A mission to the majors

By Trent Toone

Mormon Times

Published: Monday, June 27 2011 5:00 a.m. MDT

It also helped Cale to see his older brothers put baseball on hold to serve in the mission field. Isaac was assigned to a Spanish-speaking mission in Los Angeles. Eli went to Argentina. Isaac returned to play minor league baseball for the Atlanta Braves. Eli came back and played for the Triple-A affiliate of the Houston Astros.

Baseball and mission service haven’t been all roses for the Iorg boys, but they have no regrets, Patty said.

“My (older) boys might not have made it (to the majors), but the one constant in their lives is the impact of their missions," she said. "They will never have the regret of not having served a mission. Had Cale not gone, his life might be different in a lot of ways, but he would have a hard time sitting around the table with everyone talking about their missions.”

Garth is grateful his sons put their faith ahead of baseball.

“Keeping the gospel first may not mean you will be a major league superstar, but it does mean you will have a good life, and you are going to be happy with what you eventually accomplish,” Garth said. “Playing in the majors is nice, but it isn’t the end all. What matters is living the standards … and being a good person. If my sons can do that throughout their lives, that’s what gives me the most pride of all.”

Taking the mission field

Iorg hit .280 with 38 RBIs as a true freshman at the University of Alabama.

But he was still awaiting his mission call when the season ended. As he drove with his parents to Omaha, Neb., to see Eli and the Tennessee Volunteers play in the college world series, Garth phoned church headquarters in Salt Lake City.

A confused woman in the church missionary department accidentally revealed his destination.

“My dad looks into the backseat, puts his hand over the receiver says, ‘I know where you are going.' A minute later he got off the phone and said, ‘You are going to Portugal. I bet you don’t even know where that is,’” said Iorg, who didn't know. “So I didn’t get to open my call the traditional way.”

While there are many Mormons in professional baseball, few are returned missionaries because it’s easy to lose a step and difficult to recover. Many worried that Cale was giving up his baseball career. But it was statements like this one from LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley that affirmed his resolve.

“Of course your time is precious, and you may feel you cannot afford two years,” President Hinckley said in the October 1995 general conference. “But I promise you that the time you spend in the mission field, if those years are spent in dedicated service, will yield a greater return on investment than any other two years of your lives.”

Elder Craig B. Terry, Iorg’s mission president, loves all his missionaries, but became emotional as he described Elder Iorg, using words like “outstanding," "dedicated," "hard-working" and "completely obedient.”

“He was a great leader, very much loved and respected by the other missionaries, members and people he taught,” said Elder Terry, recently called to be an Area Seventy. “He definitely has a special place in my heart.”

Iorg was about a month short of coming home when he and another missionary were proselytizing on the evening of June 8, 2007. The mission cell phone buzzed and a long number from the United States popped up. (Full-time missionaries primarily communicate by a weekly email or letters. They are only permitted to talk by phone with family on Christmas and Mother’s Day).

It was Garth Iorg, and he had some good news.

With permission from President Terry, Garth called to inform his son the Detroit Tigers had picked him in the sixth round of the MLB draft. The details would be handled at home. This information brought Elder Iorg peace of mind and fueled him to finish his mission on a high note.

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