John Smoltz, who I have followed for his entire major league career with great fan interest, pitches tonight against the Washington Nationals in Atlanta. If he strikes out four batters he will have struck out 3,000 batters in his career. By this feat he will become the 16th pitcher in Major League Baseball (MLB) history to accomplish this illustrious mark of excellence. Smoltz already holds a record no one else is close to: 200 plus wins and 150 plus saves. He has done all of this with arm problems and undergone major surgery once and minor procedures several more times, missing several years of time in his career. At one time he even had a baseball psychologist help him try to control his mental state on game day when he was young and often lacked control.
I have met John Smoltz, when I did chapel for the Atlanta Braves. He is a wonderful man and an outstanding Christian in his clubhouse and community. He allowed my daughter and I to sit in his sky box and we met his young children as well. John is what is good about baseball. A dedicated man he is also a hard worker who respects the game and plays it the right way.
Someday I would love to be at Cooperstown when he is inducted into the Hall of Fame. Along with his teammate Tom Glavine and former-teammate Greg Maddux, this threesome was, when they were together, one of the best in baseball history. It was a joy to meet them all and to watch them pitch many times.
Smoltz has had to endure the most adversity thus I respect his numbers as much as those of any great pitcher. I believe his faith and dedication have helped him immensely.
In an article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Saturday John noted that the toughest hitter he ever faced was Tony Gwynn. Now there was a ballplayer’s ballplayer. Smoltz says he never struck Gwynn out. (He is wrong, he did it once!) But Gywnn was 30 for 65 against Smoltz in his career, a .462 career average. I doubt anyone else could say that who hit against John that many times.
I one asked a former major league pitcher, who was in our home for dinner, "Who was the toughest hitter you ever faced?" He said, "Tony Gwynn." I said, "How did you pitch him?" He answered, "Right down the middle of the plate. There was no way to get him out but to throw a strike and hope for the best!" That is called R-E-S-P-E-C-T.