COLUMBIA, SC (WIS0 - A Midlands youth minister, who is also a former major leaguer, is on his way to Cuba for a unique trip.
Former Texas Ranger Jonathan Johnson is a part of a baseball ministry which gives donated equipment to needy kids.
Johnson is returning a few emails before he boards a plane in Charlotte for a long trip to Havana, Cuba. "I've been to Cuba about 20 times," he says.
Johnson is part of a group called Honoring the Father Ministry. Part of their mission is to spread their faith through the game of baseball. It's a goal he stumbled into about 10 years ago.
"I realized that what I thought was my purpose in life was only a platform to achieve an even greater purpose," said Johnson.
The platform was a career in Major League Baseball. Johnson starred at Florida State University and was a first-round draft pick.
"I'd always felt my purpose was to play baseball," said Johnson.
But when his career fell short of expectations, he retired from the big leagues, turning his attention to his other dream: teaching others about faith, while throwing a nasty fastball.
"They want it," said Johnson of the kids he teaches. "It's their chance to see what a real fast ball looks like. They want the best."
The good will doesn't stop there. Every time the men travel to Cuba, they bring hundreds of pounds of baseball equipment.
"Most of these kids don't have gloves, don't have cleats," said Johnson. "Their bats are wood sticks. Their balls are socks rolled up. They will be excited."
Johnson says it's not the career in baseball he expected, but it's rewarding.
"Everyone of these men wanted to play Major League Baseball and for one day MLB came to them," said Johnson.