Playing in the big leagues
By Christina Ishizu
From the time he was 11, Matthew Betsill knew he wanted to play professional baseball. This June, he fulfilled that dream by signing with the Minnesota Twins.
Matthew's mom signed him up for Little League baseball when he was 7 years old. "We were in a small town and there were maybe two homeschool families," she says. "I wanted him to be able to meet other children." Baseball was not Darlene Betsill's first choice, however. "I encouraged a low-injury sport, like golf. But he kept playing baseball with the golf clubs." Each day, Matthew honed his skills by practicing in the backyard with his dad and next-door neighbors. "I was watching TV one day, and found a pro game," Matthew remembers. "It was a really close game and as I watched it I hoped to be there one day."
Matthew's journey to the major leagues was not easy, but each opportunity that came along was orchestrated by God. Matthew's love for the game gave him dedication to the sport and the self-discipline required for intense training. "We taught him to work heartily as unto the Lord," Mrs. Betsill says, "but back then it was in the context of cleaning his room or helping around the house. Matthew took that principle and applied it just as appropriately to baseball."
Homeschooled from kindergarten through high school, Matthew found definite advantages for his interest in baseball. "We were able to work school around my baseball games," he says. Because the Betsills moved often, homeschooling allowed them to maintain an academic rhythm. "It also provided flexibility with the baseball schedule," Mrs. Betsill adds. "If we needed to be somewhere in the mornings, we could do school in the afternoon, or even take it with us in the car."
"Homeschooling isn't a handicap to being where you want to be," asserts Matthew. "Here I am, playing professional baseball. People told me all the time that I couldn't play ball if I wasn't in high school, but homeschooling is only a limitation if you let it be." Far from being a limitation, homeschooling gave Matthew the freedom to follow his dream. "Do whatever you can to support your kids," says Darlene. "They can do anything they want to do, with ability, love, and a desire from God."
As wonderful as it is to be playing professional baseball, Matthew says that the most important lesson he's learned is that it is just a game. "There are other things outside of baseball," he states. "It's important to keep your priorities straight. Don't let it own you."