The wallet Willie Bloomquist stuffs into his back pocket contains a special gift that reminds the Arizona Diamondbacks player just how far he has come in Major League Baseball.
From his hometown Little League games in Port Orchard, Wash., to his college playing field at Arizona State University, his St. Rita medal is a silent, guiding force.
“She is the patron saint of impossible dreams, and sometimes I feel like I’m living an impossible dream,” Bloomquist said. “It’s a one-in-a-million shot to make it in the pros, so to me it was next to impossible.”
Bloomquist has played every position but pitcher and catcher in a major league career that began in Seattle in 2002.
He has since played for three more ball clubs, signing with the Diamondbacks in 2011.
Although Chase Field may have seating for nearly 50,000 baseball fans, Bloomquist said he plays for an audience of one.
“Before I play, I take a few minutes to give thanks to Jesus. He knows my heart, and selfishly I want to play well,” he said. “In the end, I ask Him to use my abilities to the best of my abilities.”
As the youngest of four growing up in a Catholic family, he absorbed his faith while seated in the wooden pews, but it wasn’t always in the forefront of his life.
Not unlike most college students, while attending ASU in the 1990s he was lukewarm when it came to attending Mass.
Life experiences eventually led Bloomquist closer to God when he realized his current path was on a dead-end street, and he had a bigger purpose.
“Everyone has problems and struggles and I realized I needed God in my life. Period,” he said. “You can have fame and fortune, but if you don’t have God around you, you don’t have a leg to stand on.”
If the balance of professional athlete with that of husband and father was the impetus for Bloomquist finding solace in his faith, he isn’t saying.
However, he does acknowledge he didn’t take it as seriously as he felt he should have earlier in his career.
And he isn’t afraid to share his personal struggles using idioms like “rat race,” and “smell the coffee.”
With two young daughters at home, Bloomquist is motivated to teach his children about the Catholic Church, and give them a strong foundation.
His hopes and dreams for his family mirror those of any parent; to be a good example and make church a priority every Sunday.
“I want them to understand who He is and what He did for us,” Bloomquist said. “I want my kids to get to know Jesus.”
The glamour of the game and its lifestyle is a bit of a misnomer; it can take a toll on a family, especially the traveling, but Bloomquist credits his wife, Lisa, for their strong marriage.
“Her faith is tremendous, and she keeps us strong as a family. She’s the reason our marriage is what it is; she’s the foundation here on earth and makes everything go,” he said.
Bloomquist’s focus on being the best father to his children parallels his desire to be the best ballplayer for his teammates.
He is driven, focused and intense, to the point where the television camera has caught some expressive words coming out his mouth.
“I’ve gotten called out on that, and I would just like to apologize now,” Bloomquist said. “I struggle and I’m not perfect. It’s not easy.”
It’s the times in his life when he feels he falls short that he remembers the story of St. Paul and his conversion. It does his heart good to know that for all the atrocities St. Paul committed against Christians, he was forgiven and began a new life in Christ.
“Nobody is too bad to know Christ,” Bloomquist said. “That’s not to say put things off and get grace when you take your last breath. It’s a matter of striving to be better, and it’s never too late.”
Bloomquist said he wants to be remembered, first and foremost, as a Christian man that loves his wife and children and is an all-around good person.
As D-backs player #18, “That I was respected by teammates and viewed as playing the right way. Then, at the end of the day, I’m happy.”