By: Robert Wilson
On a day Mississippi State junior pitcher Ross Mitchell might consider as one of the most disappointing moments of his career, Mitchell will instead remember it as one of his highlights.
The reason? Mitchell’s focus is on Jesus Christ and not himself.
Mitchell went undefeated in his first two seasons at Mississippi State, but lost for the first time earlier this year in a 7-6 decision to Santa Barbara in Arizona. But his disappointment turned to joy after helping disciple another brother in Christ.
“That’s how God works—in a moment when I could have gotten down on myself, He allowed me to share His Word with a teammate,” Mitchell said. “(First baseman) Wes Rea had been asking some questions about the Bible and we were able to get together after the game and study Revelation. Wes is a Christian, but had some questions and wanted to learn more about the Bible. It was definitely more important to me what we did after the game than what I did during the game. It was great that I was able to share God’s love with someone like Wes.”
“Ross called me later that evening and I thought that maybe he was discouraged after losing the game,” Mississippi State baseball chaplain Matt Jolley said. “I was ready to encourage him after the loss, but when I answered he was so excited and asked if I had a few minutes to talk. One of his teammates (Rea) who He had been praying for a lot wanted to meet later that night and talk about the book of Revelation. We spent the next 30 minutes on the phone going over the main themes of Revelation and the return of Christ. To Ross getting to share with his teammate that night was greater than anything that could have happened on the field that day or any day. His focus truly is on God’s glory and the gifts and talents God has given him to see others come to know the Lord and to encourage those who do know the Lord to seek after Him with all their heart.”
Mitchell admits he hasn’t always been as solid a Christian as he is now.
“I grew up in a Christian home (the son of Charlie and Gina Mitchell) and my parents explained to me what Jesus did for me and I accepted Christ in my living room when I was young,” Mitchell said. “I knew all about Jesus and about what He did.”
Mitchell, from Smyrna, Tennessee, became more committed to Christ after he came to Mississippi State. During Christmas break his freshman year Mitchell attended the Passion Conference in Atlanta.
“I didn’t cuss, smoke, or drink, but I wasn’t getting much fruit from being a Christian,” Mitchell said. “They asked a question at the Passion about giving up something that wasn’t a good influence. Mine was music. I wasn’t listening to good music. I was listening to dirty rap music and that didn’t glorify God. So one night I deleted all the bad songs and dedicated myself to only put clean music that glorified God.
“My first step in having a relationship with Christ was reading His Word every day and rewriting it in my own words. I read the Bible while I am riding the bus and try to get into His Word. You never know who is watching because I have teammates who say they have seen me doing that. You can either be a good or bad influence on people and I choose to live out my faith each and every moment. The devil makes you believe you can do everything yourself, but God teaches us to trust Him and always go to Him for guidance in our decisions. “
“Ross’ first couple years here at State, he would come to chapel and some of the team Bible studies, but outside of that he wasn’t very outspoken about his faith,” Jolley said. “When he came back from Christmas break two years ago he was just a totally different person. God really used that to get him off the bench and into the game and he has been seeking to know the Lord and make Him known ever since.”
Mitchell’s family knows baseball. His father, Charlie, and his uncle, John, both played in the major leagues. And Ross is on that same track. He was named an All-American after going 13-0 with a 1.53 earned run average and helped the Bulldogs to a national championship runner-up finish at the College World Series. He has been one of the top pitchers this year as well, and helped the Bulldogs reach another NCAA Tournament appearance.
“As determined and fearless as Ross is on the mound, he is the same in his relationship with Christ,” Jolley said. “Every day he is reading God’s Word and writing all he learns in his journal and every week when we meet he always has questions about things he has been reading. Ross has such a desire to grow and to see others grow. He is constantly going out to speak to local schools, youth groups, and FCA meetings. Ross knows that he will only have this platform for a short time and wants to use it to share about the Lord as much as he can.”