Growing up, most don’t have expectations of having an MLB career that spans more than a decade. Scott Linebrink certainly didn’t, but hard work and unshakable faith got him there.
“When I was 13, 14 years old, if you would’ve lined me up with everybody else and picked out who had a destiny in Major League Baseball, I would probably be your last pick,” notes Linebrink.
Linebrink stands 6’3”; there aren’t many people that look down on him now, but during his childhood it was often a different story.
“I didn’t have a whole lot of talent, and I think lacking in size, too, just really put me behind the curve. So I always worked hard to try to live up to where I thought I should be and play at the level of the guys that I was with at the time.”
His hard work and determination paid off. He went on to have an impressive career at Southwest Texas State [now Texas State University] and was picked in the second round of the 1997 MLB Entry Draft by the San Francisco Giants.
After making his way through the minors, Linebrink finally got the call to the big leagues in 2000. “I got called up in 2000 and my first experience on a Major League field was pretty overwhelming and I remember my feet just hardly hitting the ground.”
He was traded before he even completed his first full season in the MLB and wound up splitting the next few years between the majors and the minor leagues. As a relief pitcher, he was constantly in pressure-packed situations.
“I felt like every time I went out to the mound, it was do-or-die. I created pressure for myself and felt like I had to live up to this expectation. Each time I had to be a little bit better than the last.”
Going into the 2003 season, Linebrink reached a breaking point in his career. He had just spent another season going back and forth between the big club and the minor leagues and he was spending an endless amount of energy trying to improve his game.
“It was right before the 2003 season and I had just gone through a pretty rough year, with injuries and just not performing well. Just prior to Spring Training, I had been working so hard, and I remember coming to the realization that I was tired, just at the end of my rope.”
Rather than calling it quits, Linebrink looked for guidance.
“It was at that time that God really spoke to me and said, ‘When are you going to quit trying and starttrusting?’ And it was at that point I just gave up and I prayed, ‘God, I don’t know where You’re going to put me this year, I don’t know what plans You have for me, but I know there is a plan and I’m just going to trust that instead of being make-or-break every time I go out there; just trust that You’re going to put me in the right place at the right time, and I’m going to honor You with everything that I do and stop hanging on to my career so tight.”
That moment ended up being crucial. Linebrink came into his own on the mound and saw fruit off the field as well. “I think that’s really where my faith became real to me,” he says. “I experienced God for the first time in a real way.”
Linebrink went on to become one of the more trustworthy relievers in all of baseball for his remaining time in the game. Time and time again he came through in big, high-pressure situations.
His baseball career may be over now, but Linebrink still looks with excitement toward the future God has in store for him.
“I know that God’s faithful and I know that He’ll never forsake me. The things that He wanted for me were so much better than what I was wanting. He had plans for me and my baseball career, He’s got plans for me in my spiritual life with Him and He’s just going to continue to shape me and fit me and mold me until the final day when I get to go be wrapped up in His arms.” —Brian Rzeppa