Originally posted on Fox Sports South  |  By STEVE EUBANKS  |  Last updated 9/17/13
Mlb-braves-mets
Billy Wagner has a message, and it has nothing to do with throwing a fastball. "There's no way I can talk to somebody who is working construction or working at a minimum-wage job, trying to feed a family and worried that he's going to lose it, and have that person relate to the fact that somebody like me can pitch for 10 minutes four nights a week and became a millionaire," Wagner said on Monday from his Virginia home. "But I've also been on the other side," he said. "I've been where I didn't have anything to eat; I've been there when we were on welfare; I was there when I didn't have a mom and dad around and was moved to 11 different schools, so I understand what problems look like. But God helped me. He gave me ability and He steered me and guided me in how to use those talents and how make good decisions." Wagner, a left-handed reliever who began a distinguished career with the Astros and, 15 years, seven All-Star games and 422 saves later, finished it with the Braves, chronicles the highs and lows of his life in his new book, A Way Out: Faith, Hope And A Love Of The Game. For the book, Wagner details a Dickensian childhood in the Shenandoah region of western Virginia where poverty and abuse were as constant and relentless as water from a mountain stream. A child of children, Wagner's father, Hotsy, was 17 and his mother, Yvonne, was 16 when they had Billy. His sister, Chasity, was born three years later. The marriage was doomed from the outset as the Wagners, town people from Marion, Va. despised Yvonne's family, the Halls, considering them low-rent hillbillies. The Halls chose to remain in the mountains, heating their cabin with a wood-burning stove and living off muskrat, squirrel and whatever else could be caught, killed or grown near the family home. When things fell apart, Billy and Chasity were shuffled between relatives and friends. It was during that time Billy vented his frustration by throwing a baseball at the side of an outbuilding. "Not having mom and dad there and moving around so much, those were low points," Wagner recalls. "But I always ask myself: 'If those things had not happened to me, would I be the same person I am today? I don't know. I could very easily have gone the wrong way, but I had faith that God had a plan for me and I stuck with it." His faith was reinforced by his maternal grandmother, who always seemed to have the right bible verse ready when Wagner was at his lowest. "Faith also helped me not to be bitter and angry that my parents weren't there for me and that people around me didn't do what I needed them to do," he said. "There were many times when God was all I had. Knowing that I could go to Him in my darkest hour was calming and comforting. "I was just smart enough to know that His plan for me would lead me to where I am now, and allow me to share my message with others. That message is: you can make it, no matter what you're going through, you can make it." Through his personal story, Wagner hopes to encourage others to find their way through faith and commitment. "There are ways out," he said. "It might not be the way I did it, but if you keep plugging along, working hard, and have faith that God has a plan for you, you will make your way; you will be happy." He also wants everyone to realize that, often in life, decisions are not yours to make. Sometimes things happen and you have to adapt. "I didnt make a decision to be a left-handed baseball player," he said. "I broke my (right) arm twice and became a left-handed player. "But that was just one decision that got made for me. If it had been my decision, I would have had a mom and dad around, I wouldn't have been on welfare, and I wouldn't have been punched in the face by a step-parent. But if it hadnt been for those things, I also wouldnt be the husband, the father, the coach and the man I am today." The man he is today is probably going into the Hall of Fame. But that isn't what Wagner wants people to know. He simply hopes to set an example and send a positive message to others. "I dont hold myself in high esteem," he said. "I dont compare myself to the fellow who is out there digging a ditch or building a road, because what they do is more significant than I what I did. I was just a baseball player. I didnt make anybody's life better by getting somebody out. "My message is about handling adversity, Wagner says. "It's not about how good Billy Wagner was, but how we, as people, can do all things as long as we work hard and have unbending faith."
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