Posts Tagged ‘Baseball’

The Big Ask

March 13, 2012 Leave a comment

My son and I were in seperate places tonight doing the same thing: making the big ask.  For him it’s about baseball season and having all the gear he wants.  For me it was taking one more step in our church’s journey towards purchasing a building.  For him it was research and a narrative essay giving his reasons for why he wanted what he wanted, and a detailed expense list accompanied by how much he anticipated paying out of his own pocket.  For me it was pretty much the same thing.

Just because I think it’s precious I am going to reprint exactly what he wrote in his proposal.  Here you have it:

“Well, as you know baseball season is coming up.  And I like to play it.  And on Monday me and dad went to look at sports stuff.  We found some catchers gear.  And since coach Hescott said that I could play catcher I think that I should get some catchers gear and a catchers mitt that could last me 2-4 seasons.  And I already know what catchers gear I want and what catchers glove I want.  And also Dad says I need a cup so maybe I could buy that myself?  And I also want new cleats because mine are so uncomfortable and mine have dog crap all over them.  And whenever I run they fall off.  And one more thing I want is batting gloves and I know which ones I want and my other ones are too small.”

He goes on to give exact pricing and shows his math as he adds it all up.  He then proposes: “$214 is what I want you to pay.  I will pay for batting gloves and a cup.”  That’s about 8.5 percent of the total cost.

I know what it’s like to ask for money.  I know what it’s like to have a desire burning deep within you.  My prayer for him is that in time that desire will turn more and more outward.  I think it’s safe to say I want him to keep asking well, like he did tonight.

I’ll post a picture of him in his new gear.

Categories: Yellow w/ White Trim Tags: ,

Big Decisions

Craig’s Cruisers is a western Michigan playland with mini-golf, go carts, water bumper boats, batting cage,s and token operated you-give-me-tokens-I-spit-out-tickets-that-are-worth-significantly-less-than-your-tokens games.  This is how we spent out morning.  Alex and I went to the batting cages so I could look like a big shot in the 40 mph little league cage (totally cranked out some huge home runs, by the way).  We stayed away from the high school speed and didn’t even consider the 80mph pro cages.

While we did this, Bis and Dana played token games and started collecting tickets.  After my macho hit parade, Alex and I joined the girls and played skeeball and shot hoops on the super-small basketball game that I could just stand over and drop the balls through the hoop.  We also tried our hand at games of luck that promised to give you hundreds of tickets if you could stop the flashing light at just the right time.  I couldn’t.

Then when all the fun was done and the tokens were gone we went up to the glass counter and traded in our tickets.  Bis had 115 and Alex had 78.  I swear it takes just about as long to decide what to do with the tickets as it does to win them.  The 19-year-old college student stood on the other side of the counter and waited and waited and waited while the kids deliberated and thought about this huge decision.  Do I get the cheap ring I’ll lose in the parking lot or do I get the gummy hamburger candy that will turn my mouth brown?  Turns out they had enough for both.

I tried joking with the kid behind the counter who looked very non-plussed over the amount of time the kids were taking.  “Super big decision here, right?”  He looked at me, obviously not catching the facetious tone, and said, “not really.”

I was enjoying their intensity in decision making, but the kid was bored.  How many times have I spent time worried about something that will really never matter – even though I am confident they are life-altering decisions.  I stood there watching them, kind of getting a kick out of it.  At the time I thought I wish I didn’t worry about such small things, but now, thinking about it…I’m glad I give great consideration to what may turn out to be a ring I lose in the parking lot.  How am I to know which is which?

White Privilege

June 23, 2011 1 comment

My son is finishing his baseball season this week.  He’s in “machine pitch” minor league.  That is supposed to mean that there’s a spring-loaded arm that flings a baseball at a consistent speed to a consistent location over home plate where a little boy stands ready to take on the world.  That’s what it is supposed to mean.  But the league, which has 12 teams, has at it’s use a total of 1 old and broken, inconsistent pitching machine.

Here’s something else to know about this league: the children are placed on teams based on neighborhood.  In fact, within 1/4 mile of our house there are 6 boys on my son’s team.  The coach lives two houses down, and the assistant coach lives three houses down.  We are blessed to live in a really nice neighborhood.  The lawns are manicured, the houses well-kept, dads are playing ball in the back yard with their sons and my next door neighbor, the police officer, plays catch with Alex and me.  In fact my former congressman lives down the street.  I say all to say that we live in a very upper middle class area.

