Mormons to Watch for the Next Six Months

April 7, 2010 | 44 comments
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Last year I looked at the information that many Mormons want to know each April, the understanding we want of the changes that have happened in the last six months and what that will mean for the next six months. Its time to do it again.

That’s right, its baseball season again.

If you follow baseball, (and maybe even if you don’t) you may find it interesting to know which players you see are Mormon, and who might make it to the Majors this year. The team you follow may include a Mormon player you don’t know about, or you might like to know about the Mormon players on visiting teams.

Last year I updated my list of the Mormons  who are playing in the Majors right now and who might make it (or make it back) during the year. [If you are curious, my list includes about 70 Mormons (including inactive LDS Church members and others with Mormon heritage) who have played in the majors.]

[I don't claim my information is complete or absolutely accurate. Some of it comes from information I collected years ago, and some comes from personal information that I've not yet been able to verify in documentation. Any clarification or additional information would be very useful.]

So, here is a quick guide to the Mormons now playing on a major league team, or who were at spring training this year, and therefore may be brought up to the majors during the year:

Current Roster Players:

  • John Buck — starting catcher — Toronto Blue Jays
  • Bobby Crosby — backup shortstop — Pittsburgh Pirates
  • Jacoby Ellsbury — starting outfielder — Boston Red Sox
  • Kyle Farnsworth — right handed bullpen pitcher — Kansas City Royals
  • Jeremy Guthrie — starting pitcher (right handed) — Baltimore Orioles
  • Roy Halladay — starting pitcher (right handed) — Philadelphia Phillies
  • Matt Lindstrom — closer (right handed) – Houston Astros
  • Brandon Lyon — right handed bullpen pitcher — Houston Astros
  • Mitch Maier — backup outfielder — Kansas City Royals
  • Mitch Talbot — starting pitcher (right handed) — Cleveland Indians

Minor League Players who may make the majors:

  • Matt Carson — left field — Oakland As organization
  • Troy Cate — left handed pitcher — Toronto Blue Jays organization
  • Brandon Duckworth — right handed bullpen pitcher — Philadelphia Phillies organization
  • Sean Estes — left handed pitcher — Washington Nationals organization
  • Nate Gold — first baseman — Texas Rangers organization
  • Cate Iorg — Shortstop — Detroit Tigers organization
  • Mitch Jones — right field — Atlanta Braves organization
  • Jared Price — catcher — Chicago White Sox organization
  • Chris Shelton — Houston Astros organization

Minor League Players who may be Mormon:

  • Jordan Smith — right field — Cinncinnati Reds organization
  • Kam Mickolio — pitcher — Baltimore Orioles organization
  • Mike Gosling — right field — Cleveland Indians organization
  • Willie Eyre — pitcher — Texas Rangers organization
  • Brad Thompson — pitcher — Kansas City Royals organization

Notes:

  • Jeremy Guthrie and Roy Halladay remain the strongest of the Mormon players, and I understand both are active members of the LDS Church. Guthrie is the ace of the Orioles pitching staff, and has been for a few years, while Halladay was the ace of Toronto’s staff before coming to the Phils, and seems likely to be the ace of that staff also (and he won the Phils’ opener).
  • Two Mormons start the year in the majors for the first time this year:  Mitch Maier, a backup outfielder with the Kansas City Royals, and Mitch Talbot, who made the Cleveland Indians’ starting rotation. One who started last year, Brandon Duckworth, starts the year back in the minors.
  • Many of these players have served LDS missions, including (at least) Jeremy Guthrie, Matt Lindstrom, and Cate Iorg.
  • Chad Hermansen, Eli Iorg, Jason Johnson, Dave Veres, and Jaret Wright have apparently retired or otherwise left baseball.

Enjoy the season!!

44 Responses to Mormons to Watch for the Next Six Months

  1. danithew on April 7, 2010 at 8:21 am

    Awesome … thanks for putting this together.

    [But how is it that there is a Mormon on that team from Boston and not one with the New York Yankees?]

  2. RT on April 7, 2010 at 8:23 am

    Jacoby Ellsbury is mormon? Really??

  3. queuno on April 7, 2010 at 8:56 am

    Re Ellsbury: http://www.boston.com/sports/baseball/redsox/gallery/03_30_08_ellsbury?pg=2

    He was raised Mormon but my guess is that he wouldn’t call himself that anymore (if the one-paragraph snippet in the link above is any indication).

  4. Justin on April 7, 2010 at 9:07 am

    Re Halladay: the cover story in last week’s Sports Illustrated stated that Halladay and his wife were raised Mormon, but “they are now nonpracticing.”

    http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1167875/index.htm

    An error?

