Sunday, June 03, 2001

Pitcher becomes pastor

Wegman now dedicated to Christianity

By Tom Groeschen
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Bill Wegman wants to make this clear. He did not build that nice new church on Bridgetown Road. Still, the former Milwaukee Brewers pitcher wants to make another thing clear. He is honored to be an associate pastor at the facility, Faith Fellowship Church, which opened last June.

        “A lot of people think I built that church, but that didn't happen,” said Wegman, a former Oak Hills High School star. “We've contributed, but not to the extent people think.”

        Wegman, 38, made big money in his Milwaukee career (1985-95). His final Brewers contract reportedly was a four-year deal for $10 million. While he did set aside money for church purposes, he said the new building was planned long before he became a member.

        Wegman's road to Christianity nearly got him laughed out of the Brewers' clubhouse in the late 1980s. That is because Wegman once was the classic, hard-partying major leaguer.

  • Helped lead Oak Hills High School to 1980 Ohio state baseball title.
  • Pitched for Milwaukee Brewers from 1985-95, mainly as a starter. Had 81-90 record and 4.16 ERA.
  • Top season was 1991, with a 15-7 record and 2.84 ERA.
        “My dad owned a bar, and my grandfather owned a bar,” Wegman said. “In the big leagues, if you wanted to go out drinking, I was the guy to call.”

        That was until November 1988. Wegman was coming off two good seasons (25 victories over 1987-88), and life was good with wife Kim and two young daughters.

        “But then a man asked me one question that changed my life,” Wegman said. “He said, "If you were to die at this moment, where would you spend eternity?'”

        Wegman thought hard, and didn't like his answer. He started studying the Bible. He stopped drinking.

        “It was the toughest decision I ever made,” he said.

        The following spring, Milwaukee teammates were stunned when Wegman said he'd no longer be a Brew Crew carouser.

        “Guys asked me why I couldn't go drinking anymore” Wegman said. “They laughed and said, "We'll save you a seat at the bar.' The thing is, some of the guys who said that later became Christians.”

        Wegman continued playing baseball through 1995, by which time the taunts had long ceased. He was only 32 when he retired.

        “I was tired of the travel,” he said. “I wasn't enjoying baseball as much.”

        Wegman then began his life of ministry. Today, his title at Faith Fellowship is Pastor of Evangelism and Discipleship. He is unpaid, by his own choice.

        The Rev. Clark Wooten, pastor of Faith Fellowship Church, said Wegman works hard at his job.

        “We didn't bring him here because he had baseball money, but because of his heart for people and ability to communicate the gospel,” Rev. Wooten said. “You do find a lot of our visitors, especially the young people, who are drawn to him because of his connection with major-league baseball. And he is a great speaker ... he's very much in demand for speaking engagements.”

        Wegman occasionally preaches from the pulpit. His parents are among the congregation of 300-plus.

        Wegman also does some coaching and baseball clinics on the West Side.

        “I often wonder if could still do it,” he said. “When I retired, I was throwing harder than I ever did, around 92 or 93 (mph). But I know I made the right decision. This is where I belong.”


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