Biola alumnus preaches Christ through baseball

After fizzing out in the majors, former Biola baseball player starts youth baseball ministry



Ben Orr, a Biola grad. started the sports ministry camp Called Up Baseball in 2002 with the help of Missionary Athletes International. Called Up Baseball employs three former minor league players, five former Biola players, and two students who currently play on Biola’s baseball team.

David West, Writer

Ben Orr never went on a mission’s trip in his four years at Biola. Being a missionary just wasn’t in his plans.

Instead, the two-sport athlete focused his energy on excelling at soccer in the fall and baseball in the spring. And he was good.

After an outstanding Biola career as a pitcher and first baseman – one in which he was selected as the GSAC Player of the Year and an All-American twice – Orr signed a professional contract with the Chicago Cubs in 2001.

“I always wanted to play pro ball,” he said. “That was the mindset. That’s what I was after.”

But the former Eagles standout experienced some unexpected failure. In his first year with the Cubs, Orr finished with a 0-4 record and a 9.20 earned-run-average.

During that struggle, Orr felt God was trying to tell him something.

“In my first year with the Cubs, I felt convicted,” he admitted. “I experienced a lot of spiritual dryness.”

But one church service would change a lot for Orr.

“At church, I really felt God telling me to use my gifts to glorify him,” he said. “I thought it through – I love baseball and I’ve always loved kids. That’s where the idea for the clinics began.”

After heading clinics for kids in his first professional season, the idea developed into a once-yearly camp.

Enter: Called Up Baseball.

Orr teamed up with Missionary Athletes International – a soccer-specific outreach – to help start the spiritually-focused baseball camp in 2002, which is run at the Eagles’ Baseball Diamond.

“I got minor league guys and former teammates together one winter,” Orr said. “We want to teach a high level of professional instruction, but most important thing is that we want the opportunity to teach these kids about Christ.”

Orr accomplished that in two ways: first, at the closure of every day of camp, Orr and his staff conduct a short “Character Value Study,” which breaks down an important figure in the Bible.

On top of that, on the last day of each camp is what’s known as “Decision Day,” in which every participant is given a card with three boxes they can check off: I want to be saved, I’m interested in Jesus, or I’m already saved.

“On Decision Day, we present the Gospel message to these kids,” Orr explained. “We answer questions like, ‘What is sin?’ ‘Why do we need forgiveness?’”

Orr revealed that a staggering 42 kids made first-time decisions at last summer’s camp. Summer sessions are fairly new, while the winter camp has been available since 2002.

As for the name of the life-changing camp, Orr explains it’s all about Christ’s free invitation.

“The truth is that we all have an invitation to be ‘called up,’” Orr said on his Web site, “While it is important to give it our best on the playing field … what will matter [when we die] is whether we accepted the call from God, who created us.”

Orr’s staff at Called Up Baseball includes three former minor leaguers, five former Biola baseball stars as well as two current players.

“For my staff, the camp helps in training to become sports ministers – it teaches them how to use sports as a platform to teach the Gospel,” he said.

One lead instructor is Brent LaVoie, former Biola baseball team member and current junior varsity coach at La Mirada High School.

“I’m a hands-on guy, so this camp has helped me be a better teacher,” LaVoie explained. “But we’re about impacting kids’ lives. We hope they’ll remember this forever – look back one day and say, ‘that’s the camp where I came to Christ.’”

Orr explained his goal is to attract the unsaved to the five-day camp.

“I want to attract people who aren’t Christians,” he said. “I don’t want to turn people off, so the quality instruction comes first. But if you visit the Web site and attend the camp, it’s clear this is a Christ-centered effort.”

Orr recalls one particular example of how the camp changed a boy’s life.

“Ryan, a local kid, accepted Christ last summer,” Orr said. “His dad was in and out of his life, so I took him on and mentored him after camp.”

Ryan has now been attending Orr’s church since November.

Even if a camper does not come to know Christ, Orr made it clear that planting seeds is essential – hoping the kids will comes back year after year.

For the former star athlete who never had time for missions work, Orr has learned how to use his passion for baseball to impact Christ’s kingdom.

“Baseball is a good tool,” he said. “It was a natural thing for me to use it as a stepping stone to share with these kids the Gospel.”

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