  5. Kent Larsen on April 7, 2010 at 9:21 am

    Re: Ellsbury and Halladay (and Farnsworth and others on the list): I do NOT look at whether or not these people are active or not, let alone whether or not they are still members of the Church.

    After all, BOTH Mormons who are in baseball’s Hall of Fame are inactive, and one was only an active member for perhaps a couple of years after his family joined the Church.

    Anyone want to guess who the two Hall of Famers are?

  6. Kent Larsen on April 7, 2010 at 9:25 am

    BTW, I should add that I dislike excluding people based on their activity in the Church. I worry that making judgments about how worthy or active someone is will simply alienate them and feed into our unrighteous desires to be part of the “in club.”

  7. Zack on April 7, 2010 at 9:30 am

    The next six months? Try, the next seven/eight months if you cheer for a good team. Go Phils!

    And Roy Halladay?! No way! That ridiculous house he bought is probably somewhere in the far reaches of my stake. I’ll have to go to more games this year to see if I can reactivate him. Yeah, honey. It’s missionary work. That’s why I need to buy those front row tickets behind the dugout to every fifth game.

  8. Benjamin on April 7, 2010 at 9:33 am

    Harmon Killebrew is one of the LDS Hall-of-Famers. . . can’t think of who the other one is, and I don’t want to cheat by looking it up.

    Re: Ellsbury, the Red Sox have a Mormon but the Yankees don’t because the Red Sox are the only true and living baseball team upon the face of the whole earth :)

  9. Justin on April 7, 2010 at 9:39 am

    Re: Ellsbury and Halladay (and Farnsworth and others on the list): I do NOT look at whether or not these people are active or not, let alone whether or not they are still members of the Church.

    My comment pertained to your note regarding Halladay’s church activity (copied below), not to his appearance on your list.

    “Jeremy Guthrie and Roy Halladay remain the strongest of the Mormon players, and I understand both are active members of the LDS Church.”

  10. Kent Larsen on April 7, 2010 at 9:42 am

    Bejamin, them’s fightin’ words!!

    So, “the only true and living baseball team” only wins the series once in 86 years, huh? [GRIN]

    You are right that Killebrew is the first of the LDS Hall-of-Famers. Unlike the other, he does come to church once in a while and has active family members, according to the reports I’ve heard (from someone close enough that I could probably get an introduction).

    The other no one knows because he was only an active member for a couple of years as a youth.

  11. Kent Larsen on April 7, 2010 at 9:43 am

    Justin (9), my mistake. You are correct.

  12. Zack on April 7, 2010 at 9:50 am

    The other is Dennis Eckersley. Sorry, Mormons, but Dale Murphy will never get in.

  13. Zack on April 7, 2010 at 9:57 am

    Please. How can anyone be talking about any team other than the Phillies being the only true and living baseball team on the face of the earth in the context of this thread. He just read that the Phillies have the keys of the Priesthood in their number one starter.

    Also, clearly Jimmy Rollins is a prophet. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jimmy_Rollins#2007:_.22The_team_to_beat.22_and_MVP By their fruits ye shall know them.

  14. Benjamin on April 7, 2010 at 10:46 am

    Kent: I know, I’m provocative :)

    Zack: Any team that has stared down the Yankees in the World Series is a team I can like. Obviously, I was going over the top with my comment. I really like the Phils and hope/expect to see your boys go deep into the postseason.

    True, Murphy will never get the votes. If there were a wing of the HoF for players who led the league in classiness, he’d be a shoe-in. But is overall body of work isn’t quite there. Too bad; he’s as good an ambassador for the Church as we’ve ever had, I think.

  15. Kent Larsen on April 7, 2010 at 11:23 am

    Zack (12), you nabbed it. Only one more trivia question to get the prize: What are “the saddest of possible words” (sorry, no Mormon connection on this one).

    Benjamin (14): I think your provocativeness is mutual!

    You’re clearly right about Murphy. He’s also one of the few Mormons to join the Church in the dugout (so to speak). IIRC he even converted a teammate too (don’t quote me, I’d have to look it up to be sure).

    FWIW, I’ve heard non-Mormon broadcasters praise Murphy on air for the kind of class act he is.

    Also, re#8, it should be noted that the 1926 Yankees included the first Mormon to play major league ball. Anyone want to guess who?

  16. Tim J on April 7, 2010 at 11:28 am

    Jeremy Guthrie was my cousin’s mission companion.

  17. Tim J on April 7, 2010 at 11:30 am

    “FWIW, I’ve heard non-Mormon broadcasters praise Murphy on air for the kind of class act he is.”

