When you think of baseball closers you might think of a tall, lanky pitcher. In the world of baseball, closers should be more Goliath than David.
Unless you’re armed like OBU’s Chad Rhoades, that is. Then you can be more the David among aluminum-wielding giants.
Closers are charged with coming into a baseball game with a slim lead, often with the opposing team threatening to tie or win the game. They aren’t there to pick up an individual win. They certainly don’t want the loss. What they’re after is the save the statistical term for finishing the game without relinquishing the lead.
It’s more than baseball for Chad, who, at a skinny 5-10, desires to lead his team to victory and even more, to be an Christlike example. Chad accepted Christ as a 14-year-old when his pastor at Southside Baptist Church in Bowie, Texas, pulled him aside and asked him point blank if he knew Jesus.
“I just broke down,” Chad says. “We were at a pizza party and he called me aside into a room and asked me if I was saved. I told him no and he asked me if I’d like to receive Christ. I did. We prayed right there.”
Four years later at Falls Creek, Chad surrendered to the ministry. He sees himself as a baseball chaplain when his playing days are through. He’s getting on the job training right now.
“I want to be a sports chaplain,” he says. “That’s my ministry field. I feel like I can relate to the guys and know what they’re going through.”
But first he hopes to play professionally, if that opportunity presents itself. Make no mistake, Chad has the tools to perform at a high level.
After a year of junior college, he and his 95 mile-an-hour fastball seemed headed to Texas Tech, but a back injury erased the opportunity. Without a scholarship to Tech and without the desire to return to junior college, Chad opted to spend his summer pitching in a Wichita Falls league. Then he got a call from OBU baseball coach Bobby Cox.
“I had lost my scholarship to Texas Tech and junior college was a bad situation,” Chad says. “Coach Cox called and I came for a visit. I had a plan, but I began to realize that this was God’s plan. I just had to let him take control of my life. I really wanted to play at a Big 12 school,” he says. “I wanted to be at one of those D-1 schools. None of those offered ministry as a degree. Ending up at OBU was a blessing in disguise.”
Chad became a closer for the first time at OBU. His back wouldn’t let him pitch the long innings of a starter. He picked up six saves last season for the Bison and then went to Liberal, Kansas, to pitch for the Liberal Bee Jays, a member of the semi-pro Jayhawk League and was that team’s closer, getting 20 appearances. He then pitched for Coppell in the Texas Collegiate League, which is chiefly comprised of Big 12 Conference players. He worked roughly 20 innings there and picked up two saves in Coppell’s best-of-three championship series victory.
“I really learned how to close this summer at Liberal,” Chad says. “I was just going through the motions last year. Now, I think I’ll be 10 times the closer I was.”
“He may have the best arm we’ve ever had here,” says OBU coach Bobby Cox, who has logged 20 years on Bison Hill. “He’s a great example on the field and off the field. Chad’s the kind of person you want in your program.”
Chad hopes to impact the team beyond the playing field. He began a Bible study with the team this spring. “Everywhere I’ve played, there have only been a few Christians,” he says. “It puts you in the spotlight. You stand out when you’re following Christ. By the end of the year, a few guys see that it’s not just a show and they’ll start asking questions.”
Some searcher may wander to the plate and Chad Rhoades will make his pitch. And there will be a save.