By Logan Wallerstedt/El Inde
Summoned to the mound mid-inning, an Arizona State baseball pitcher exits the bullpen, sprints onto the field and begins his pitching warm-up routine. Except, before he does anything else, he stops and takes a moment to pray.
“I will take my hat off, stand on the back side of the mound, and say a prayer,” freshman Christian Bodlovich says. “The prayer is, usually, thanking god for putting me on the mound, that I am healthy enough to be able to do that.”
Standing at six-feet-tall, Bodlovich enters the game confidently in any situation — whether winning or losing, he puts the team on his shoulders. As a pitch reliever, Bodlovich acts on last-minute, game-time decisions. He is always prepared to get on the field.
This is his game-day routine: show up to the field, practice his handful of throwing techniques, warm up with the pitching coach, and head on to the field for the national anthem.
Bodlovich started playing baseball at the age of four. When he was around 14 years-old, he picked up a basketball. Entering high school, he decided to drop basketball and focus solely on baseball. Bodlovich was naturally talented and never believed in pre-game routines. That is, until his junior year of high school.
It happened in 2017, when he got a call that his best friend, Jesse, had passed away in a vehicle collision. Jesse was riding along in the passenger seat as his father drove. Bodlovich was devastated.
Bodlovich and Jesse had met playing in the same club baseball tournaments. Their families grew particularly close and bonded over their similar passion for the sport. Uncommitted at the time, Bodlovich and Jesse had dreamt to pursue baseball at the next level. Since Jesse wasn’t able to fulfill his dreams, Bodlovich pursued them for not only himself but for Jesse as well. He continues Jesse’s legacy while playing college baseball at Arizona State University.
Praying before pitching became Bodlovich’s moment of honoring Jesse on the baseball field.
“When he passed away, I made him a promise that whatever I did baseball-wise, was going to be for the both of us,” says Bodlovich.
Within a year of Jesse’s passing, Bodlovich decided to trade the California beaches for the dry Arizona heat by committing to ASU; sticking close to home, but not too close. He was entering his senior year of high school when he lost another member near and dear to his heart: He lost his grandmother to brain cancer.
Bodlovich began to play not only for Jesse, but for his grandma as well. Tragedy led Bodlovich to be one of the top high school pitchers in California his senior year, according to the Los Angeles Times.
He incorporated his grandma into his pre-game prayer, honoring her life and impact on his life. Although she is not physically present to watch him succeed at the next level, she is watching closely over his shoulder.
“I like to tell my grandma that everything I do on the mound is for her,” Bodlovich says.
Following the prayer, Bodlovich takes his finger and presses it into the hard sand that molds the mound together.
“I always write ‘JE10,’was his initials and his number, on the mound,” Bodlovich says. “I will then draw a heart for my grandma.”
Once the prayer is complete, it is time to play ball. Finally, he feels prepared to warm up and bring success upon his team during any particular scenario.
If he ever finds himself in a troubled situation, Bodlovich is relieved from the pressure by reminding himself of his center-pointe, the prayer. He asks himself the importance of the given moment and why he is on the mound.
The prayer, which began nearly three years ago, inspired Bodlovich to set a strict routine, in hopes it will relieve stress and nerves before a game. The 19 year-old pitcher made it a goal to chat with his teammates before the first pitch.
Following the National Anthem, Bodlovich heads to the dugout at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, where he will spend the next few minutes bonding with different teammates before heading to the bullpen. Bodlovich has found this to be a key component to his game-day ritual. Conversing with men who share similar characteristics and goals builds up trust and comfort for Bodlovich, knowing they will always have his back.
Last December, Bodlovich decided to add to his prayer. Except, instead of speaking the words, he got a tattoo on his right wrist, his throwing arm. Illustrating and honoring Jesse, the “JE10” etched on his skin reminds Bodlovich why he plays baseball. Whenever he is in a time of struggle on the mound, Bodlovich glances down on his wrist to bring peace in this time of discomfort.
“As I have gotten older, I have realized consistency helps with success because if you keep everything the same, there is not as much room for drastic changes and everything feels the same so the situation won’t affect your pitching,” Bodlovich says.
For Bodlovich, the game of baseball has a bigger meaning than pitching, hitting and winning. He plays for friends and family who cannot play or watch him play. He honors their lives through pitching and praying. Baseball became a way to express honor to the people he loved. He does not just play for himself anymore.