With the 2021 baseball season officially open, we met up with Dodgers batting coach Chad Chop ’02 and his wife Debby (Baeder ’04) to reflect on last year’s World Series win and how life in “the bubble” affected their family.
“The Dodgers are going to win the World Series,” Chad proclaimed without any trace of doubt at the start of the 2020 baseball season – and the start of a worldwide pandemic.
Not the comment you would expect to hear at the start of 2020. Most people weren’t even hopeful that sports would be able to resume until 2021. But Chad wasn’t deterred and constantly reminded the players that “the Dodgers were going to win” despite what current circumstances contradicted. And it turns out, he was right.
As the new season began, new rules were posted that every team needed to comply with to resume sports. This meant that the players, coaches and managers would all have to commit to sacrificing time away from their families in faith that they would win the 2020 World Series. Chad says it wasn’t just him who committed to believing that the World Series win was in the Dodger’s future, Manager Dave Roberts led from day one, saying “there are no excuses, I know the team that has the best attitude is the one that will win.”
“There were long stretches of time where families wouldn’t see their dads, but everyone did their best, and we were all in it to get the [World Series] ring,” Debby said, about the faith that the families had and the dedication it took to win.
Both Debby and Chad knew that the Lord had put them in this season for a reason, and they both knew that faith and hard work would be refining them and the families of the other players.
“I led the church for the kids every Sunday when all the families got to be together in ‘the bubble’ for 40 days,” Debby said. “But it was a group effort and support system unlike anything I had experienced. We all balanced working remote, trading baby wipes and having group nap times – all depending on when meetings and practices were being held. Without ‘the bubble,’ I wouldn’t have the relationships with the families that I have now, and I know that was a gift from God.”
Both Chad and Debby can trace this faith and relationship building back to their time at Vanguard. “I met my wife there, I have four healthy boys, and when you’re a student there, you are also a family member to faculty and friends…Vanguard will always be special to us,” said Chad.
Bryan Wilkins was a huge influence on Debby, who ran track and field for Vanguard, while Chad was a baseball Division 1 athlete and transferred into Vanguard. Both Debby and Chad were dedicated to becoming solid people with integrity and dedication, like the professors and coaches they experienced at Vanguard.
As the season continued and pandemic rules shifted, following the new protocols were more challenging. But through it all, Chad knew that as long as the group had their minds set on winning and continuing to support each other on the field, they were going to win.
It almost wasn’t surprising to Chad when Kevin Cash, Tampa Bay Rays manager, took pitcher Blake Snell out of the game that night. Chop felt like he was sliding into home plate. “The first thought that went through my mind was ‘we’re winning the World Series tonight” shares Chop as he recounts the moments when the call was made that secured the win for the Dodgers.
Chad and Debby Chop walked out the calling with a faithfulness that God had positioned them to receive before the pandemic had even begun, which has left them both with an even stronger faith in His goodness. “If you position yourself to receive what God has for you, you start to believe that God has even more in store,” said Chad.