Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Steven Souza Jr. has been around the world and back, sharing Jesus’ message. It’s been tough to see sexually abused girls in the Philippines, or potential child trafficking in Thailand. But he takes a common-sense approach to it.
“It reminds you of how thankful you are,” Souza says in the clubhouse before a recent game.
“If you want to see Jesus, you go to those places.”
The Arizona Diamondbacks are celebrating “Faith and Family Night” at the 6:40 p.m. Friday, August 24, game against the Seattle Mariners. A church will sing the national anthem, and MercyMe will perform a postgame concert.
Born in Everett, Washington, Souza grew up religious, but it waned when he was playing in the minor league.
“I’ve gone to church since I was a kid,” Souza says. “Like a lot of Americans, I fell into a group who claims to know God. Jesus died on the cross. I didn’t know what that meant. I didn’t know what it meant to basically pursue him and everything he offers us.”
In 2012, the same year he was baptized in Everett, Souza traveled to Thailand to minister, which Souza says was “difficult to swallow.”
“To see the way girls were treated over there, how women were viewed,” he says quietly. “We were walking around downtown Bangkok and we saw a 14-year-old girl with a 50-something year-old man.
“It broke my heart.”
He was a little more prepared when, in 2015, Souza traveled to the Philippines with his wife, Mikaela, and the now-team chaplain Brian Hommel to learn about a ministry that moved abused and sexually abused girls out of households and gave them a new life. The ministry and Souza taught the girls about Jesus and helped them through school and college.
“The stories were gut wrenching,” he says.
A Gilbert resident and former Milwaukee Brewers player, Hommel describes Souza as “passionate about his journey with God.”
Through Major League Baseball, Souza has been able to spread the message.
“It’s hard,” Souza acknowledges. “You get a lot of attacks up here. A lot of people will never say this. We’re naturally inclined to please people and we’re worried about what people think, instead of what God thinks.
“When you get up here (to the Majors), there are a lot of people giving opinions on your life. Really, the No. 1 thing that matters is what does God think about us. There’s that temptation to please man and fight for their approval, like Saul did, which is what David did. That’s the battle.”
Having a 19-month-old son doesn’t allow the Souzas to travel much. Instead, they visit Phoenix Children’s Hospital, St. Vincent de Paul and other charities.
“We hear the children’s stories and make them laugh and have fun,” he says. “We hang out and just be there. I want to be a light in a tough time. That’s what I’m here for.”
Hommel says he is inspired by the Major League Baseball players and umpires he meets with on Sundays.
“My goal is to work myself out of a job,” says Hommel, who came to know Jesus in college in 1993. “I’m basically just training and teaching these guys how to walk with Jesus and how he cared about people.
“The Diamondbacks have a tremendous clubhouse. This is the most fun team I’ve been a part of. They all care for each other.”
Faith and Family Night featuring Mercy Me, Arizona D-backs vs. Seattle Mariners, Chase Field, 401 E. Jefferson Street, Phoenix, 6:40 p.m. Friday, August 24, 602.514.8400, dbacks.com, $19-$140, discounted tickets with the offer codes Faith18 or FaithVIP.