My son’s coach, disgusted by the lack of machines in “machine pitch” basebal,l decided to use some expendible cash and purchase his own machine.  We practiced with it, and the kids got used to the speed.  Each time we played another team there were some significant differences.  These other kids did not have a machine, so we used ours…they were not used to the speed and weren’t able to hit well.  It was clear these kids had not had as much back yard time.  One last difference: these other teams were put together based on their own neighborhoods.  Our team is the only one with no children of color.

The denomination I’m a part of is going through a process of trying to understand white privilege.  As I’m sitting in a task force to lead the denomination in the conversation, I came to think of the Holland, Michigan little league.  My son’s team wipes up the field with about every team they come across because they have a distinct advantage with a machine and, while this is obviously an uninformed blanket statement, plenty of parental back yard time.

As a white male I have many privileges that most people of color do not have.  I’ve outlined one above.  Coming to notice things like this make me uncomfortable.  There are definitely some deep wounds that my denomination needs to address, but also some that I need to address.  The whole idea of white privilege brings about questions of justice.  Do I ask my neighbor to stop using his machine?  That doesn’t seem very “American” and wouldn’t go over well in my neighborly relationship.  Do I, as a white male, offer to purchase machines for each team?  I think there’s a distinct problem with this, too.  Do I attempt to make changes to the way the league is organized – bringing up the idea of mixing neighborhoods?  I happen to like knowing my neighbors in this manner.

One thing is for sure: I’m uncomfortable.  And that is a start.  And that is a good thing.


The Cat’s Out

For My Next Trick...

Wilson Valdez won his first professional baseball game as a pitcher on May 26, 2011.  The game began on May 25 and lasted 6 hours and 11 minutes.  His team, the Philidelphia Phillies, used 21 players and had run out of pitchers in the 19 inning game.  19.  That’s more than 2 full games worth of innings.

Everyone was tired.  Fans were literally asleep in their seats until Valdez came to the mound.  It’s a big deal because he’s not a pitcher.  Well, he wasn’t a pitcher, but he showed there was more to him than everyone thought.  He normally plays 2nd base, but now the cat is out of the bag.  Now everyone knows he is capable of doing so much more than they ever thought.

And now, of course, the cat is squirming in everyone else’s bag and going for daylight.  What else is hiding underneath everyone’s facade?  What am I capable of when the innings grow long?  What gifts lie hidden in the church that only come out when they are desperately needed? 

I say, let them loose.  It’s good to have people doing what they do best, but let’s face it: there are a lot of people in our churches who ride the pine and we have no idea what they are capable of because they never step up to the pitcher’s mound and give it a try.  I’m not sure whose fault this is, and I don’t think it’s important.  What I do know is that Valdez, a journeyman infielder, threw a 90 mile per hour fastball and got the win.  What can you do?


Alex in Armor

It was cold out last night.  I mean, cold.  You would think that May 2 would be a little warmer, but…I’m not in charge of that.  What I was in charge of last night was Bis and Alex because Dana was at a small group meeting with some friends from church.  What to do with the kids isn’t hard to figure out when it’s baseball season.  Alex had a game.  Now, normally I’m a parent helper (I won’t call myself a coach).  I stand by the bench keep a semblance of order.  It’s like corralling cats back there.  You’re up to bat, you’re on deck, you’re in the hole. You there! Stop eating rocks.  You get the picture.

But I had Bis on my own so I couldn’t do that job.  Instead I was two halves of a parent: one half watching Bis on the nearby playground…making sure nobody creepy was hanging out near her.  The other half was watching the game.  Alex was getting his first opportunity to play catcher.  Now, if you know Alex, you’ll know that he’s the smallest kid on the field and the lightest, but probably has the highest confidence level, so it was good.

I know there’s no “cute” in baseball, but he looked darn close in all that gear.  He stopped almost every ball that the machine pitched that night (something the coach said hardly any little kid will be able to do – so I’m a little proud).  But here’s the thing I’m most excited about (and I got it on video for you) Alex blocked the plate.

You have to understand that at this level of baseball (half a step up from t-ball) the catcher does very little of import.  He’s a glorified backstop.  Until the last batter of each inning.  That’s when no matter who is up to bat, no matter what kind of a hit, no matter how many on base – everybody runs home.  It’s a train of skinny kids with huge helmets coming one after another into home plate.

Alex got the ball and positioned himself in a place where he knew he would tag out any kid running home. And he did. My son, small of frame and large on confidence, stood in the face of the enemy without flinching. I was bursting with pride. And here’s what I got to thinking: When we cover ourselves with God’s armor we can stand in the face of the enemy’s attacks knowing that we are fortified, protected, and covered. Small though we may be, and however large the onslaught, there we can be having confidence in the One who goes before us and stands at our side and has our backs covered. Don’t be afraid.

