and Double-A Chattanooga and was the Dodgers’ Minor League Player of the Year in 2011 with Chattanooga.
His father, who played with St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Philadelphia from 1983 to 1995, is now a coach with Seattle. However, it was watching his father off the field that provided the most profound influence.
“They live their life for Christ, and how they help other people is what drove me to the realization that Christ is real,” Van Slyke said of his parents.
Growing up in church, he went to a Billy Graham crusade when he was 14. “That’s when I solidified my faith; salvation is for anybody. It doesn’t matter where you were born or (who you were) born to.”
His faith has kept him even-keel. “Faith gets me through the rough times and keeps me levelheaded when I’m doing well.”
Former Chattanooga teammate Dustin Yount said, “He doesn’t get too high or too low. He is definitely a good role model — I think a lot of people look up to him.”
Through Bible study with his wife Audrey, Van Slyke has nurtured his faith. During the off-season in St. Louis, they attend The Journey Church downtown. They are involved in small group Bible study with six other couples. Topics include dealing with temptation.
“Nobody is free from temptation. Nobody is ever perfect,” he said. “Everybody is watching you. You are influential. You can easily steer someone in the wrong course and, in the same way can steer someone to Christ. It is not easy being a Christian. You have to stay a real person through non-Christian eyes. Having good friends around you holding you accountable keeps you out of trouble.”
When he struggles through a batting slump, talking with his wife and reading the Bible encourages Van Slyke. His favorite verse is Philippians 4:13.
“You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you. That doesn’t have anything to do with the physical aspect as much as mental. I say that a lot when something bad is going on.”
Playing 27 games with the Dodgers in 2012, he hit .167 with two home runs. His first major league home run came on May 20 and on June 1. He spent 95 games in 2012 with the Albuquerque Isotopes and had 18 home runs and hit .327. He started the 2013 season with the Isotopes and hit .397 with nine home runs and 30 RBI in 34 games. He was promoted to Los Angeles and hit .240 with seven home runs and 19 RBI. In 53 games he was seventh on the team in home runs and at one point was second on both the Dodgers and Isotopes in home runs. In September 2013, he slammed a two-run, 11th inning home run against Arizona.
What helped get him to Albuquerque and then Los Angeles was a torrid 2011. During that season in Chattanooga he led the Southern League in batting average at .348 and had 20 home runs and 92 RBI. He was the MVP of the Southern League All-Star game.
Van Slyke has used his skills off the field to help his father lead a Fellowship of Christian Athletes camp in Missouri. One off-season he scuba dived at the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. “It is a lot of fun to see what kind of creativity God has,” he noted.
Van Slyke shows his faith “through my love for everybody,” he said. “I don’t condemn people at all. I don’t show malice toward anybody. I am easy to forgive (others). I try to watch my tongue. I have a kind heart.”