HOPKINSVILLE, Ky. (KT) — Manuel “Miggie” Villalobos traveled to Hopkinsville this summer to play baseball. But he said what he found “truly changed my life.”
That change was on display Sunday, July 9, when the college athlete was baptized at Hillcrest Baptist Church — professing his faith in Christ and understanding the significance of that decision.
Villalobos, a native of Saint Joseph, Mich., plays baseball for Anderson Broaddus University in Philippi, W.Va., and admits he arrived in Hopkinsville on May 27 “filled with a lot of self-doubt.”
Villalobos reflected on the past spring season, saying “for me as a player it wasn’t the best. I wanted to quit something that I love so much — baseball.”
The day after arriving in Hopkinsville, Jared and Amanda Stevens, the host family for Villalobos, invited him to attend church with them at Hillcrest.
“I met him at the welcome desk,” recalled Joe Bufford, senior pastor at Hillcrest. “It was just a few weeks after our daughter (Gracey) was hit by semi. When our daughter was hit, God did a work in my heart to not let anybody walk away without me talking to them about the Lord because she was simply on her way home from school. God reminded me how quickly somebody we know and love can be gone.” (Gracey, who will be a high school senior this fall, survived the accident.)
Bufford asked Villalobos about his relationship with the Lord. “He told me it was something he was going to work on during the summer,” Bufford said. “I began to share the gospel with him and asked if he understood. He said ‘yes.’ Miggie bowed his head and prayed to receive Christ. There were tears streaming down his face. He said, ‘This is what has been missing from my life.’ He was as broken and humble as any man can be — it was a powerful time.”
Standing in the baptistry Sunday with Villalobos, an emotional Bufford then handed Villalobos the microphone for him to tell the congregation about his salvation experience.
Villalobos, also emotional, said his parents had pushed him to go to Hopkinsville. “I didn’t want to come — I was done with baseball,” he recalled. “But I truly believe I was meant to come here. It was bigger than baseball … it’s the best decision I ever made in my life.”
Bufford told Villalobos, “I have seen God do a mighty work in your life. My prayer is God will take you back to Michigan and use you for His glory. He already is.”
Bufford told the congregation that he has seen “in the last six weeks the impact this has had on Miggie. He didn’t just pray a prayer — he understands the magnitude of his decision. It’s neat to see what God has done in his life.”
Villalobos thought that perhaps three or four of his teammates would attend the baptismal service. Instead, the entire team showed up. Also, one of the Hoppers’ coaches told the church’s young adult pastor it was the first time he had been in church in more than 17 years.
Noting that Villalobos hit a grand slam for the Hoppers the previous week, Bufford pointed out, “You always have value in God. Never equate your life with what happens on the ballfield — it is valued by what Jesus Christ did for you at Calvary.”
Villalobos plays first base and third base for the Hoppers, who play in the Ohio Valley League, competing against teams from Franklin, Fulton, Paducah, DuBois County (Illinois), Henderson, Louisville, Madisonville and Muhlenberg County. The OVL is a summer collegiate wood bat baseball league featuring players from colleges and universities across the country. The Hoppers average around 300 fans per game.