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Whigham receives a culture shock
By Kelly Griffith
Kicking the dirt on the mound under the dry Puerto Rican heat, Braves pitcher Kyle Whigham thought of all the places he could be during his first summer in college.
And then he threw a fastball across the center of home plate.
As a member of the Athletes in Action international baseball team from June to August 2005, the 19-year-old from Charlotte played baseball in Nicaragua, Venezuela and Puerto Rico.
Whigham raised more than $4,000 for the trip by sending out 150 support letters to friends, family and churches.
The sophomore said the trip to Latin America changed his life.
“When we got to Nicaragua, it was a total culture shock,” Whigham said. “I mean, it’s the second poorest country in the western hemisphere after Haiti.”
The Athletes in Action team learned to humble themselves without modern conveniences.
“In Nicaragua we did our laundry like once a week. Most of the time we were washing our clothes in the shower and letting them air dry out the window of the bus,” Whigham said. “We were able to joke about it, but the smell, good gosh. It was terrible.”
Athletes in Action, a Campus Crusade for Christ ministry, attempts to build up athletes and coaches through Bible studies and ministry training so they can share their faith with others.
“A lot of praying and a lot of faith was involved,” Whigham said.
According to the Athletes in Action website, players participate in team meetings, games, clinics and even prison ministry to practice their training.
Whigham said the team had Bible study each day.
After the games, Whigham said he and his teammates shared their testimonies with the other team and fans.
After playing baseball for 14 years, Whigham said his favorite part of the sport is being able to connect with other players through storytelling.
“In a sense, you almost brag about yourself because you want to have the best story to impress people,” Whigham said. “Honestly, situations like this can go on for hours upon hours because there are so many stories that can be shared.”
Whigham said one of his favorite baseball stories is his weeklong trip to watch the Los Angeles Dodgers take batting practice in July 2004.
Whigham said he was offered the opportunity because his father’s best friend since high school was the third base coach for the Dodgers at the time.
“It was truly a dream come true because the Dodgers are my favorite team,” Whigham said. “I really enjoyed the opportunity to pick at the professionals’ minds and the chance to learn more about the game I love.”
Whigham said he got the chance to meet his hero, Dodgers catcher Paul Lo Duca, after batting practice.
“We talked for like 15 minutes,” Whigham said. “It was so tight.”
Whigham’s trip came just in time.
A week later, the Dodgers traded Lo Duca to the Florida Marlins and Whigham said he let his emotions get the best of him. “I cried the day he was traded to the Marlins,” Whigham said.
“They were talking in Spanish and said something funny and I started laughing,” Whigham said.
“Then we had a whole conversation in Spanish.”
Whigham said the Dodgers inspired him and he would love to play baseball after college, but he would rely on his faith to determine what he should do with his future and how he can win for God.
“It has always been a dream of mine to play baseball professionally.
However, I believe it is a matter of what God has planned for my life,” Whigham said. “It really isn’t up to me.”
He hopes to have another adventure that he can brag about to his fellow Braves in the fall.