Despite playing baseball for Azusa Pacific for five years, Aaron Roose’s time with the Cougars isn’t finished just yet.
A child’s game. That’s all baseball is to the common eye. But to players who have dedicated years of hard work, it becomes your entire life.
This was something Aaron Roose knew well before he came to know Christ.
Playing a collegiate sport is interesting because it’s a collection of the best of the best athletes in players’ hometowns all coming together to play for one team.
Like most, Roose’s expectations for himself were high as ever as he entered his freshman year playing baseball for the Cougars. But he was met with the reality of the situation, which was that every other player had that same high standard for themselves as well.
Roose transferred into APU his freshman year as a non-believer, and right away, his head coach at the time, Paul Svagdis, told him and the rest of the players that they need to find their value in something else other than baseball.
“It’s a very difficult sport, and frankly speaking, the best succeed about 30% of the time. So obviously not playing and expecting to play was kinda an identity crisis for me. Cougar Baseball and APU in general just gave me that firm foundation to really be like ‘Okay baseball is very important and we want to be competitive and win, but at the same time, there’s more to life than baseball,’” Roose said.
There’s more to life than baseball.
Although that might seem like an obvious fact, when you’re in the spur of the moment and deeply passionate about a sport that you’ve dedicated your whole life to, that realization feels earth-shattering.
For Roose, that life-altering moment helped bring him closer to God.
“At the end of my freshman year I did pretty well so there were expectations placed by myself going into my sophomore year to compete and perform at a certain level and that just frankly didn’t happen. I almost had to fall back and think, ‘Okay, I can either moat and pout about this or add value and be a good teammate and put others first and serve and work hard.’ I think a combination of circumstances and personal ideology bled into that, and a large part of that was the mentorship of my coaches at the time. That was a really big turning point in my life, realizing that even if I am not being gratified by playing time or playing well, that does not identify me as a player or a man. Ultimately, that is really where I found my faith,” said Roose.
In his debut season, Roose had nine starts with 14 game appearances and posted a .194 batting average (BA). He even had a homer in the team’s Regional Semifinal win. But after a great end to the season, he wasn’t too happy with how his sophomore season went.
Roose played in 26 games with 10 starts while posting a .176 BA.
During the 2020 COVID-shortened season and beyond, however, he became a completely new player. Roose began to put his value in God, not just in baseball.
“God was really doing work before I could see it. I had to go through that struggle in order to find my faith and identity in Jesus,” Roose said.
Although his time playing for Cougars baseball is over, Roose feels like his journey at Azusa Pacific isn’t over just yet.
After he graduated last spring with a degree in accounting, Roose felt a tug in his heart. When the opportunity to be an assistant coach for Coach Newinheis opened up, the highly-decorated catcher took it.
“Now, being in the MBA program and obviously coaching, I think God has shifted my wants and desires. I have been radically transformed from wanting to pursue corporate opportunities and financial means and gains … in reality that’s not what my faith asks me to do. My faith wants me to invest in people, to love one another, and to serve others. So that’s why I see the value in coaching and that’s why I wanted to stay in it. As a player, I found so much value in what others poured into me, and now as a coach, I want to give that back to the players,” he said.
Continuing, Roose emphasized, “Plans can change and God’s shown that many times that my heart and desires can change. But I think being rooted in Jesus and understanding what my calling is, is extremely important and I feel confident in that.”
Right behind God, Roose has several teammates and mentors that he credits for shaping him into the man he is today, including senior captain when he was a freshman, Dillon Miyashiro, and former MLB player, Stephen Vogt.
“I remember early on Dillon was not a very outspoken person, but he did lead by example and that was something … that really challenged me to grow in ways I didn’t think were possible … Obviously, we want to win and have the best baseball players, but we also want to have the best men. I think Stephen is a great example of someone who has not only poured so much into baseball but into his faith as well. He is extremely giving with his time and I think that should be replicated by these men and by the program in general as well,” Roose said.
Ultimately, Roose is ready to guide and mentor both his former teammates and the new players, remembering that was him just a few years ago.
That’s the beauty of the Cougars baseball program. It’s rich in tradition and always strives for that “God First” mentality.
Listen to the whole interview with Roose here: