Photos by Roy Son
Story by Sean Jensen
When he gets an autograph request, Twins pitcher Kyle Gibson signs his name and adds Ephesians 2:8-10, one of his favorite Bible verses.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
So when Gibson is asked about recently encouraging Alison Hinck, a White Bear Lake Area High School senior, he downplays what he did.
“I feel that maybe that’s what God saw that she needed in her life at that moment,” Gibson said, “so he had me do it.”
In Fort Myers, Fla., during spring training, Minnesota FCA director Glenn Martin visited with Gibson, his parents and his wife Elizabeth and daughter Hayden.
“I want to do something to bless FCA because FCA blessed me and my wife,” Gibson told Martin.
Gibson then shared an idea.
He would host an FCA group at Target Field and provide each person a ticket, a behind-the-scenes tour, including an on-field visit during batting practice, and an inspirational message from him.
Martin was floored.
“He’s paying it forward,” Martin said. “What an incredible blessing, not only for Minnesota FCA but all these kids who are going to be touched by him.
“Alison is one of those stories.”
Gibson hosts at least one FCA group during each Twins home stand.
But Gibson is careful not to use a certain word to explain his feelings about helping someone else.
“I’m not going to say I’m proud to do it, because I don't want to be prideful,” Gibson said. “But I feel it’s my duty.”
Gibson enjoyed his upbringing in Greenfield, Ind., and he’s thankful for the support and direction of his parents. He shares with students one of the defining moments of his life, when he first learned to trust in God’s plan and not his own.
Before Gibson’s freshman year, his father Harold lobbied hard to have a 30-team World Series tournament in their town. But two months before the tournament, Kyle Gibson suffered a right elbow injury that required surgery.
While his friends played for the massive trophy, Gibson raked the fields and watched the games.
“That was very difficult,” Gibson said.
But he realized how much everything about him revolved around the game. Then, at an FCA event, Gibson shifted his focus away from himself as a baseball player but himself as a whole person.
After his senior year of high school, Gibson was drafted in the 36th round by the Philadelphia Phillies, and he was offered baseball scholarships. He decided to go to the University of Missouri.
In Columbia, Mo., Gibson met Scott Ashton, a former collegiate baseball coach who was on the FCA staff. Ashton hosted a Bible study at his home, which Gibson regularly attended.
The two hit it off.
“Some nights it would be Kyle and I at the house,” Ashton said. “But it was great, because we had some of our best talks.”
Of course they shared a mutual interest in baseball. But Ashton was excited to pour his faith and experience into someone, and Gibson was excited to receive that.
Gibson and his then-girlfriend Elizabeth, who was a Tigers’ gymnast, also attended FCA meetings.
Gibson also enjoyed spending time with Ashton and his family, which now features five children. Once, Gibson babysat for Ashton.
When Ashton and his wife returned from their date, Gibson and the kids had made a mess because of an intense wrestling match.
“My boys just loved Kyle,” Ashton said. “They’d ask if he’d come over and watch them again.”
By his junior year, Gibson was projected as a Top-10 pick. But a stress fracture in his right forearm hurt his draft stock, and he was picked 22nd overall by the Twins.
After working his way through the Twins farm system, he suffered an elbow injury that ultimately required Tommy John surgery in November 2011.
In his message at Target Field, Gibson invites a student to strap on a very heavy backpack. Gibson reveals that the bag is saddled with a big rock.
He challenges students to identify the big rock in their life.
Gibson’s was baseball.
So after Tommy John surgery, Gibson responded optimistically and rebounded nicely.
On June 29, 2013, against the Kansas City Royals, Gibson made his Major League debut in Minneapolis. He pitched six innings and earned the win.
Ashton, of course, was there.
Ashton and Gibson have remained close, with the former reminding the latter to be humble about the trappings of playing professional baseball and to honor Christ today.
That’s why Gibson approached Martin.
“The number of kids going from high school to college that walk away from the faith because of culture and things that are going on is just so high,” Gibson said. “FCA was really important to my wife and I in college.
“These kids could possibly have a similar impact from FCA that I had.”
Check out the slideshow by clicking here.