OCTOBER 23, 1978
Playing one of the heroes for the New York Yankees in the 1978 World Series was as exhilarating for Brian Doyle as it was out of character with the rest of his big league career. During that season, his first in the majors, Doyle had been shuffled between Triple A Tacoma and New York five times. The next year he was back in the minors again. In 1982, after a trade to the Oakland Athletics and a separated shoulder, he retired with a lifetime batting average of .161. But in that '78 Series, Doyle played the games of his life.
Subbing for injured second baseman Willie Randolph, Doyle batted .438 and did not commit an error in helping the Yankees beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in six games. He finished behind teammate Bucky Dent in balloting for Series MVP. A month later Brian and his brothers, Denny, who played for three major league teams, and Blake, who played in the minors, opened their long-planned Doyle Academy in Winter Haven, Fla., providing instruction in baseball and the Christian life to players five through 20 years old. "The first week we opened, we were packed " says Brian, "and it was because of that Series."
The Doyle brothers grew up in rural Cave City, Ky., and all three married their high school sweethearts. Brian says he found Christ in 1977, with the guidance of a minor league teammate.
Approximately half a million youngsters have attended Doyle Academy camps (one-, two-and three-week sessions in Florida) and clinics (one-and two-day programs around the country); Brian estimates that 50 of them went on to play in the majors, including J.D. Drew, Charles Johnson and Bill Pulsipher. Brian, who lives in Winter Haven with his wife, Connie (they have two grown children), is responsible for hiring instructors and determining the camp and clinic regimen. Having been asked for career advice by academy graduates over the years, the Doyle brothers formally branched out into sports management in 2001. They have 16 clients, all minor leaguers, and nonpaying arrangements with 14 amateur players.
Just as Brian's faith was influential in the start-up of Doyle Academy, it also helped him cope with late-stage leukemia in 1994-For two years he believed he was suffering from ulcers, vertigo and other ailments. Then an arthritis specialist diagnosed the cause of his joint pain and other symptoms. The next day Brian began a radical course of treatment that included two chemotherapy sessions a day for six months.
"My faith was my hope," says Brian, 48, who is in full remission. "I remember grabbing my doctor by the shoulders—I had never met him before—and saying, 'I've got one question: Are you here to win?' He said yes, and I said, 'Let's go win.' I firmly believe life is not how you start, it's how you finish. I want to be a good finisher."