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Mission Accomplished

Pitchers put service first, find success in majors

Published: Wednesday, May 14 2008 11:55 p.m. MDT

Matt Lindstrom, 28, a reliever for the Florida Marlins, found that a mission didn't just help him as a person — it also helped his fastball.

Doug Benc, Getty Images

At an age when most major league prospects are either under contract or preparing for another year of college, one promising pitcher left Brigham Young University, entered the Missionary Training Center and shut out baseball.

He didn't take a glove. He didn't do one push-up. And for two years, he didn't throw a baseball.

     

In fact, Jeremy Guthrie never talked about the sport, or the fact

that his talent made a professional baseball career a real possibility.

The only people who knew were his mission president and a companion who

found out through other means.

     

Yet just two months after Guthrie returned home from Spain in

2000, the velocity on his pitches had returned to pre-mission levels.

     

\"I was being blessed,\" he said. \"It wasn't anything I could have planned for.\"

     

Once he accepted a mission call, the only definitive plans

Guthrie could make concerned how he would serve. The same was true for

Matt Lindstrom, a Ricks College pitcher who went on a mission to

Sweden. The decision to become a missionary for The Church of Jesus

Christ of Latter-day Saints left Guthrie and Lindstrom, like so many

other major league hopefuls, without any guarantees in a profession

where such service is often viewed with wariness. But both men are now

established major league players — Guthrie with the Baltimore Orioles

and Lindstrom with the Florida Marlins — and despite the inherent

challenges, both reflect on their decision and experiences with

grattitude and conviction.

When Guthrie left Ashland, Ore., in 1997 for Provo, Utah, he had been

on the radar of baseball scouts for some time. The New York Mets

selected him out of high school in the 15th round of the first-year

player draft.But the goal to serve a mission was already in place, and Guthrie

joined the BYU baseball program in part because it would allow him to

reach that objective.

According to his former coach at BYU, Gary Pullins, Guthrie's story is

typical of most players who serve missions. The decision usually comes

before the player steps on campus and has its roots in the home.

     

\"I think Jeremy knew even before he enrolled in college that he

was going to serve a mission,\" said Pullins, who led the BYU program

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