This baseball player-turned-gambler was saved through God’s intervention
When I was a freshman at University of Dayton I was the starting left fielder playing in our first game at Ohio State. During that game I knew my dream of being a professional baseball player was over. I was done. My friends came from Dayton with a case of beer in tow to watch me. The reality was that I wanted to be with them more than I wanted to play the game. Playing baseball had come to feel like a job; it was work 24/7. In my heart, the love of the game as it had been — was over.
After the last game of the season I went up to one of my favorite teammates, a senior, and told him I was not coming back. He said, “Forte what are you going to do?” I shrugged, “I don’t know, baseball is all I know.”
He asked, “Have you ever done sports betting?” I said, “No,” but I was immediately intrigued. I never thought this could be a career path but thought, Hey, let’s give it a whirl. And so the slippery slope of my life began. The very next day I bet $100 on the Oakland A’s…and won! The day after, I bet on them again and won. I started betting everyday — winning more than losing; I was good, a natural on a roll. The amount of money I put down on games increased rapidly going from hundreds to thousands per game. Three months later on June 13, 1990 I bet $20,000 on the Mets to beat the Cubs. I won after being down $12,000. And after winning that game, I was all in — hooked, a gambler, and this was my new lifestyle.
This would be my life over the next five years. Betting everyday on baseball, football and basketball. 365 days a year.
Then at the age of 24 on a December night, it all came to an end. I was down $12,000 (again!) that needed to be paid in the morning. I was tapped out with only $500 left in my checking account. And like in bad movie, I didn’t know what would happen to me when the bookie showed up at my door to collect. I could not borrow from anyone anymore, nor did I want to. I had lost all my self-respect and self-worth. I was done and didn’t see a way out.
Dripping with sweat, I paced throughout the apartment wearing only my green and white striped J. Crew boxers. I went into the kitchen, grabbed a knife and headed for the bathroom. I was preparing to slit my wrists. I remember thinking whoever found me, would find me dead by morning. I didn’t see an alternative or any way out. There on my hands and knees in only my underwear, I cried on the floor. The opening of the tub faucet released an enormous flood of pent up emotions. Suddenly there in a pile, I let it all loose, pleading, “Why? Why? Why?” Curled up in a ball shivering and sweating, I waited for the tub to fill.
Suddenly amidst the weeping I heard the most profound voice say, “Boy I love you, get up and call home.”
I recognized the voice. I wasn’t terrified — instead, I was strangely calm. It was as if a warm blanket had been wrapped around me. There was no one else in the apartment. I looked in the mirror with tears rolling down my face — I knew it was the voice of God. God came into my life that day. God put the blanket over me and picked me up off the floor. I knew that voice! It was the same voice I heard when I walked off the pitching mound at the Little League World Series that said, “I’m preparing you.” I knew that voice when I screamed to God to save my mom’s life while she was driving drunk on the parkway as I followed her in my car yelling, “Jesus, Help! Jesus, Help! Jesus, Help!” It was the same voice I had ignored while in the trenches of my addiction.
When I called home, my dad told me to go to a Gamblers Anonymous meeting. I went that night. The men in that room gave me the greatest advice and even gave me the tools to handle the bookie. I called the bookie and we arranged a three-year payment plan. Every ensuing month was a reminder of what I had gotten myself into. More importantly, that very next day I returned to living a healthy lifestyle.
I made a contract that day with God — God use me as you see fit, as part of your plan.
And it’s been that voice for the last 22 years that I have heard hundreds of times. I’ve made the commitment to live that life, listening to my heart and to teach others how God speaks to us — through the heart. The time had come to start fulfilling the contract.
I attended a workshop where I heard this quote from Dr. Wayne Dyer, “Prayer is you talking to God. Intuition is God talking to you.” This quote hit home. God communicates in many ways through prayer. For me, prayer comes in diverse forms: meditative stillness or physical activity. I can be lost in thought while exercising, like running outdoors without headphones and simply getting it touch with nature, or through the silence of yoga practice. Writing to God, my personal favorite, has been a form of prayer that has been deeply effective for me throughout the years.
I strongly believe that we all need some version of daily prayer in our lives in order to be able to both listen to and hear God. As they say, ask and you shall receive.
I suggest trying to talk to God like you would to your best friend about anything — problems, celebrations, the Cavs winning a championship or the weather outside. Build the relationship daily. This is what God wants from us. Sometimes we put God so high up on a pedestal that we feel God is out of reach. But the truth is that we all have God within our hearts.
God is non-denominational and a piece of God resides within each of us. When I think of God’s light, love and relationship — I think of how they manifest in my day-to-day life in everything from my daily encounters and my work to my spiritual fitness routine. It’s a way of life — a life of being spiritually fit — and there is no longer a separation. Our work here is about showing up — being our best selves. And when we ignite our God light within, anything is possible…anything…take if from one who knows. Namaste.
Learn more at ChrisForte.com