September 25, 2020
Travis Mattair (Photo courtesy of Daniel Venn/Pensacola Blue Wahoos)
While listening to Kari Jobe’s “Revelation Song,” Travis Mattair had a revelation of his own.
“I wasn’t really happy with baseball at the time,” said Mattair, who had been drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the second round of the 2007 Major League June amateur draft but had left the Phillies’ spring training in 2010.
Always wanting to play college basketball, Mattair, then 21, knew he was at a point in his life that this would be his last opportunity, so he walked on at Boise State. About two weeks into fall practice, he got a call from the Phillies asking if he had any interest in returning to the team.
“It was kinda like God [saying], ‘I think you need to give this a second chance,’” said Mattair who was going to his job as a barista at a coffee shop when he heard “Revelation.”
A third and first baseman, Mattair played seven seasons in professional baseball, the last three with the Cincinnati Reds organization and with the Pensacola Blue Wahoos in the Double-A Southern League in 2013 and 2014.
In his 788-game career, he hit 63 home runs, had 364 RBIs and ended with a .246 batting average.
Mattair’s faith journey
But throughout baseball and beyond, his faith has been the lead-off hitter. Through Young Life, Mattair, a native of Kennewick, Washington, became a Christian when he was a freshman in high school and continued to grow from there.
“It completely changed my life,” he said. “God gave me something to look up to and somebody bigger than myself that I can always turn to. I know He is always there for me, in the good times, in the bad times. He is my biggest supporter, especially in this game. It’s very calming and reassuring that He is always there with me.
“He is always a rock to stand on when you feel like you are falling,” he said. “He is everything. There is not a day that goes by that He is not leading me. I am so thankful He is on my side, and I found Him. Hopefully I can shed His light over the world.”
Mattair’s former teammates saw the light through his actions and example.
Former Pensacola teammate Bryan Anderson, a catcher who played for St. Louis, the Chicago White Sox and Oakland, said Mattair always set a good example “by being a good Christian, by being a good person, a great teammate” with “good leadership.”
“He cares about everybody. He’s funny. He is always joking, keeping the mood and spirits up in the clubhouse,” Anderson said.
Cincinnati Reds pitcher Michael Lorenzen, who played with Mattair in Pensacola, described Mattair as a servant. “He is always there to uplift other people. He is less worried about himself and more focused on others.”
Drew Hayes, who pitched for Cincinnati after Pensacola, called Mattair’s example “positive.”
“The way he treats people, the way he handles fans. He’s somebody you can look to every day to be a positive light in the clubhouse,” Hayes said. “He’s nice to everybody. … He’s a gentle giant.”
Mattair, who is 6’5” and 210 pounds, received the nickname “Moose” the day he was born. He weighed 10 pounds, 2 ounces.
“I had the biggest head the nurse had ever measured and big ol’ ears,” Mattair said. “The first time my dad saw me he said, ‘He’s a moose’ and it stuck.”
His parents, Steve and Carol Mattair, are his role models.
“They are incredible. They have always taken me to church. I didn’t know why they took me early on in my life. It all made sense when I found out who Jesus was,” said Mattair, a member of South Hills, a Baptist church in Kennewick.
Through Baseball Chapel, which he enjoyed during seasons, he also grew spiritually.
However, baseball threw its share of temptations at him.
“It’s a test every day. You’ve really got to check yourself through prayer,” Mattair noted. “Your mind goes places it shouldn’t. It’s a moral choice. When [choices] are thrown at you, you have to take a look at yourself and say, ‘What would Jesus do?’ and ask, ‘Is this what I really need to be doing right now or should I be doing something else?’”
Mattair depends on his favorite Bible verse, Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
When Mattair returned to the Phillies in 2011 he tore his oblique, missing two months. “I never did get right,” he said.
He was traded the next year and eventually retired from pro baseball in 2015, shifting to coaching.
Mattair coached at Pensacola Training Academy and RBI Pensacola (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities). He is founder of Unlimited Training Academy in Pensacola.
In July 2019, he was hired as head baseball coach at Gulf Breeze (Florida) High School, coaching his first season in 2020.