If you had asked Matt Murton at the beginning of 2010 what he would be doing this October, he wouldn’t have said “breaking hitting records in Japan” or “sharing my faith at the Franklin Graham Festival in Osaka.”
After completing a successful college career at Georgia Tech, Murton began playing for the Chicago Cubs in 2005. He was traded to the Oakland A’s in 2008, then to the Colorado Rockies in 2009. In December 2009, his contract was sold to the Hanshin Tigers of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball league.
But Murton wasn’t dismayed. “I now understand that God was preparing me to be here in 2010,” he said at an Oct. 21 press conference in Osaka. “There were valleys, but God brought me through them to mold and shape me. There was a lot of thinking outside the box in terms of going somewhere that might not be 100 percent comfortable. But God led me and my family here. And, in being here, the baseball experience has been unbelievable. Playing in front of the Japanese fans, I couldn’t be more thrilled.”
His relationship with Christ began at the age of 6 when he realized there is no eternal life without Christ. “I understood that I’m a sinner and that I can’t do this on my own. I realized the gifts that He’s given me and decided I needed to let Him into my life.” When Murton was 13, he rededicated himself after coming to a better understanding of faith.
It’s an understanding he hopes to share with the people of Japan during the Kansai Franklin Graham Festival this weekend in Osaka. Murton is scheduled to speak on Sunday night.
Because baseball is hugely popular in Japan, and because Murton broke the single season hitting record on Oct. 5 with his 211th hit, thousands will likely flock to Osaka Jo Arena to hear his story, along with a Gospel presentation by Franklin Graham and a great slate of Gospel music.
Following the press conference, we asked Murton a few additional questions.
Q:/ You are going to be at the Festival on Sunday. Are you excited about this opportunity?
A:/ If you would have given me a synopsis of 2010, the end of it culminating with being part of the Franklin Graham Festival, I would have been blown away. God has been so faithful. Being here this weekend is such an honor. And I’m looking forward to being able to experience the Festival myself. I look forward to speaking about baseball, which I love, but also about what is more important—and that is God and what He means to my life.
Q:/ Tell us more about that. What does He mean to you?
A:/ I couldn’t imagine going through a day without Him. My prayer is for continual renewal of myself and to continue walking with Christ and following Him. I think if people fully understood who Christ is, they would have the same joy that I feel inside, which is only done through the power of the cross.
Q:/ Do you have opportunities, because baseball is so popular here, to reach people for Christ?
A:/ That’s what has been so interesting. In coming here, I didn’t quite understand the magnitude of what baseball means to this country. To be part of the Hanshin Tigers, which are followed so well in Japan, then for God to give me some success has been a really unique opportunity. It has allowed me to open up and talk about God. What a blessing to be able to freely speak about Him and what He means to me, and how great He is in terms of what He has done for all of us!
Q:/ Can you talk about the need for Jesus in this nation?
A:/ Here in Japan, less than 1 percent of the population believes in Christ. Many people view religion as a cultural thing. It has been a really cool opportunity to bring the Good Word of our Lord Jesus Christ here to Japan. I think that the people here are longing for something to give them fulfillment and purpose and direction. If they can take hold of the Gospel, they will find what they need and want in life. This is a very unique opportunity – there are a lot of unchurched people who don’t understand who Christ is. To share His name here and provide them an understanding of what it means to be fulfilled and to have purpose and direction is really special.
Q:/ After the Festival ends, what do you hope the lasting effect will be in Japan?
A:/ I hope that the rippling effect will go on for generations and generations here. It’s a matter of planting seeds. If a few of them take hold, you never know what the ramifications will be or how far they will go. I pray that the Holy Spirit takes hold and really moves people and makes them understand what they are missing. In doing so, hopefully we will see Japan come to an understanding of who Christ is and increase that 1 percent.