A lot has been made of the fact that singer/songwriter Kent Bottenfield is a former all star Major League Baseball player. It has overshadowed not only his musical gifts but the biggest story in his life which took place in December 2004. As Bottenfield likes to say, “Baseball is what I did and it was never who I was. It wasn’t my identity.” He is grateful for everything his baseball career gave him but much more grateful for the sustaining grace he has discovered in Christ. Kent Bottenfield is a man who is defined by his faith.
In December of 2004 the then retired Bottenfield had been experiencing chest and neck pains for several weeks. The pain reached a pinnacle while he was vacationing with his family in Florida. It became so unbearable that he checked himself into a local hospital emergency ward. He had previously been diagnosed with diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure but what the doctor would tell him next would change his life forever. Drawing upon experience and instinct his physician was not content to rely upon the results of a battery of new tests that seemed to indicate there was no imminent danger to Bottenfield’s health. The doctor insisted upon a cardiac catheter and insisted the procedure be carried out immediately. To cut to the chase it was discovered that Bottenfield had a ninety-nine percent blockage of a major artery and it was estimated that he would have lived less than one more day. The ensuing operation was a success.
Bottenfield says of his experience, “I felt that when I started my music (career) I had the passion to go out and share the gospel with people and in December of 2004 God said, ‘No you don’t, I’m going to show you what kind of passion it takes to carry the gospel to my people. It was an incredibly life changing moment. It is difficult for me to get through meaningful sermons or songs where the heart of God (is revealed) and for me not to break down.”
Bottenfield’s debut CD Take Me Back met with mixed reviews but not from this corner. His heart for ministry combined with the lyrics and melodies he penned in collaboration with his friend Van Lawson send a clear signal that he can hold his own as an artist. Producer Michael Omartian’s fingerprints are evident on this album and that is a huge bonus. Omartian was an early pioneer of contemporary Christian music with songs “White Horse” and “Adam Again”.
Bottenfield is a big fan of Michael Omartian. “There is no question that anything he (Omartian) touches turns to gold. He is just that good. I had no concerns handing it over to him.” Bottenfield says that as production on his album progressed Omartian would ask him, “Is it okay to do this or that and I said, ‘Are you kidding me what are you asking me for?” He knew his CD couldn’t possibly be in better hands than that of the esteemed producer who has worked with artists such as; Amy Grant, Michael Bolton, Eric Clapton, Alison Kraus, Barbara Streisand and Peter Cetera..
The album is beautifully layered and capitalizes on the use of strings. Bottenfield wanted to create music that emotionally moved the listener and by opting for hand played instruments versus programmed strings he achieved his goal.
One needs to understand that Bottenfield didn’t jump on the music bandwagon willingly once his playing career came to an end. In fact if anything he resisted the encouragement of his friends and family for quite awhile. “I was afraid to get in front of people. I didn’t like singing in front of people. I wasn’t big on speaking,” he says. The number of artists and other people who continued to tell him he should pursue a career as an artist increased. He says, “My wife told me she felt like God was really calling me to get into it (music). That was the stamp of approval for me but it didn’t make me anymore excited about it.”
Some might say that Bottenfield took a bit of a risk on his initial outing by reinterpreting hymns such as “Amazing Grace” but he points out a lot of times our familiarity with songs causes us to stop paying attention to the words. He says, “I love (older) hymns and I think they are some of the best songs ever written. The messages are clear, bold and exciting. I think we lose some of that because they have been around for so long. I like people to just listen to the words and the great message behind them (the songs). New music will sometimes make people sit up, listen and say; ‘Now I know what that is.’ It (rearranging Amazing Grace) has served its purpose.”
In March one of America’s larger Christian radio networks Family Life Radio debuted his first release “I Can’t Wait To Go Home”. It is the first move in what promises to be another all star career for a many whose eyes are firmly focused on Christ.
Bottenfield could easily have become bitter when his baseball career came to a thundering halt while he was at his peak. He was finally making big money but two simultaneous shoulder injuries (same shoulder) snuffed out the hope for more strikeouts. Instead today Bottenfield along with Van Lawson are the owners of The Music Barn, a studio in Indiana. They also established their own record label IBB Records. “IBB in baseball stands for ‘Intentional Base On Balls’ or a walk. I feel as Christians are walk needs to be intentional,” he explains.
He is planning to release his second album “Back In The Game” on June 1st. “With this first project I intentionally stayed away from the baseball thing because I wanted people to accept the music for what it is and not who I am. I think we have (finally) got past that stage. (Previously) there were a lot of obstacles with people wondering whether or not I was legitimate. Now I want to talk about how God had me doing one thing and how He now has me back in the game doing something else.”
If ever there was a man you want to pull for it is Kent Bottenfield, not because of what he has been through but because of how he has responded. During our conversation two things were abundantly evident; his heart for God and his love and appreciation for how his wife Pamela has always been there to help enable his dreams.
Copyright © 2006 Joe Montague, exclusive rights reserved. This material may not be redistributed without prior written permission from Joe Montague. Joe Montague is an internationally published freelance journalist / photographer.