My ideal baseball lineup & how the game instructs us in Christian Living

This is a Friday Fun Blog! As we are mostly all aware, baseball is now in full-swing. Baseball is my second favorite sport behind football which is objectively the best sport there is. In just a moment I’ll lead us in exploring how baseball instructs Christians in Christian living (sanctification), but before I do let’s have some fun… If I could field one baseball team for one game, and make a batting lineup, who would be on my team and why? I’ll put the batting order together, including a DH, and then I’ll name a starting pitcher, one relief pitcher, and a closer. The players are from my lifetime only and may not be active players.

2B Jose Altuve: This man is unbelievable. I love seeing a player who is small in stature but HUGE in contribution. He is a wonderful player, and I’d do anything for him to wear a Reds uniform.

1B: Joey Votto: He’s my favorite player what can I say? Plus, the man is an on base machine and that’s what you want in the 2 hold.

CF: Mike Trout: Hands down, Trout is the best player in baseball since I was born in 1991. If not Trout, then who?

LF: Barry Bonds: He may have taken steroids, but he was good even before he did that! The man was a monster and an athletic freak of nature!

C: Mike Piazza: I used to call the man “Pizza” and he also had an incredible mustache. He was one of the best catchers of my lifetime.

DH: Jim Thome: If you haven’t noticed, I’ve been trying to stick to the whole lefty, righty, lefty thing. Thome was a great left-handed DH and I loved his bat point into CF. This dude hit absolute bombs!

3b: Chipper Jones: Who doesn’t love Chip? Seriously, if you don’t like Chipper Jones are you really even a baseball fan?

RF: Jay Bruce: I’ve just always loved the guy. I’m not suggesting Jay is the greatest right-fielder of my life-time (I’d give that to Ichiro), I’m just saying the Beaumont Bomber seems like such a cool dude, plus he’s pretty good so I’d love him in my line-up.

SS: Omar Visquel: Yea, the guy wasn’t a fantastic hitter, but when you’re on a team with the guys above him in the batting order you don’t really need to be a great hitter. He’s the greatest defensive player I’ve ever seen in baseball and he has the best accent of any player I’ve ever hear in baseball.

SP: Randy Johnson: The dude was nasty and he killed a bird with a fastball. Plus, that mustache though!

RP: Eric Gagne: You remember this guy? His goggles were awesome.

CP: Aroldis Chapman: The most exciting pitcher I’ve ever seen in person.

So, how does the game of baseball instruct us in our Christian lives? David E. Prince is a professor and pastor who originally wrote an article for the ERLC titled, “What baseball can teach us about Christian living… (you can read that by clicking the link:
https://erlc.com/resource-library/articles/what-baseball-can-teach-us-about-christian-living )

In the article, Prince writes about how baseball means dealing with failure. Baseball is a game in which the game’s greatest players deal with failure more than any other sport. Consider Joey Votto who gets on base more than any modern era player, but he only gets on base about 42 % of the time, but that means he fails to get on base 58% of the time he is up to bat! Think about Ted Williams who famously hit for a .406 BA. That means he still did NOT get a hit more than half the times he was up to the plate. Even in pitching, the fact that ERA is a stat shows that even the game’s greatest pitchers give up runs on a consistent basis. With the game involving such a dramatic rate of failure, it’s hard to see how it became “America’s Pastime.”

In the article, Prince writes, ” The reality that baseball is a game of managed failure for every player, even the great ones, is one of the reasons the game imbedded so deeply in the fabric of American culture. Baseball became the national pastime because it reflected the national character—a collective team endeavor that called consistently for individual responsibility and personal sacrifice for the greater good. John Updike asserted that baseball is “an essentially lonely game.” Once the batting order is set, there is nowhere to hide; a turn at the plate is coming. The fact that the whole team is counting on the each batter produces the possibility of personal exultation or humiliation. Unlike other youth sports, baseball doesn’t permit a game to be dominated by a star player whose teammates are simply along for the ride.” It’s true! Baseball is really the only sport where the best player in the league (Mike Trout) has never won a championship. On the contrary, there have been teams who have won the WS in my lifetime who did not have an MVP or a Cy Young winner! I mean just go look at the 2003 Florida Marlins roster and you will be utterly under-whelmed! Their best players were Dontrelle Willis (a rookie), Mike Lowell, and Luis Castillo, and while they did have 2 HOFers— one (Ivan Rodriguez) didn’t even make the all-star game that year, and the other (Miguel Cabrera) was only 20 years old.

Prince’s take on the decreasing popularity of “America’s Pastime” is that its not due to the game changing, but due to we, the American people, changing. Baseball is a game that requires patience, and a long process. The season is long, and the learning of the mechanics which make a player great is a long process which requires patience and long-suffering. Also, baseball is a sport which unlike any other, the most talented and naturally gifted player is not always the best. I just watched the Netflix documentary on Ted Williams a few days ago, and one thing you will notice is that Ted was not some physical specimen of a human being. Ted was kind of tall and odd looking in his body type (sort of like Tom Brady), but the man became the best hitter of all time not because of natural ability, but because of a ridiculous commitment to the art of hitting. For all these reasons, Prince believes people avoid the game of baseball nowadays, because it is a game which requires learning to persevere in the midst of failure. He believes parents are looking to keep their kids busy, so they do not want to choose a sport that requires such demanding dedication to the fundamentals of the game. He says, “Baseball requires a kind of moral courage that keeps persisting in the face of inevitable repeated personal failures.” If Prince is right, then you can see how baseball is not a sport that fits nicely into the priorities of 21st century American sports culture which seeks to give every player equal playing time, and reward them each a participation trophy at the end of the season.

Prince also points out something fascinating about the game of baseball; it requires a constant future hope. Babe Ruth has a famous quote that says, “Every strike gets me closer to the next home run.” Joey Votto has talked in the past during some of his slow months of production about how “You can’t rush a Porsche you gotta let the engine warm up…” What these guys are saying is that failure is the inevitability of the game of baseball, but they return to the ballpark each day with the forward looking hope of the success at the end of the failure. In the midst of each slump is the hope for the player to return to a streak, or to normality at the very least. Prince quips, ” Persistent, daily plodding in the face of chronic managed failure, driven by future hope sounds a lot like my daily Christian walk.” This is what Paul was on about throughout the book of Philippians… He literally was sitting in a prison cell (talk about a slump), but was commanding the Philippian believers to “press on toward the goal of the upward calling in Christ Jesus…” and he pointed them to the future hope they have in Christ, “who will transform our lowly bodies to be like his glorious body.” Essentially, the NT teaches us as Christians to take on the failures of our daily lives while always maintaining the set future hope of Christ and His return!

The other day I got to watch my favorite baseball team, the Cincinnati Reds, play a game which is rare since I live in Cleveland and they black out all of Cincy’s games… Anyways, my team’s 2 best players didn’t play well at all- they struck out multiple times; but the Reds still won. Baseball is a great sport, because it shows us, as Prince writes ” But baseball, for those of us who love it, provides a constant reminder that everyone (even the superstar) strikes out, but the game still goes on.”

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