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Ex-Orioles start preaches gospel

February 16, 2004|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

Former Baltimore Oriole Pat Kelly preached to a rapt congregation at West End Baptist Church on Sunday, mixing messages about salvation and the word of God with anecdotes about his former sports days.

Kelly, 59, of Timonium, Md., is a full-time evangelist, preaching in America and Africa to spread his message.

Kelly, leader of Life Line Ministries, agreed to a request to preach to the Hagerstown church at morning and evening services.

He makes about $17,500 a year now, compared to a peak of $150,000 as a baseball player, but he said he would not give up his ministering to return to baseball.

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"You could not pay me to get me to return to baseball, and they make some ridiculous amounts today," he said. "I am going to preach until the day I die."

Some churches and spectators probably ask him to preach because they want to hear about his baseball days, which is fine with him because it gives him a chance to speak to people about the Lord, he said.

He told an audience of about 100 people at the 6 p.m. service that he has surrendered his life to God and said others should do the same. The Lord told him to evangelize in the morning and at night, he said.

In an interview before the 6 p.m. service, Kelly talked about his days before he began ministering - when he smoked, drank and used marijuana - and after.

For as long as he could remember, he loved baseball, he said.

Kelly used to tell his father, "You must have placed a ball in my crib," he said.

After playing in community leagues and on school teams, he started playing in the Major Leagues in 1967 for the Minnesota Twins. He later played for the Orioles, the Chicago White Sox, the Kansas City Royals and the Cleveland Indians.

During those first few years in the Major Leagues, he was not living a good Christian life, he said.

"You name it, I was doing it," he said.

In a brochure, Kelly refers to himself at that point as a "Fire Engine Christian, who prayed only in times of great crisis when I desperately needed God to put out the fire."

In 1975, he told a friend he did not understand why he was still miserable and on the verge of a nervous breakdown while making money and being a good player with the Chicago White Sox, Kelly said. The friend took him to Bible study, and his life changed forever when he asked Jesus to come into his heart, he said.

By the time Kelly started playing for the Baltimore Orioles in 1977, he would talk to other players about Christianity and would not go with them when they went drinking or womanizing, he said.

"My friends changed. My habits changed," he said.

Players jokingly would suggest he be sent to shag some balls so they would not have to hear him talking about the Bible, he said.

In an interview, and later during the service, Kelly told what he called his classic story about then-Orioles manager Earl Weaver.

One day the Lord spoke to Kelly and said he needed to talk to Weaver about the joy of being a Christian, Kelly said.

"Earl, you know it's great to walk with the Lord. It is great to walk with Jesus," Kelly said he told Weaver.

"Pat, that's fine. But I would much rather you walk with the bases loaded," Weaver replied.

He ministered part time during the baseball season and during off-season, sometimes even preaching at a church at night after playing a day game, he said.

After retirement, he decided he wanted to minister full time and that's what he does, going around the world to share the Gospel, he said.

"God opens the door and I just show up," he said.

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