By Nancy Gutierrez
There were approximately 50 students, representing several different sports, at the inaugural meeting of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) last Wednesday Feb. 11. FCA is the largest interdenominational, school-based, Christian sports organization in America. Since 1954 FCA has focused on serving local communities by equipping, empowering and encouraging people to make a difference for Christ.
FCA organizers recruited Exeter native and potential starting pitcher for the San Francisco Giants Adam Pettyjohn. Pettyjohn began his baseball career on the fields in Exeter then took his game to California State University, Fresno where he was recruited by the Detroit Tigers. In 1999 Pettyjohn made his major league debut and in his first game, struck out Ken Griffey Jr.
"I was doing everything I had wanted to do," Pettyjohn said.
"God was taking care of me."
Prior to being called up Pettyjohn was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis, a chronic, recurring disease of the large bowel. Most patients with this disease respond well to treatment and go about their lives with few interruptions. However, some attacks may be quite severe, requiring a period of bowel rest, hospitalization and intravenous treatment. In rare cases, emergency surgery is required.
Pettyjohn was one of those rare cases. In November 1999 his symptoms got worse.
"I Lost 65 pounds, I had to walk with a walker, I could barely speak," he said. "I went from a 24-year-old, 200 pound athlete to an 85-year-old man."
Doctors told Pettyjohn that he would have to have his colon removed. He told the students that throughout the ordeal he knew God was still taking care of him.
"I had been blessed to see God work in a lot of different areas of my life," he said.
Pettyjohn detailed the story of a receptionist he and his wife met while trying to change doctors.
"We were unhappy with my first doctor, and when we called another doctor the receptionist said we couldn't get in until April, we knew that would be too late," he said. "The receptionist asked for the patients name and when my wife told her, she recognized my name. Her husband was from Exeter and had followed my career. Then we found out that she wasn't even the receptionist she just happened to be answering phones that day."
Pettyjohn said they were able to get in to that doctor much earlier than April. In the weeks that followed Pettyjohn would be placed on an emergency flight to Detroit for surgery. Pettyjohn said he never questioned why he was going through these trials. He told the students that he knew he was in God's hands.
After Pettyjohn finished speaking a student asked if he would be returning to the Tigers. He said he had just been drafted by the San Francisco Giants and would be competing for a starting position during spring training.
"Worst case scenario, I'll be playing for the Fresno Grizzlies until I get called back up," he said.