Did you know that three Mormons turned down six-figure signing bonuses or more to serve a mission? And in doing so, they made history in a unique way.
In October 2013, Royals pitcher Jeremy Guthrie made MLB and Mormon history as the first returned missionary to appear in the World Series. Guthrie was also the oldest first-round pick to reach the majors in this century—another historical fact that can be attributed to his LDS mission.
After selecting Guthrie in the 15th round in 1997, the Mets offered him a $650,000 bonus if he'd play for them instead of serving a mission. Guthrie declined. Then the Mets general manager asked Guthrie if $1 million would convince him to play baseball full time. Guthrie refused, choosing his mission over the Mets.
After a mission to Spain and a successful MLB career, Guthrie doesn't regret his decision. After signing with the Cleveland Indians, at an early training session the Indians coaching staff asked each player, "Who are you?"
Guthrie unhesitatingly replied, "I am a child of God" ("LDS Pitcher Jeremy Guthrie Speaks at Devotional," Deseret News).
Image from sportsworldnews.com
About his experiences, Guthrie says, "Everything you do in life is preparing you to meet God. I wanted to do what the Lord wanted me to do.”
Today, Jeremy Guthrie says the greatest part of his life is "this family that I have."
An exceptional athlete, McKay Christensen held the California state record for touchdowns scored and he was named to the All-American baseball team. Recruiters from both sports were eyeing Christensen, but he already had plans. He was going to serve a mission.
Even when the California Angels offered him a $1 million signing bonus to stay home and play Major League Baseball, Christensen refused, says, "My mission is not for sale" (John Bytheway, Sports: Life Lessons from Court, Field, and Gridiron).
After Christensen received a mission call to serve in Japan, the California Angels decided to draft him anyway in the first-round of the amateur draft, agreeing to wait for Christensen to return from his mission—an unprecedented event.
"I was told there was no way I could serve a mission and still be drafted, and I was anyway," Christensen said in an interview with the Deseret News. "I felt it was an opportunity I shouldn't pass up."
On the back of some of Christensen's baseball cards, it reads:
Photo from The Trading Card Database
"A speed demon from Clovis West High School in Fresno, California, Christensen turned down a football scholarship from Brigham Young University to sign with the Angels, but he won't begin playing professionally until he completes a two-year Mormon mission."
Photo from The Trading Card Database
"So enamored were the Angels of Christensen's performance at Clovis (Fresno) HS that they took the unusual step of drafting him No. 1 knowing he would spend the next two years on a Mormon mission. Christensen, who owns every tool except great power, also received a football scholarship offer to BYU as a wide receiver."
After his mission, Christensen played for the Chicago White Sox, the Los Angeles Dodgers, and the New York Mets.
The son of Garth Iorg, who played 10 years with the Toronto Blue Jays, Cale Iorg and his brothers grew up on baseball fields.
In the spring of 2004, Cale received scholarship offers from top baseball programs around the U.S. and even offers from MLB teams. The Minnesota Twins told Iorg if he'd forget about serving a mission, they'd take him in the first-round picks. The Tampa Bay Rays even selected Iorg in the MLB draft, offering him a $400,000 signing bonus.
Image from www.zimbio.com
But Iorg turned them all down, choosing instead to play one year for the University of Alabama before serving a mission to Lisbon, Portugal.
While serving the last year of his mission, Iorg was recruited by the Detroit Tigers and returned to play on of their Triple-A affiliate teams, the Toledo Mud Hens.
“Sometimes you have to let go and trust the Lord will look out for you," Iorg told the Deseret News. "Answer the call, and your life will be better for it. I have had baseball in my life, but I am not even talking about that. Because of the person I have become after my mission, life is truly a whole lot better than I ever could have imagined.”