Quite a following: Mormon major leaguer catches on with Twitter
To see a list of prominent Mormon sports figures who use Twitter, click here.
When Baltimore Orioles pitcher Jeremy Guthrie heard that Jay Mohr made some less-than-flattering comments about him on national radio, he decided to reach out to the comedian.
"I chose to take a positive approach and send a message to him on Twitter, more or less apologizing for not being as good as he thinks I should be or need to be," Guthrie said. "I guess he took a liking to me. He thought it was clever or at least positive and not avoiding the truth."
The two became friends. Guthrie eventually ended up as a guest on one of Mohr's podcasts, where the comedian tried to get the returned Mormon missionary to swear for the first time.
"He was unsuccessful," Guthrie said.
Guthrie is one of several athletes and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who have embraced Twitter. Notable names like NBA rookie Jimmer Fredette, Olympic gold medalist Torah Bright and Guthrie, a starting pitcher for the Orioles, have taken to the social media tool as a means of interacting with fans and peers.
For Guthrie, who has collected 28,619 "followers" since starting his @jguthrie46 account in March 2011, Twitter is a way to interact about everything from his baseball career to his deeply held beliefs. In between, he has a lot of fun "tweeting" about pop culture, music, college football and his collection of athletic shoes.
"We do a lot of unique things as baseball players so it's kind of fun to share those with those who care to know about it," said Guthrie, who makes his offseason home in Pleasant Grove.
"I enjoy it. I think it's (time) well spent and have fun doing it. I like to put out a good message and put out a good example, hopefully. I can also be a resource for anybody who has questions that are relevant to either beliefs that I have or experiences that I'm having."
Guthrie made his major league debut in 2004 with Cleveland and became a regular in the Baltimore rotation in 2007. He has made multiple opening-day starts and pitched 1,000-plus career innings.
But before becoming an established major leaguer, Guthrie made a decision that could have curtailed his promising baseball career. He decided to serve a full-time LDS mission, forsaking the money being offered him by the New York Mets as a 15th-round draft pick out of high school.
It's a story that impressed Mohr, who on Oct. 20 tweeted, "Mohr Stories guest @jguthrie46 turned down 1 MILLION dollars to sign with N.Y. Mets to go on his Mormon mission. #priorities #respect."
Guthrie says he receives a lot of compliments about his decision, but he'd still be at peace with his choice to serve no matter how it affected his athletic career.
"Regardless of whether baseball had worked our or not, I would have felt very comfortable with it," he said. "Whenever you put the Lord first, you'll be blessed and be content with your decision."
Guthrie jumped into Twitter at the recommendation of his agent. He's established a following through not just baseball, but through his interest in shoe collecting (he's from Oregon and a big fan of Nike and Air Jordan) and music (he counts Justin Bieber among the famous musicians he's been able to interact with).
"That's probably been the biggest impact on my followers," he said. "Every market is different. If a New York Yankees player signs up for Twitter, they may have 50,000 overnight."
Guthrie is aware that sarcasm is one way to build a following on Twitter, but he opts for a more positive approach.
During the 2011 postseason, Gurthie's Twitter account churned out enthusiastic and positive commentary about his contemporaries competing in the playoffs, such as: "Man, Casey Kotchman had such a nice year at the plate, swung the bat extremely well & was so consistent throughout. That was a clutch hit."
Also during October, Guthrie retweeted a quote given in general conference by Elder Robert D. Hales. Twitter was mentioned numerous times during conference gatherings in April and October 2011, and the hashtag #ldsconf, which identifies conference-related tweets, gained a lot of traction in the past year.
Guthrie says he doesn't have an "end game" for his Twitter presence. He just enjoys the interaction and appreciates the platform "when there is a specific goal in mind."
After the baseball season ended, Guthrie was able to tour Taiwan with a traveling group of major leaguers and tweeted about the experience. MLB.com carried a story about Guthrie and his wife, Jenny, visiting the Morrison Academy in Taichung City and speaking to the students about education and priorities.
While there, he was able to interact with several Spanish-speaking major leaguers he had competed against, but who had no idea he was fluent in the language. Guthrie served a full-time mission in Bilbao, Spain.
"Them hearing my Spanish brought a smile to their face," he said. "They would say 'I never knew you spoke Spanish all these years.' It certainly catches a lot of guys off-guard."
In November, Guthrie pointed his followers to an ESPN.com report about his involvement in a public outreach campaign about the dangers of tobacco use.
And in early December, he tweeted a picture of the Salt Lake Temple with the message, "Happy Holidays from Salt Lake City."
Guthrie, who was the subject of some trade speculation last year, will soon be joining the Orioles for the sixth consecutive season and, likely, tweeting about his experiences along the way.
Baseball can be a frustrating game, but Guthrie has learned to approach it in his typically positive fashion.
"Focus on the process and the effort you're giving and the work you're putting in and trying to get better," he said. "If you're always working and getting better, I think it's a lot easier to deal with the failures as they come."
Aaron Shill is the editor of Features and Mormon Times at the Deseret News.
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