>> by David Roach
Chief National Correspondent for Baptist Press
SAN FRANCISCO (BP)—When San Francisco Giants outfielder Melky Cabrera was suspended in 2012 for using a banned substance, he led Major League Baseball in hits and had a .346 batting average. So, most observers expected the Giants to put him on the postseason roster when his suspension expired just before the World Series.
But they didn’t, showing that character mattered as much to the team as offensive production. And they won the World Series anyway.
One Giants executive who helped make the decision to bench Cabrera was Bobby Evans, a Southern Baptist who told Baptist Press that his most important task as assistant general manager is to honor Christ. That remained his chief goal this year as the Giants defeated the Kansas City Royals in the 2014 World Series.
“You want your life to point people to Christ,” Evans said. “It starts for me with my own relationship with Christ. That’s going to direct and dictate what influence I have for Christ in my family, in my marriage and in the workplace.”
A member of First Church in San Francisco for 21 years, Evans was saved as a 7-year-old living in Massachusetts. After attending college at the University of North Carolina, he went to work for MLB commissioner Fay Vincent in New York in 1991. Two and a half years later, he joined the Giants in a minor league administration role.
Since 2006 Evans, 45, has served in his current role, though his title has changed multiple times. Among his duties are negotiating all major league player contracts, helping acquire free agents and signing minor league talent.
Despite pressure to be dishonest in contract negotiations, Evans said he wants to be known for truthfulness.
“One of the common things in contract negotiations is to have a fudge factor in the sense of what you might tell an agent or express to a player not being entirely accurate,” he said. But “the last thing I ever wanted was to have anyone ever be able to say that we didn’t fulfill what we promised.”
Evans added, “It’s really about integrity and about being able to be trusted by a given agent or for players to feel like you’re going to be honest with them.”
Despite a 162-game schedule each season, Evans said he makes time with his family and church a priority—even though he attends Giants home games, about a fourth of the road games and travels to see minor league teams in California, Georgia, Virginia, Oregon and Arizona. Evans has a wife and three children ages 10, 6 and 8 months.
“Even with home games, you’re at the ballpark til 11 p.m. after a night game,” he said. “And so whenever possible, I try to have my family at the ballpark. I make sure that if we have a night game, I’m up to take them to school the next day. I coach little league teams and just make sure there’s no priority that gets ahead of them.”
Some keys to a healthy marriage amid the rigors of baseball are “surrounding ourselves with other couples that are pursuing Christ” and not “compartmentalizing” life between Christian and secular activities, he said.
Evans has served on First Church’s leadership board for 18 of his 21 years as a member, and he makes worship attendance a priority. During the season, he arranges his travel schedule so he only has to miss six to eight Sundays. During the six weeks of spring training, he travels back to San Francisco for church two or three times.
Among his contacts in the broader Southern Baptist Convention is Jeff Iorg, president of Golden Gate Seminary, who also serves as the Giants’ chaplain. Before Sunday home games, Iorg leads optional chapel services for the Giants, the visiting team and the umpires, Evans said.
“We certainly have seen players come to Christ, seen marriages saved, seen people rededicate themselves to following Christ,” Evans said of Iorg’s ministry. “We’ve seen people grow in their walk.”
In 2012, Evans received the Bowie Kuhn Award, which is presented annually to an individual, team or organization which demonstrates support of the chapel program in professional baseball.
In baseball, as in other businesses, following Jesus and being a faithful church member is “hard,” Evans said. But “it’s going to all start with where I am in my relationship with Christ.”