When Ryan Harris’ father sent him a posting for a new head baseball coach position all the way in Oregon, he thought it was a joke. “I asked if he was crazy,” Harris remembers. “He said to me, ‘God has a plan, you never know.’”

After spending the past five years coaching in Georgia at Brewton-Parker College, Harris and his wife sensed it was time for change. They were looking for a university and baseball program that would allow them to serve young men as more than just athletes, using the sport of baseball as a vehicle for gospel transformation—an integral component of Ryan’s story.

“I went to school (Cornerstone University) purely to play baseball,” Harris says. “I was humbled within a month and a half of being on campus.” When an early elbow injury threatened to derail his freshman season, he remembers the whole team gathering around him after practice and praying for him. “I couldn’t describe what I felt in that moment,” he says. “I went to talk to my coach about it and he preached the gospel to me. October fourth of that year I was on my knees giving my life to Christ.”

It was on his visit to Corban that Harris finally felt the same environment that had first changed his life as a college student. “It was Christ-centered, big on community, and you could see it right away,” he says. “We are truly blessed to be a part of this community. It’s bigger than baseball. It’s our lives and our ministry.”

After accepting the head coaching position at Corban, Harris got to work building his team. “With every athlete that I connect with, whether a recruit or a player, I let them know that our mission statement as a program is to build authentic godly men to serve others, pursue excellence in everything they do, and bring joy to God’s kingdom,” he says.

Harris’ new program is built around more than just baseball. It’s about seeing student athletes become great men on and off the field: it features team bible studies, the presence of local church leaders serving as team chaplains, community outreach, and mandatory study halls. “This is about getting students to understand how to pursue life and how to glorify Jesus on a daily basis through efforts, whether that’s in the classroom, on the baseball field, or in their walk,” Harris says.

On the practice field, Harris’ approach is much of the same. “I would call myself a player’s coach,” he says. “I love being in the trenches with the players. We start with the individual to address the team. Each athlete is special, and in order to get the most out of them, I need to find out what’s in the middle of them first, and then work outward. It’s easier to build trust when you’re working side by side, and from the inside out.”

Come game time, Harris believes fans should expect offense from his squad. “This team can really hit the baseball,” he says. But beyond team tactics and philosophy, he sees unique dedication in this year’s group. “Our guys don’t quit. Our team knew this year was going to be tough due to the amount of coaching changes, but our guys face adversity head on. We are using this to lay a foundation, learning and growing by attacking each day in our preparation, our attitudes, and our commitment.”

Whether inside the stripes, in the classroom, or in the community, Ryan Harris believes in the mission that changed his life, seeing the gospel carried through the game he loves. “What we are doing as a team is going to change our players’ lives for the better, far beyond the baseball field,” he says. “This is the perfect group of guys to test out and discover who we are authentically, and I am excited to see how God is going to use this team and work in each of their lives.”