    There’s a story that Bo Jackson tells in his biography “Bo Know Bo” that has he, Dale Murphy and another sports star of that era (can’t remember who) at some Vegas-type show. They were backstage when a bunch of female dancers came off the stage and started changing outfits right in front of them. BO and the other player gawked. Bo said Dale covered his eyes with his hands.

  18. Steve H. on April 7, 2010 at 12:37 pm

    Which one of these was the high school athlete features on the cover of SI last year?

  19. Scott B. on April 7, 2010 at 12:43 pm

    I love baseball. Kent, how about updating this feature a time or two during the season with stats or such? It’d be a little work, but fun to read.

  20. queuno on April 7, 2010 at 1:07 pm

    I guess it means more to me if they’re active than if they’ve abandoned it. Counting those whose ties to the Church are basically a membership record seems a bit smacks of celebrity Mormonism. It’s not a case of deliberately trying to exclude anyone so much as I’m a bit disturbed by the need to *include* them just because they once darkened the door of a chapel.

    And for the record, I think both the Yankees and Red Sox are evil incarnate.

  21. baseballguy on April 7, 2010 at 1:20 pm

    Ellsbury’s mom was part of the lamanite placement program in SLC.

  22. Grant on April 7, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    Jack Morris received 52% of the Hall of Fame vote in 2010, up significantly from a couple of years earlier. It is possible we could add a third member in the next few years.

  23. Zack on April 7, 2010 at 1:47 pm

    Well, I grew up as a Cubs fan, so Tinkers to Evers to Chance isn’t even tough.

    I’m trying to think who the first Mormon pro baseball player was. And I keep thinking Tony Lazerri. The timing’s just about right. But it can’t be him because he’s in the Hall of Fame and would have to be included in the other trivia question. I think he keeps coming to mind because he played for the Salt Lake minor league team (the Bees?) and I think he set the minor league single-season homerun record with them or something. Who’s the 1926 Yankee you’re looking for?

  24. Kent Larsen on April 7, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    Steve H. (18), I didn’t see that one.

    Scott B. (19), I’m somewhat interested in doing that (and I did it at one time in about 2000 or 2001 when I was running Mormon News. But it takes more time than you might think, and I’d rather have much more interest (and be farther along with a certain project) before I did it.

  25. Kent Larsen on April 7, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    Queuno (20), I think the difference between our statements is one of who it means more to. I can see how it would mean more to you that they are active. But I suspect that it means more to them, and to non-LDS Church members, if they are included despite activity level.

    Killibrew is a good example. As I understand it, he isn’t active. BUT, he does consider himself a Mormon. Should we hurt feelings by not including him?

    Of course, a lot of this is a moot point. Its hard enough just finding out whether or not someone is Mormon (unless they almost wear it on their sleeve, like Guthrie). Keeping track of whether or not someone is inactive is quite difficult, and, in cases where it has happened, knowing whether someone has been excommunicated requires them to say something. I’ve done enough searching to know — its almost impossible to know, unless the person makes it public.

    i don’t think its worth making the distinction.

  26. Kent Larsen on April 7, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    Grant (22), was that the writers vote or the old timer’s vote?

    In any case, it would be great if he made it.

    Zack (23), I see you are not only a fan, but a baseball history buff too. Katie Casey would be proud of you.

    For those who don’t know, These are the saddest of possible words is a poetic lament over the Cub’s 1906-1910 heralded double play combination, Joe Tinker (SS), Johnny Evers (2nd) and Frank Chance (1st).

    Zack, the first Mormon to play in Major League Baseball was Spencer Adams (1923, 1925-1927), who, because there was no pensions in baseball at that time, spent most of his life working at Hill Air Force Base. He died in 1970.

    Oh, and for those who don’t know, Katie Casey can be found in the text of the Baseball Anthem.

  27. Zack on April 7, 2010 at 3:35 pm

    With regard to activity levels, it should also be noted that it’s pretty much impossible to be a baseball player AND an “active” church member for more than half of the year. If Roy Halladay decided that he wanted to come back to activity in the Church, he might be able available to attend his ward about a four or five times between now and late October/early November. The rest of the Sundays, he’ll have games and/or be on the road. So “activity” seems like a particularly difficult metric when we’re considering professional baseball players.

  28. Mark B. on April 7, 2010 at 3:39 pm

    Eric Byrnes (now playing for the Mariners) is my son’s wife’s 2nd cousin–I think. I’m not sure if that branch of the family (or Eric himself) are Mormons. Anybody know?

