Baseball and Christianity: Yeah, I’m Going There

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Those who know me know that I have a baseball problem. Ok, it may be more than a “problem”…I admit that (and I’m working on it). I memorize statistics,  keep up with nuances, habits and tendencies of hitters and even keep up with each clubs Farm System so I’ll have a jump on my Braves future competition. I long for Spring training as soon as the last out is called in the World Series and the sound of a baseball popping into a Nokona catchers mitt is akin to the singing of angels for me. I’ve got it bad.

 I can’t really pinpoint the cause of my affection for baseball over other sports as it’s probably a combination of a plethora of things. The unrivaled tradition and nostalgia surely play a part as does the drama of a 3-2 count with 2 outs in the bottom of the ninth or the childlike exuberance that is exhibited in the midsummer classic. Sights, sounds even the smell of a $6 ballpark hotdog get me. They always have…and I’m just talking now about watching the game…I enjoy playing it even more!

So, while I could go on and on in listing the possible culprits that cause this obsession of mine, I’ve come to realize that the greatest reason I love this game is because it mirrors life.

In my view, like no other sport, baseball translates.

Let me explain.

My wife, Annette and I coach kids on the diamond every year. One of the teams that we are leading this season is an enigma. All the ability in the world but no confidence. This seasons challenge will not be teaching them how to adjust their swing with an 0-2 count or throw across their body when fielding a ground ball in the hole…they can do that. Our challenge is helping them realize that they can. Our challenge is to coach them to find and apply confidence to their game.

You see, they make the mistake that most players (and people in general) make…they know that in order to succeed, they must have confidence but they go looking for it in the wrong place.

If I were to ask one of my players, “What do you love about this game? What would have to take place during the course of this game that would pump you up?”. Typically, I’d get the reply, “When I get a hit.” or “When I turn a double play.” or maybe, “When I strike someone out.”.

I’d then ask them, “What do you have to posses in order to get that hit, turn two or record that strikeout?”

They all say the same thing, “Confidence. I must have confidence in order to perform well”

I’d then inquire, “Where do you get that confidence?”

They’re reply, “By performing well. By playing good.”

DO YOU SEE THE PROBLEM THERE?

In their mind – In order to play well, they must have confidence but the only way they’ll be confident is to play well.

Does that sound like a formula for success? Is that logical reasoning?

No. It’s a flawed process…and I’ll tell you why. – Baseball is a game of failure. It really is. Take the greatest player to ever lace up a pair of (sharpened) cleats, Tyrus Raymond Cobb. Cobb, as notorious as he may have been, batted over .400 3 times in his 22 year career, won 12 batting titles, was one of the first 5 players elected to Cooperstown (receiving 222 out of 226 votes). His lifetime batting average was an unbelievable .367. See that? The greatest of all time failed more than he succeeded. In other words, if Cobb went to the plate 10 times, he failed 6 times (at minimum). How about “The Big Train“, Walter Johnson? In his 21 seasons as a right-handed fireball pitcher for the Washington Senators, he led the majors in strikeouts 12 times and had, get this, 110 shutouts in his career. But Johnson also had another record, he hit more batters than anyone in the history of this grand old game. “The Big Train” caused some pain. He failed. A lot.

See what I mean by this game being a game of failure? The greatest players fail over half the time.

Now, lets apply that truth to where a player finds confidence. If confidence is only found in previous performance, it’s a sketchy process as even the best players invariably fail over 50% of the time. If confidence (which is essential) is found in what happened in the last at bat, the probability of finding it there is extraordinarily low because most at bats end with a trip back to the dugout. If the source of a ball players confidence is performance, that player is unlikely to succeed.

In this game – the source of our confidence cannot be in what we’ve done but in what we know we’re capable of doing. That’s what separates good players from great ones…not ability, but where they find their confidence. When a great player steps into the batters box, they’ve already made their mind up. They’re going to succeed. They’ll get that hit. That confidence isn’t based on what transpired in their last at bat because statistically, they probably failed. No, that confidence arises because they know that they are capable. They trust their abilities. Get that in this game and you’ll have your bust in the Hall of Fame one day.

Get that in life and wow… No telling how God will use you.

You see, as I mentioned, Baseball translates. Just as baseball is a game of much failure…as is life. The reality is, in life, we fail much more often than we succeed. If we’re batting .500, that’s Hebrews 11 stuff right there! We fail. We fail a lot. The best among us strike out often. Peter, David, John Mark…on and on. All of their lives contained much failure.

But as confidence is essential for success in baseball, we need confidence in order to be all Gods called us to be. The question is “Where do we find it?”

I’m convinced that like those on the diamond, we look for it in the wrong places. I really believe we lack it most of the time because we’re searching for it in our previous performance…in our last at bat…in the last time a routine ground ball came our way…and because we fail so often, it’s likely we never find it. That’s why we say things like, “Well, yes Lord. I hear you. I know what you want me to do but last time I tried that it didn’t work out so well“. We typically base our confidence on our previous performance and the odds of that performance having gone well and 50/50 at best.

So where does the christian find confidence? He finds it in Christ. Not in the results we’ve seen before. Not in what happened last game. The source of a believers confidence is in Christ. In Psalm 71:5, the Psalmist records, “You are me hope, Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth“. The Apostle Paul, who had a succesful ministry and could have easily placed his confidence in the churches he planted that were thriving throughout Asia minor or in his fruitful evangelistic efforts, instead proclaimed, “not I but Christ in me“.

Christian, I’m not saying to you that we shouldnt take note of what happened last time we were at the plate. We should. We learn that way. I’m saying that if you’re looking for confidence there, it’s unlikely that you’ll find it. Instead, let the source of the essential confidence you desperately need be found in Christ…He’s batting a .1000

Soli Deo Gloria and Play ball!

Pastor Kyle

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