(Photo courtesy of South Dakota State Athletics)

As I sat there in the car that night explaining everything to my parents, I also told them about the Bible verse the chaplain gave me.

No sooner had I mentioned that verse from Proverbs than God gave me a sign that He was listening. This was at 2 in the morning in rural Kansas, and for an hour we hadn't seen another car on the road. Not a single one. Until I mentioned that verse.

Moments later, a red cavalier passed us on the road, with a customized license plate. And as if God was speaking directly into my heart, the license plate said "PROV 356"

We have all wondered about God's existence at one point or another in our lives, but sometimes God makes it really clear for us. And for me, this was that moment.

As it turned out, that verse was completely right. I decided to lean on God, and not my own understanding, and everything actually seemed to work out for the best. I found out because I had been a professional player for less than 48 hours and I hadn't hired an agent, I was still eligible for my senior season at SDSU. And with a stronger belief in God's plan, I made the most of that season. I got to be on scholarship for the first time in my life, and I had the best season of my career. My fastball had now improved from 93 to 97 mph, and by the time that following year's draft rolled around, I was no longer a 23rd round pick.

I was now a 7th round pick with the Oakland A's, and I received a signing bonus that provided me some financial security for the first time in years.

 
 

(Photo courtesy of the Oakland Athletics)

And when it seemed like things couldn't get any better, they did. As I was making my journey through the minor leagues, I met someone. But this wasn't just "someone"... this was the most amazing person I've ever met in my life. I met Kati when I was in Omaha in the offseason before being traded to the Washington Nationals organization. My teammate from the previous season created an online profile for me without my consent. But it was a blessing in disguise. As I went to delete my account I stumbled across my future wife on the website ChristianMingle.com. To this day what a crazy gift a simple prank in my life had turned out to be! God brought us together in the most unlikely of circumstances.

Kati was a former athlete too, so she understood what I was going through. We clicked right away, and within a few months, as both my career and relationship were progressing, I kind of hit the panic button. I told her I didn't deserve her, because I knew the amount of work and time I was going to have to put in just to become a major league pitcher. She deserved someone who could devote more time to her, and even though I was in love with her, I thought she should be with somebody else.

But she didn't give up on me.

When I saw the unconditional love she had for me, which is similar to the unconditional love God has for all of us, I had a change of heart. Instead of thinking I couldn't become a major leaguer with her in the picture, I realized my big league dreams would never become true without her.

I didn't get back together with her so I could reach the big leagues - I got back together with her because I loved her. I still do. I proposed on Christmas Day of 2013, and today I get to call her my wife.

I still remember the proposal, because I had become part of a family tradition. Two years earlier, at her family's cabin in Idaho, her brother-in-law proposed to her sister. Then in 2013, with the whole family at the cabin, I got down on one knee. Two years after that, her brother proposed to his girlfriend there. So now the joke is that her younger brother needs to propose there too. So if any of you readers are looking for beautiful mountain views and a great man, there might be someone I'd like you to meet.

Being engaged to Kati was one of the best things that ever happened to me. Imagine spending every day with your best friend, and that's what being with Kati is like.

She also provided a huge amount of support in my career, because once I got to the big leagues, my dreams were on the verge of slipping away once again.

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Thomas Hager