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Sports | After facing years of adversity, Chicago White Sox pitcher Phil Humber tosses perfect game Saturday

Editor's note: Chicago White Sox pitcher Phil Humber tossed a perfect game Saturday afternoon in Seattle, defeating the Mariners 4-0.

How do we overcome adversity? Chicago White Sox pitcher Philip Humber did not know. He was the Texas state player of the year in high school. He led the Rice Owls to the 2003 College World Series title. He was the No. 3 overall pick in the 2004 draft.

Then came surgery on his elbow and six years of failure. Three major league teams gave up on him: Humber moved from prospect to suspect. Last year the White Sox took a chance on him. In his first appearance, he threw only two pitches and both of them were hits. "Both runners scored," he said, "so I started the year with an infinite ERA."

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When Humber slid into his seat on the team bus on April 3, 2011, he was praying and questioning: "Why did you put me here, God? You just want to embarrass me some more?"

Humber's years of struggling immediately became valuable experience as he recognized the problem. In his Lord of the Rings analogy, Humber said he had tried to "grab hold of the ring" again: "I didn't have that peace because I wasn't looking in the right place for it. I wasn't resting in the fact that God has my best interest in heart because I'm a child of his."

Humber said he knew he had to relinquish control and stop worrying about what others thought of him. Three days later he tossed two shutout innings of relief in a White Sox win before moving into Chicago's starting rotation. Humber's first three starts were adequate for a No. 5 starter, but then he started pitching like an ace.

Three weeks after his disastrous first appearance-on a night when Humber said he "did not have great stuff"-he took a no-hitter into the seventh inning of a 2-0 shutout at New York's Yankee Stadium. It was Humber's best game as a big leaguer, but he was not taking credit for it: "It was part of God's plan for that year. He had prepared me as a person. A lot of the struggles I had gone through as a player shaped how I responded to questions and how I went about my business."

Humber went on to post an 8-4 record with a 2.69 ERA through July 3, when the All-Star teams were announced. Some sportswriters said Humber should have been selected, but he said he didn't mind missing out. He now understands it's not about him: "For so long, I was trying to make it about me. I was going to make it happen because of how hard I was working. … But because of the road I took, I couldn't deny the fact that it was God doing it, that God had a plan."

Humber's performance prompted the White Sox to move to a six-man rotation when former Cy Young-winning pitcher Jake Peavy came off the disabled list. Although Humber's second half was rockier than the first, he stayed in the rotation for the rest of the season and was given a starting spot in 2012. Humber said job security is nice, but he can't look at it that way: "You have to prove it every day, just like in our Christian walk. You have to pick up your cross daily."

Humber said his surprise success gave him many opportunities to share the gospel in 2011. He said every time he walks off the mound, he prays that God would be glorified: "As Christians, that's really our mission. Wherever we're at, whatever we're doing, that God will be glorified in what we're doing. And he can be glorified in our low moments or in our best moments."

Listen to J.C. Derrick discuss Phil Humber's rocky road to perfection on WORLD's radio news magazine The World and Everything in It.

J.C. Derrick
J.C. Derrick

J.C. is WORLD Magazine's Washington Bureau chief. He spent 10 years covering sports, higher education, and politics for the Longview News-Journal and other newspapers in Texas before joining WORLD in 2012. Follow J.C. on Twitter @jcderrick1.


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