By Nick Nahas
In a society where athletes like Tim Tebow are heavily scrutinized for showing their faith on the playing field, Sal Giardina is a Christian athlete who is not afraid to display his faith in God on and off the baseball field.
Baseball has always been a big part of the Giardina family. His brother, Carmine, was a pro baseball player until retiring after last season, and his father, Sal Giardina Sr. has been coaching baseball for the majority of his life. His mother, Laurel, owns 1st Sporting Goods, located on Lithia Pinecrest Road. Sal played high school baseball at Bloomingdale High School, and played college baseball at Palm Beach State, later transferring to Lynn University before being drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the 2014 MLB Draft. He currently plays for the Carolina Mudcats, a Class A-Advanced affiliate of the Braves.
Faith has also been an anchor in Sal’s life for as long as he can remember. He was raised by a Catholic family that went to church every Sunday. He attended church services and went to Sunday school, but he didn’t realize what it truly meant to be a Christian yet. “I prayed when things were hard and knew who God was,” he said, “but I never understood the relationship side of things.”
Sal went through a hard time in his life when he transitioned to college and had to live on his own for the first time. He struggled with classes, and the stresses of trying to balance baseball and school at the same time. As a result he began partying and drinking to help fill the void that he felt.
One day he got a call from his brother asking him if he wanted to join him in sharing his testimony with a youth group. He was hesitant at first, but he wanted to go to support his brother. “As I listened to my brother tell his testimony, it was like I heard God’s voice for the first time,” Sal said. “He had gone through the things that I was going through. I saw the change that God had made in my brother’s life and wanted to get to know more about Jesus.”
Carmine founded an organization called Unashamed Athletes to bring Christian athletes together to spread the gospel and show that they are not ashamed of their faith. Sal shows his faith on the field when he prays in centerfield before each game.
“My ultimate goal as a professional athlete is to make an impact on people’s lives and lead people to the one true Savior Jesus Christ,” Sal said. With every signature he puts a Bible verse, usually Ephesians 2:10, a verse he says is very close to his heart. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
“I do this because you never know who this verse can reach or who it can encourage,” Sal said.
Sal has already had an impact on a young fan who saw him praying before a game. The fan’s mother texted Sal to thank him. “At his all-star tournament tonight, I looked over and he was praying during the National Anthem and took a knee to pray in the on-deck circle before each at-bat,” she said. “I had never seen him pray and display his faith on the field before he saw you do it. So I wanted to thank you for the positive influence in how he plays the game and for teaching him that he doesn’t have to hide or be ashamed of his faith while he is on the field.”
For more about Unashamed Athletes, visit www.unashamedathletes.com.