Tag Archives: baseball

A Shortstop’s Kind of Readiness

I’ve just suffered through one of┬áthe worst seasons that the Kansas City Royals have ever played. The team that won the World Series in 2015, lost 104 games, topped (bottomed?) only by 106 losses in 2005. As painful as their season proved, they showed signs of hope with some promising young players.

Watch baseball for very long and you’ll see that there are players who are in the lineup mostly for their fielding and some mostly for their bats. When you see a powerful hitter who plays in the field like he’s competing in a sack race, that player will normally be positioned in right field, the spot where he’s least likely to do much damage.

On the other hand, a shortstop who cannot field is a terrific liability. Sure, you’d like him to be able to hit, but he absolutely must be able to range around the left side of the infield, snag balls hit his direction, and make long, accurate throws to first base. Without that talent, the team is sunk.

Any shortstop worthy of playing professional baseball wants the ball to come his way in critical moments. With the game on the line, he should be not just thinking, “What do I do when the ball is hit to me?” but also, “Hit it here. Hit it here. I dare you.”

On the other hand, that right fielder, the one who wouldn’t be on the team if he couldn’t smash the ball with his bat, might be excused for standing out there at the crossroads between victory and defeat, whispering, “Don’t hit here. Please don’t hit it here!”

Which player do you more resemble in the ballgame of Christian service? Are you the shortstop, eagerly wishing for the chance to start a game-winning double play or the right fielder hoping beyond hope that the ball goes somewhere, anywhere else?

Esther initially wanted to hide in the outfield. When encouraged to bring the Jews’ problems to the king, she tried to get off the hook. In Esther 4:14, Mordecai lays it on the line for her. Unlike in baseball, God’s tasks will get done if we don’t do them. But if we fail, if we try to avoid the play, then the glory will go to someone else.

In 1985, when my Royals won their first World Series, the right fielder, Daryl Motley, caught the twenty-seventh out in game seven, clinching the series. I’ve remembered that for thirty-three years. My guess is that I’ll remember it for another several decades.

While we might be frightened to see the ball coming our way, we need to overcome fear and get ourselves into the game. A bad season for a baseball team is no big deal. A bad season for the church is regrettable. And the individual Christian often gets only one significant season to play.

The Eternal Yankees–1 John 4:4

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. –1 John 4:4

Back in the 1950s, Kansas City had a baseball team, a team that was perhaps more consistently mediocre than the Royals of recent years. What really riles longtime Kansas City baseball fans, even after fifty years, is the sense that the A’s of those years were an unofficial farm team for the New York Yankees. As evidence of the supposed collusion between the two team’s front offices, students of the game note a series of sweetheart trades–sweet for the Yankees, but sour for the A’s–that sent washed up has-beens west and up-and-coming stars east. The two most notable exports from Kansas City were Bobby Shantz and two-time-MVP Roger Maris.

Maybe it wasn’t a setup, however. Maybe there was something in the water. There’s something about putting on the pinstripes it seems, that brings out greatness in players. Similarly, there’s something about putting on the uniform of a perennial loser to help a player underachieve.

Can you imagine giving the pep-talk before the Yankees take the field? “You’re the Yankees! Go out and win.” How easy must it be to go out into the field knowing the Andy Pettite or Roger Clemons is pitching? That is, I suppose, why Joe Torre received no love after last season. Handed a slew of superstars and the keys to the game’s most storied franchise, he couldn’t deliver championships for years on end.

How much more confidence should we have, Christian? We’re on the greatest team in history with the ultimate teammate in Jesus. It’s like having Cy Young, Nolan Ryan, and Sandy Koufax all rolled into one with plenty of ability to spare. Why, then, do we behave as if we’re playing for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays or some other long-time loser?

Greater is he who is in us. That’s too easy to forget.