Elite 89 winner has higher calling
Mankato's two-time honoree Keller looks to share his faith
CARY, N.C. -- Minnesota State-Mankato reserve catcher Ben Keller has made history, and now he’s going to try to make a difference.
Keller is the first baseball player to win the Elite 89 award multiple times, having also won it in 2012. The honor recognizes the student-athlete with the highest cumulative grade-point average at each of the NCAA’s championships, and it’s a prestigious one.
For now, though, his mechanical engineering major -- he has a 4.0 GPA -- is going to have to wait. Keller instead plans on serving at least the next two years as a Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) missionary through the organization’s Varsity Catholic program.
He’ll work with students and athletes on campuses and in sports camps, among a wide variety of other things.
“It’s always an honor to get an award like that,” Keller said. “To me, it’s just that every day, we’re always striving for excellence, always trying to honor the Lord in everything we do.”
Talk to Keller for just a few moments, and it’s his utter sincerity that is most striking. This is a young man who believes in something bigger than himself, and he’s not afraid or ashamed to admit it.
“I’m just trying to give everything to share the faith and help other people find out what I’ve found,” he began. What might it be that Keller has found?
“It’s just finding that peace and really finding that faith in Christ,” he continued. “That gives you an overall peace about everything, where if you have a bad day or a bad game, you know there’s always something bigger.
“It’s not all riding on how you perform today on the field or how you do on this test. God always has a plan for us. We just keep striving, keep plugging away, always looking to Him, always trying to follow Him.”
Once he’s fulfilled his two-year stint with FOCUS, Keller, a native of Andover, Minn., will decide what comes next. While there remains a possibility of going back to graduate school to continue his education in mechanical engineering, it’s not necessarily a done deal.
“Will I become a professor?” Keller wondered. “There’s a lot of different options, maybe going to seminary, a lot of different things I could possibly do when I’m done [with the FOCUS tour]. It’ll give me a good couple of years to really be able to figure out where I’m going in life.”
Who knows? He could very well end up becoming a priest.
“Yeah, it’s a possibility,” he continued. “It’s definitely a possibility, so we’ll see what happens. But there’s also a chance of being a priest and a professor. There’s a lot of different options we could do.”
Kids have lined the Coleman Field concourse all week in Cary and sprinted after this foul ball or that one. More than one has asked players for their autographs. The cool thing here is that it seems to be as big a thrill for the players as it is for the ones seeking their signatures -- at least a few players have taken photographs of each other signing.
If there’s a stage to be had, Keller sees it rather as a platform to share his faith. If being a baseball player is going to give him an opening with anyone, whether it be a child, senior citizen or anything in between, Keller is going to use it.
“That’s the big thing with Varsity Catholic, because people look up to athletes,” Keller concluded. “If you can have athletes that are standing out and saying, ‘This is what we believe. This is why we play. We play to honor God. We play for the glory and honor of Him.'
“Being able to play here, the fields are great. It’s the national tournament. It’s awesome the bigger it gets, to be able to share that.”