  29. Eric Chambers on April 7, 2010 at 4:13 pm

    I’m of the opinion that Dale Murphy’s body of work is hurt quite a bit by the outrageous numbers that came out of baseball during what we now must refer to as the “Steroid Era”. I maintain that many stars of the late 70′s and early to mid 80′s have been unable to breakthrough in HOF voting because their numbers seemed so paltry to those of the 90′s and 2000′s. I’m not saying that Murphy would make the Hall but I can’t help but feel his vote totals would be much higher.

    I mean seriously, Brady Anderson may have hit 50 homers one year but does anyone really think he was half the power hitter Murphy was?

  30. Spencer on April 7, 2010 at 5:54 pm

    In an effort to keep the list tidy… Mike Gosling (LHP in the Indians organization) is not Mormon. Fantastic guy though.

  31. Rick on April 7, 2010 at 11:08 pm

    I played high school ball with Mike Gosling and with his older brother and he is not LDS. You are right though Spencer, both were great guys.

  32. reed russell on April 8, 2010 at 4:02 am

    Late last night, Kyle Farnsworth got the “win” for the Royals!

  33. Kent Larsen on April 8, 2010 at 4:33 am

    Reed, I do have to say that when Farnsworth was here with the Yanks he was inconsistent. He sometimes had great stuff, but not quite often enough. Perhaps he’s gotten better there?

  34. Alison Moore Smith on April 8, 2010 at 1:59 pm

    Minor league players who may be Mormon needs the addition of Steve Martin.

  35. Nathan on April 8, 2010 at 3:12 pm

    From http://www.famousmormons.net/ here is a comprehensive list of all Mormons to make it to the Majors (4 pages): http://famousmormons.net/baseball.html (needs to be updated with new organizations for certain players tho)

  36. reed russell on April 8, 2010 at 3:45 pm

    Farnsworth’s win wasn’t pretty – but still a big win. (Nice tats, too.)

    Not happy at all to see John Buck leave KC, but we all wish him the best.

  37. Thom Carter on April 8, 2010 at 6:21 pm

    FYI – The recent Sports Illustrated article on Roy Halliday indicated that he and his wife are both members but are NOT active.

  38. ross hurst on April 8, 2010 at 6:49 pm

    Bruce Hurst is in the Red Sox Hall od Fame. His son Kyle RM Sweden is in the Angels minor league system.

  39. Kent Larsen on April 8, 2010 at 8:16 pm

    Nathan, the Famous Mormons list is NOT comprehensive. There are a total of at least 70 Mormons who have played in the majors. That list is missing at least 30% of the Mormons who have played in the majors.

    In general, I’m very suspicious of the information on Famous Mormons — the standard there seems to be simply that “someone said they are Mormon.” It also seems suspiciously skewed towards the Utah/Intermountain West.

  40. Brian on April 8, 2010 at 10:51 pm

    Nate Gold is retired from baseball. He was released from the Ranger’s organization in July last year.

    http://trsullivan.mlblogs.com/archives/2009/07/nate_gold_released.html

  41. Geoff B on April 11, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    Kent, congrats on concentrating on the greatest sport ever. This is truly an exciting time of the year when we start thinking about baseball.

    These “Mormons in sports” and “Mormons in politics” things are always problematic because it’s tough to keep track of activity. A lot of Mormons start going to other churches but keep on being called Mormon. Is a guy with Mormon parents drinking a Heineken a Mormon, especially when he doesn’t call himself Mormon anymore?

  42. Kent Larsen on April 11, 2010 at 11:12 pm

    Geoff:

    I tried to deal with the activity issue above (comment #6), but let me approach it from another angle:

    I just reviewed the current New York Yankee’s roster. Just one member of the team is actually a New Yorker (i.e., born in New York City), and one additional member was born in what could be called Yankee territory (within say 100 miles of the city) [want to guess who?]. More than 1/4th of the team wasn’t even born in the U.S.!

    So if I have no problem rooting for a team that represents my city, but isn’t made up of people from my city, why wouldn’t I follow a group of players who are connected to my religion, even though they don’t follow or no longer believe my religion.

    Being a fan is all about making some kind of connection. Clearly our society doesn’t have any problem with tenuous or non-existent connections.

    I’m just finding baseball players that Mormons can connect to, no matter how tenuous the connection.

  43. looking for a name on April 12, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    Baseball – the perfect way to end the grayness and boredom of winter!

    Interestingly, Buck and Lyon played together through high school (the best Utah HS baseball program ;)

  44. Sox Fan on April 16, 2010 at 5:22 pm

    I heard from a young lady with the last name Eckersley that after retirement he actually started attending again. Could be wrong, though.

    On my mission, we actually sent Navajo missionary that requested to be transferred to the Madras, Oregon (ward/branch, Ellsbury’s hometown) to try to keep re-activate him. Didn’t work….but GO SOX!

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