The three children of Royals pitcher Jeremy Guthrie burst into tears upon hearing the team lost the World Series, said their mother, Jenny. But there were no tears from Guthrie. At least there were none until he listened to his wife talk about the strength of his faith during a homecoming to his church Saturday.
Guthrie told about 400 people at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Platte City that he felt “extreme gratitude” and “contentment” about the outcome of the series.
“Listening to my wife was the first tear I’ve shed since the entire playoff run,” he said. “When I walked back into the clubhouse after game seven having lost the game 3-2 and feeling responsible personally because I gave up the three runs, I walked in with my head held high,” he said. “I expected to be a little more sad than I was, but I think there was really nothing more that I could have done.”
Guthrie, of Parkville, greeted and signed autographs for well-wishers, then spoke about his experiences in baseball and the part that religion has played in his life.
Much of his talk centered on the difficult decision he made as an 18-year-old to forgo an offer from the New York Mets and instead do two years of missionary work in Spain.
In fact, Guthrie said he hadn’t planned to play baseball his senior year of high school and told his coach he wanted to focus on training and bulking up so he could try out for football at Brigham Young University, where he intended to go to college. However his high school baseball coach had other ideas, eventually persuading him to play in a game where scouts saw him pitch at 93 miles an hour, he said.
That ended with an invitation to come to New York and be wooed by Mets then-general manager Steve Phillips, said Guthrie. Although Phillips urged him to sign, Guthrie said he wanted to take the two years for missionary work first.
But Phillips warned that to do so would be a mistake for his pitching career because he would miss the two most important developmental years for a pitcher.
Phillips said, “I would never be drafted again and certainly never pitch in the major league and probably never pitch professionally,” Guthrie related.
Phillips then asked if a million-dollar offer would sway him.
“I looked Steve Phillips in the eye and said even for a million dollars I wouldn’t pass up my time as a missionary,” Guthrie said.
Shortly after, he was on his way to Spain.
Although he didn’t throw a pitch for those two years, Guthrie said the experience molded his approach to baseball. As a missionary he spoke with hundreds of people, but can “count on one hand the number of people who invited me into their home and listened to more than two of the lessons.”
Since he could not measure success by the number of converts, Guthrie said he had to learn to place more importance on obedience to his religion and doing his best to be a better Christian.
“I was hoping that by doing the work (God) asked me to do I would be blessed, and I was blessed,” he said.
After the missionary stint was done, Guthrie went back and proved Phillips wrong. He helped the Stanford University baseball team make the College World Series, then pitched with varying degrees of effectiveness for the Cleveland Indians, Baltimore Orioles and Colorado Rockies before ending up with the Royals in 2012. By the time he joined the Royals, he was pitching poorly and was “hanging by a string,” said Guthrie, now 35. He gives credit to the club’s coaching staff and other players.
“I went from a player who was probably going to be released to signing a three-year contract,” he said.
At that point the Guthries moved from Utah to the Kansas City area. Guthrie is a native of Oregon.
Growing up, Guthrie said he never dreamed of pitching a World Series game. “It was so far beyond any dreams that I couldn’t even conjure up pitching in the World Series,” he said.
Guthrie also answered questions from the crowd on some other subjects.
He said it’s easy for him to avoid alcohol and tobacco because “everyone knows who I am and what I stand for.”
He also described the detailed statistical research he does on each hitter to decide what kind of pitches to throw. The Giants’ Pablo Sandoval, for instance, doesn’t hit low and away fastballs well after two strikes. To find out details like that, he said he uses computers available from the club.
And Guthrie admitted to a few pre-game rituals. He said he always has a Chipotle steak burrito bowl and gets a haircut on days he pitches, for instance.
He looks back on the post-season with fondness and hopes for next season. “We had a blast doing it with you and had a blast doing it for you and hope to do it again very, very soon,” he said.