Watching the All-Star Game recently, I couldn’t help but begin to make some comparisons between the game of baseball and life itself. As Yogi Berra once said, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.” So how are we spending our allotted time on the ball field of life and what can we learn from the game beyond its final score?
For one thing, while baseball has been filled with player scandals over the decades, we can also look to the game to find some solid role models. Perhaps not many are aware that Babe Ruth, a member of the Knights of Columbus, credited his playing career to a religious brother named Brother Matthias, who introduced him to baseball. Listed as a young “incorrigible” at St. Mary’s reform school in Baltimore, it was Brother Matthias who noticed Ruth’s early ability to throw and catch a baseball. Working with the rebellious Ruth, Brother Matthias spent hours bunting the ball to him and correcting his batting mistakes. Ruth later said that, “thanks to Brother Matthias, I was able to leave Saint Mary’s in 1914 and begin my professional career with the Baltimore Orioles.” Many Catholic ballplayers from the Dodgers Gil Hodges, to more recent players such as Alex Avila and Neil Walker, are examples of practicing major leaguers who, even on game days, put Mass first and openly profess their Catholic faith and its impact on their lives. Similarly, the saints do same for us. They provide one amazing example after another of lives well lived and models of faith for us to follow. But this doesn’t mean we won’t have some swings and misses along the way. Babe Ruth once famously remarked, “Never allow the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game!” Even the biggest baseball stars and Hall of Famers have had their fair share of strikeouts both at the plate and in their own lives. And if we are honest, so have we. We are all sinners, but thankfully our God is a merciful God of second chances who allows us to again step up to the plate for another at bat.
Baseball is also a game of stats. Likewise, God also keeps a record of our own lives which we are accountable for. Thankfully, he won’t judge us on how many awards we’ve received, our income level, or the type of car we drive. Instead, his most important stats will center on how much we have loved in our lives and how we’ve obeyed his commandments.
There may be certain times in our lives where we may also feel as though we’ve been hit by a 90 mph fastball. Few, if any of us will ever get through life without experiencing adversity which will test our faith and bring us to our knees, but always inevitably make us stronger. There is perhaps no greater example of grace in the face of adversity than Lou Gehrig, whose famous farewell speech is remembered as one of baseball’s most inspirational moments when Gehrig, despite an ALS diagnosis, considered himself, “the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”
Baseball is also team sport. Who’s on your team? While other sports are based on the singular – such as snow skiing, swimming, or track, we find that God places people on “our team” to help us through various aspects and phases of our lives. Members of your team might include a loving and supportive spouse, your parents, siblings, close friends, colleagues, or people who pass through your life in a flash, yet have a lasting impact. Likewise, we are called to be helpful teammates to others during our earthly pilgrimage – supporting each other along the way and helping others gain heaven.
There is also the sacrifice fly – with the goal of causing a teammate to score a run while sacrificing our own ability to do so. It’s the ultimate definition of being there for the team – and in our own lives, being there for others.
In the movie, “The Field of Dreams,” the character Terence Mann, played by James Earl Jones talked about baseball as “the one constant through all the years.” Through our faith, we know the ultimate constant through all the years is God who ultimately wants us to come home to him and be on his team. Once you are home – you are finally safe. Crossing home can be a great challenge for even the best of ballplayers. It involves overcoming obstacles and the tenacity to keep going. We may fall and skin our knees as we make our way around the bases of life. God doesn’t ask us to bat a 1000 – his Son already did that for us. He just asks us to get on deck, cover our bases, keep our eye on the ball and even though it may be late in the inning – head for home.
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