Brad Lidge pitching in a Notre Dame uniform during his final season with the Irish in 1998.

The Education of Brad Lidge

Oct. 28, 2009

PHILADELPHIA – Brad Lidge was searching. He thought he was supposed to be a baseball player, but it seemed like all he did was have surgery. Stranded in Kissimmee, Fla., relegated to rehabilitation, Lidge needed more.

Drafted by the Houston Astros in 1998 after his junior year of college at Notre Dame, Lidge left school before graduating to start his minor-league career. But it hardly began before various ailments stalled it. While recovering from injuries to his pitching arm, Lidge followed his curiosity. The young pitcher dived into the Bible and science and history texts, searching for meaning in his problems.

The conclusions Lidge reached during those summers have provided essential comfort ever since. Lidge and the Phillies begin the World Series tonight, but during the long regular season and a bewildering slump, he retained perspective. Through careful reading, thinking, and studying – Lidge is pursuing a degree in religious archaeology, with plans to eventually work in that field – he continues to cultivate a personalized Christianity. That process began in earnest in Kissimmee.

“I didn’t know if I was meant to pitch,” Lidge, 32, said on a recent morning, sitting in the stands of an empty Citizens Bank Park. “Whether it was then, or this year, or the rough year in 2006 I had in Houston, I always felt there was a higher purpose to life than just being a baseball player. And sometimes, even when things aren’t going very well, it just means that when they finally go right, you’ll be able to serve as a better example, as a baseball player and person.”

An evolving faith

Religious faith can arrive for some in a single, sublime moment, but Lidge was never struck from a proverbial horse. His beliefs took shape gradually, beginning in childhood and accelerating during those minor-league days.

The concept of faith came to define Lidge’s baseball life several ways. The faith he developed while in Kissimmee allowed him to climb to the major leagues. The faith he kept in himself when discarded by the Astros allowed him to succeed as a Phillie in 2008. Phils manager Charlie Manuel’s faith in Lidge helped the closer through a shockingly difficult season in 2009. And Lidge’s different yet powerful faith that he would rediscover his effectiveness in the playoffs has so far proved prescient.