By: Acasia George
From a young age, Jonathan Villa dreamed of playing professional baseball.
Villa was born in Ensenada, Mexico about 100 miles from the U.S. border. Growing up, his parents were often out of town on business, leaving him and his sister alone.
“I have great parents. I love them with all my heart. They were just trying to take care of my sister and me so we wouldn’t have to go through what they went through.”
“Being alone, I think it got to the point I just wanted something to fulfill me. I was immature and wanted some attention so I started doing all sorts of drugs.”
When Villa got the opportunity to play summer baseball in the U.S. he went hoping to escape his surroundings and change his ways, but the reputation he had made for himself followed him to San Diego.
“I was fine for about two or three months. Then, I started back partying,” he recalled. “I didn’t understand how bad friendships could affect your decisions.”
His opportunity for playing baseball was slowly slipping through his fingers.
“No one wanted to offer me anything because they all knew I was a troublemaker, even though I wanted to change that. I was like, ‘what do I do?’”
Villa’s father advised him, “Go follow your dreams. Whatever it is, go to try do it.”
Villa received an offer to play professional baseball with the Tampa Bay Rays, but when he fell back into his old habits, he was released by Tampa Bay.
“I got the chance to play professional baseball. I had money. I had everything at the time. And I was like, ‘Why am I not happy? No matter what I do I just feel so empty.’”
Villa went to Yavapai College and won a national championship. His sophomore year he came to visit Faulkner University, but received no interest from the Eagle baseball program.
Back in San Diego, his friend Hosea asked him about Christ and invited him to a Bible study.
“At first, I said, ‘Shut up dude. I don’t believe in God. You know how I feel about that,” Villa said, “but after the first Bible study, I kept saying, ‘I need a little bit more of this,’ so I kept going back.”
Soon after he started attending Bible study, he and his friend prayed about his situation. The next day, Villa received a call from Mike Mendoza, assistant baseball coach at Faulkner.
“I started crying and I looked at Hosea and was like, ‘There is only one problem. It’s a Christian university. I don’t want to go a Christian university. I don’t fit in with those people.’”
Despite Villa’s reservations, he accepted Mendoza’s offer to become a Faulkner Eagle. After two weeks at Faulkner, he still felt the emptiness. Then he was invited to Landmark church of Christ.
“It’s not the typical church I always think of,” said Villa, whose religious background is Catholic.
One day Faulkner baseball chaplain David Noles simply asked him, “Are you ready to get baptized?”
“No. I don’t deserve that. I’m not worthy of that.”
Noles explained to him, “That’s the beautiful part about this, none of us deserve this.”
It was a simple statement that changed Villa’s perspective about Christ. Soon after, he was baptized.
“I think about how many times I messed up and how many times I denied the idea of God and how many times I denied Jesus in my life, and He was still working behind the scenes. How many people get that many chances? There’s got to be a bigger purpose for me in life.”