One Thing Matters

March 31, 2011 3 comments

The vet said that Jack (our dog) needs to lose a little weight, but I don’t care today.  Today he gets an extra treat – the good kind that makes him spin in circles.  My own doctor tells me I should eat a little more healthy and exercise (which I am doing), but not today.  Today I don’t care.  My lawn is starting to come alive outside, and there are a lot of things to get working on out there, but I don’t care today.

I’m sitting in my living room looking out my window.  Here’s what I see: Eddy, my neighbor, is raking, and mowing and getting his flower beds ready for the big spring push.  People walk their dogs – owner and pet getting exercise.  No doubt those owners had an apple for lunch and washed it down with water and a vitamin.  But not me.  Not today.  Those things don’t matter today.  Why?  Because only one thing matters today: It’s Opening Day in the Major Leagues!!!

Alex got out of school early for parent-teacher conferences.  I sent Dana.  When he got home I had everything ready: we played catch in the back yard, came in and had hot dogs, chips and a coke.  As I’m cleaning up my plate, Alex comes screaming through the kitchen on his way to the TV “The Line-Up, The Line-Up!!!”  They were showing who was starting the season.  He hollered the names of the players and where they were in the line-up.

Opening Day always starts Spring.  I don’t really care what the calendar says, nor do I care about the temperature…Opening Day is the first day of Spring, and it means a fresh start.  This could be the year the Tigers meet the Cubs in the World Series.  This is the year that the Cy Young award goes to Justin Verlander.  Every rookie who gets their first hit today is a possible rookie of the year, every pitcher who gets a win and 15 strikeouts is a shoe-in for the Cy Young award.  Every team has a chance, and it’s like Sunday.

Every Sunday is a little Easter where new life is available, resurrection in every hymn, a response to God’s word pushing us into a new possibility, a fresh, green future following the One who opens the door to the Kingdom of God…the place, the time where we enter and move our world in the direction of God’s reign in the hearts of God’s creation. 

Nothing else matters!  The first pitch created a pop and snap on the first Easter morning, and every first pitch reminds me that we just started over.  Every day, a new first-pitch in Christ.

Play Ball!!!

Spring Training

February 15, 2011 1 comment

Yesterday (Valentines Day) the Detroit Tigers began Spring Training in Florida.  I don’t know about you, but I’m just a little bit geeked.  Alex and I already looked at the schedule for home games this season and started planning out our attack of Comerica Park.  The Mariners come early on in the season (April 28, 1:05pm, section 102 – second row) and the Twins come at the end of May.  If time, money, and mom allow we may get to a third game later in the season.

I love the anticipation!  I love seeing pictures of the pitchers and catchers getting on the same page again…learning to read one another’s minds and signals…catchers starting to get the feel for each pitcher’s particularities.  Then the position players will come and the rhythms will be established…the unspokenness of a double play…the singular mind and shared goal of each play…the backing up of this player and that…the exact positioning and fundamentals that make for success…the joy of knowing that any pitch can bring an infinite number of possibilities.

I look forward to watching the games on TV and checking the box scores of the games I missed.  I can’t wait to train my son to keep score and predict certain pitches or defensive strategies.  Then, soon, the weather will warm enough here that we’ll be outside playing catch and the ground will dry out enough to shag fly balls and take grounders.  It’s gonna be great!

Here’s my challenge as baseball relates to church planting (or maybe just worship in any church).  How does one generate that expectation, that anticipation, that excitement for worship?  How does a pastor or worship leader or teacher plant seeds within a congregation that makes them look forward to coming to church…nay, to never want to miss?  This is my challenge in a congregation where many people do not have a lifetime of making church a priority.

We have 100 or so people who would call Embody their church, but only 65-70 on a regular basis.  I know that this is a pretty average average for any church.  I would love it, however, if each family or person would go to bed each Saturday feeling like I will feel the night before I head to Comerica with my son – anticipating being involved in something great and wonderful and larger than ourselves.  How do we train ourselves to wake up on a Sunday morning and desire to hear God’s word and sing God’s praises with the same enthusiasm that is awakened within me at the first smell of hot dogs, peanuts, and a grossly overpriced beverage?

Let’s begin this week to train ourselves to predict each other’s movements and double play positions.  Let’s begin training our hearts for a life of service together.  Let’s gather Sunday morning in our respective church buildings and fulfill a God-given desire to be sent.  It’s Spring Training, and even if there’s snow on the ground near your house, we can begin to prepare for the sowing and reaping God has planned, for the throwing and catching of goodness and the home run swings we must attempt in the name of Christ.