Del Duduit's Dugout Devotions II offers Christian view of athletes.

I learned a lot about faith, and how some of my favorite MLB people feel about their religious beliefs, while reading the 151 pages of Dugout Devotions II.

Duduit's work is a much needed relief from the many reads offered of players confessing their wrong doings.  Dugout Devotions II is an uplifting collection of stories being told by men in the game of how they are thankful for what they have. On the back cover of Dugout Devotions II, Duduit's goal is as clear as the Atlanta Braves winning the World Series - "Devotions II offers a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the spiritual lives of many MLB players."

From his home base of Portsmouth, Ohio, at the north bank of the Ohio River, Duduit traveled 200-plus miles south to Cleveland, and 100 miles east to Cincinnati to speak with those featured in Dugout Devotions II. These aren't just  any ball players that Duduit could corral for a few minutes of their time. On the field and in the locker rooms, Duduit gets personal with superstars.

Top tier players as Curtis Granderson, when playing for the Miami Marlins, Tim Tebow, when in Columbus (OH) on a road trip in uniform for the Syracuse Mets, Los Angeles Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw, New York Mets' Francisco Lindor (when with the Indians), and former National League Batting Champion Al Oliver are part of Dugout Devotions II's line-up.

Tim Tebow with author Del Deduit in Columbus, Ohio as the Syracuse Mets played the Clippers. (Photo courtesy of Del Deduit for TSM)

This unique idea of players opening up about their faith, and how it intertwines with their professional success, and how thankful they are for the results makes Dugout Devotions II a must read for sports fans.  Struggles are exposed and suggestions are offered on how to conquer weaknesses.

"I was at a conference in Florida back in 2017, and I sat down with my publisher, and they pitched the idea to me," explains Duduit during a recent signing event at a Books-A-Million in Bradenton, Florida.  "With my background as a sports writer, the project took off."

Duduit says that most of his subjects in Dugout Devotions II were interviewed before  a game, on the field or in stadium clubhouses.  Typically, three to four hours before the first inning went off, Duduit found the players very accommodating.

"Curtis (Granderson) spoke at length with me.  Albert Pujols was great. Once he found out what I wanted to speak with him  about, he said, "Sure. Let's go."  This was when Albert was chasing his 600th home run.  Kershaw was very open with me before a game in Cleveland,"  said Duduit.  "Aaron Judge gave me 10 minutes, and was wonderful to listen to."

As a baseball book Dugout Devotions II is marketed to all spots fans.  Young men ages 18-40 is an even deeper dive target audience.  According to Duduit wives are buying his book for their husbands and sons.  High school baseball teams are picking up copies and distributing them to members of their baseball programs.  College baseball programs ,too, have shown interest in the messages offered in Dugout Devotions II.

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Even after decades of covering all spots, Duduit reveals that during this project he is still excited to be able to speak with the MLB players.  In order to land private time with his subjects, Duduit  claims his success came by not asking club public relation officials ahead of time of his intentions.  Turned down by one club by email, and another National League club three times to speak with a player, Duduit worked his magic with a spontaneous  introduction.

"All I asked was if they (players) would like to talk about their faith. They cooperated," tells Duduit.

(L) former Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle with Dugout Devotions II author Del Duduit. (Photo courtesy of Del Duduit for TSM)

Duduit, growing up a huge Pete Rose fan, tells of a spring training meet in Tampa (FL) with former New York Yankees' pitcher Andy Pettitte .  Labeling the pitching great as "a genuine nice guy", Duduit says Pettitte really opened up to him. They discussed Pettitte's faith, and his use of HGH.

"He (Pettitte) was open and honest about what he used, and when he used it.  At the time HGH wasn't banned by MLB," recalls Duduit.

One special relationship Duduit has gained over the years in his covering sports is with former MLB player and Manager Clint Hurdle.

"I interviewed Clint in Cincinnati during the 2017 season when he was managing the Pirates. We have stayed in touch since."  A man of faith, Hurdle appeared on behalf of Duduit at a recent booking signing in Florida.

Dugout Devotions II, a copy of the book is the size of your hand, is easy to carry with you, and review during breaks at work or quiet times while at home.  It makes you think beyond the box scores.  This is a welcome read offering hope and wonderfully showing another side of the very public people we as fans think we know all too well.

Don Laible is a freelance sportswriter living in the Mohawk Valley.  He has reported on professional baseball and hockey for print, radio, and on the web since the 1980's. His columns are featured weekly at WIBX950.com. Don can be contacted via email at Don@icechipsdiamonddust.com. 

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