NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - Yankees designated hitter Matt Holliday came to New Providence on Saturday morning and spoke to a gathering at the Presbyterian Church.
Holliday sat in front of a packed sanctuary in the church, which included seating in the balcony, and talked about his career, his family life and his religious faith.
He also answered questions from the audience, and then handed out five signed baseballs to lottery winners before leaving to prepare for the Yankees 4 p.m. game against the Orioles at Yankee Stadium.
Master of ceremonies, Chris Voorhees, pastor at New Community Church in Garwood, pointed out that Holliday had 28 steals in one season. The 37-year-old Holliday joked that the steal statistic was true, but that he also hit more than 300 home runs and had some other notable accomplishments, such as 2000-plus career hits.
During his 13-year Major League career with the Colorado Rockies, St. Louis Cardinals, Oakland A's and New York Yankees, Holliday has played in three World Series, winning the championship with the 2011 Cardinals. He also was the National League batting champion for the Rockies with a .340 average and was named the National League Championship Series MVP, both in 2007.
A three-sport star in high school, he admitted that he was "disappointed" when he was only drafted in the 7th round by the Rockies in the 1998 amateur draft. He related that he had been touted as a first-round pick, but the fact that he was being recruited to play football may have scared some teams off. The native of Stillwater, Oklahoma had thrown for 6,211 yards and 68 touchdowns at Stillwater High.
But Holliday grew up on the baseball field and chose that over football. His father, Tom, was the head baseball coach at Oklahoma State. His brother, Josh Holliday, is now the head baseball coach at Oklahoma State.
Holliday has been credited with helping Yankees slugger Aaron Judge adjust to the Major Leagues. Holliday said he got to know his new Yankees teammates in spring training and was lockered right next to Judge.
"I didn't just go up to him and start giving him advice," Holliday said. "I got to know him first. The one thing I did advise him on was the All-Star game, where he was being pulled in every direction. I told him to make sure he got some rest."
In speaking about the minor leagues, Holliday recounted his time on a rehab assignment this season with a team in Tampa. He asked a teammate where the water was and was surprised to learn they all fill up bottles from the water fountain.
Asked about the temptations players can face with so much traveling, Holliday said he spent a lot of time while he was on the Cardinals with pitcher Adam Wainwright. Holliday said that loneliness can lead to bad decisions. He became more interested in the Bible as his career developed and he spent a lot of time reading and learning from it, inviting other players to join him.