Matt Carpenter, first baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals, has a tattoo on the inside of his right arm that says, “Matthew 19:26,” his ultimate favorite Scripture verse. The verse reads, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Carpenter shares, “There is a story behind this verse. When I first had the verse put on my arm and before I really understood the verse, I was relating it to baseball. I just had Tommy John surgery and ‘with God’ I was going to do the impossible which was hopefully make it to the major leagues.”
Later, as Carpenter studied Scripture, he found the deeper meaning of that verse and learned the biblical teaching behind it. Matt continues, “The lesson here actually began in verse 23 when Jesus tells his disciples saying, ‘It is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven,’ and Jesus goes on saying, ‘It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’ The disciples then asked, ‘Who then can be saved?’”
“That’s when Jesus said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’ Matthew 19:26 is more special to me now than when I first had it done my junior year in college.” Jesus was talking about Salvation through Him.
Three Time All-Star
Matt Carpenter was drafted in the 13th round in the 2009 Major League draft. He made his Major League debut on June 4, 2011, as a third baseman. Matt, a 3-time All-Star (2013,14,16), had an outstanding season in 2013 when he broke Stan Musial’s franchise record for doubles in a season by a left-handed batter. Matt finished the season leading the Major League in hits (199), doubles (55), and runs scored (126), while batting a cool .318, all which led to receiving the Silver Slugger Award for second base and placing fourth in the National League MVP race.
His major league success should not be a surprise. He almost grew up on a baseball diamond. Matt played his prep baseball at Elkins High School in Prosper, Texas, under his father, Rick, who has won numerous championships including one national. Matt, whose childhood hero was Lance Berkman and was a teammate with Berkman in the 2011-12 season with the Cardinals, was a high school second-team All-American and a high school teammate to James Loney, a professional baseball first baseman. Matt left Elkins High with the record of most career hits. Matt is the oldest child of Rick and Tammie Carpenter. He has a younger brother, Tyler, who is married with a child on the way, lives in Houston, and played two years in the New York Mets system. Matt has a sister, Kaitlyn, who lives in Dallas and is soon to be married.
“My wife, Mackenzie, and I will be married seven years this December 10th,” states Matt, “we were high school sweethearts just like mom and dad were over 40 years ago. We have a little girl, Kinley Rae, and a boy on the way in November. It was very special we had Jake Arrieta, a college teammate who now pitches for the Chicago Cubs, as a groomsman at our wedding. We go head-to-head now on the playing field.” Matt and Mackenzie met at the baseball field. “My dad coached for many years; and before I started playing for him, I would watch his games to support him and the team. Mackenzie has an older brother who played for my dad, and she would go support her brother and the team. That is how we first met, and we started dating when we were a little older.
“He Loves Jesus”
Adam Wainwright, a starting pitcher and a Cardinal teammate, shares, “Matt is a strong brother in Christ. Matt has a good family at home, and he is a good accountability partner for me. I have watched Matt grow over the years as a Cardinal player and as a brother in Christ. It is clear he loves Jesus. He is like all of us. He needs the help to grow; he needs the support of other Believers to help move along on his spiritual journey. But he is great to have in the clubhouse when we need support or a shoulder to lean on.”
Carpenter attended Texas Christian University (TCU) in Fort Worth, Texas, where he played baseball five years. He received a redshirt year to recover from Tommy John surgery. Matt left TCU with three second-team All Mountain West Conference awards (2006,08,09) and having broken school records for games played (241) and at-bats (843) and finished second in hits (263), doubles (57), and walks (150). Matt graduated from TCU with a degree in communications. Mackenzie, a high school athlete, attended Texas A&M University, graduating with a degree in health and nutrition. Matt and his family make their off-season home in Fort Worth, close to TCU and to Christ Church. It is a way to stay connected to the University.
The Cardinal team chaplain comments, “It is a privilege to do a little life with Matt, and watch him live out his faith. He not only does that in his job, but also with his family. He loves Mackenzie and Kinley well. His desire to consistently show them Jesus is worth making note of. Matt is a solid man who continues to make a difference and intentionally grow in his relationship with Christ.”
Looking back, Matt comments about growing up in a Christian home, “I was lucky to be raised in a Christian home with parents who are Believers. I was baptized at a young age (11) and accepted Jesus as my Savior.” His walk with the Lord took on a new look when he was in college. Matt continues, “I really started to understand what it actually meant to follow Jesus and to live a life to serve the Lord. My spiritual growth has continued during my professional career to this point here with the St. Louis Cardinals.”
“Giving Him All the Glory”
Matt leans on the Scripture that’s basic to the Christian faith, John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that who so ever believes on Him should not perish but have Eternal Life.” He sees that ever since he made the decision to follow Christ, there has been a huge change in his life. “My decision has been the center of everything I believe. That is, how I treat other people, how I treat my wife and my kids, how I react to this game (of baseball), and understanding my purpose. Christ, being in the center of all this, makes it possible.” Matt continues, “For me, my personal relationship with Christ is what I lean on in all struggles and hardships but also my successes. Jesus is the reason for all of it, giving him all the Glory for the things that happen in my life and for what’s to come.”
Mike Matheny, manager of the Cardinals, shares this about his team leader, “Matt has been a consistent voice in our clubhouse as a way he goes about his business as baseball player but also as a man of God. He is a guy who has made a commitment to Jesus Christ and knows that there is a way this should look in action. He does a nice job of just serving our guys well and praying for that chance of giving an account of the hope that he has without necessarily beating them over the head with his Bible. He is trying to kill them with kindness. He loves them well by serving them and making it about them. It opens a lot of opportunities and doors for him to share the hope that he has in Christ.”
“My Calling is to Become a Coach”
Matt and Mackenzie have attended Pro Athletes Outreach conferences often and plan to continue going. They feel it has been a great experience where they worship and study God’s word with other players and their families. Matt comments, “I witness my faith at faith events as well as spending time sharing with other ballplayers. I feel my calling is to become a coach when I am done playing baseball. I want to have an impact on kids. I want to spend time with kids and be a mentor for them.” Jesus “did not come to be served, but to serve…” (Matthew 20:28 and Mark 10:45)
Written by Bruce A. Darnall, Lake Mills, Wisconsin
Photos by Billy Hurst, St. Louis Cardinals