Support & Mentoring for Colorado Baseball Coaches

3a535884-1955-48a5-81d6-3a73dd86550b.jpg

In the past few months I’ve heard different pastors explain how they were given a heart for a certain city or area within a city to build their church. This was a new idea for me and I started to pray to this end for my ministry work, specifically through Complete Game Ministries. In the midst of those prayers, I experienced clarity in my calling - I am called to minister to baseball coaches in the state of Colorado.

It’s kind of a smaller group, kind of a niche group of people, but one that is very special to me. Some of my most treasured relationships exist in the Colorado baseball community and I desire to give back to the people engaging in this important work.

As a former head coach in a public and in a private school, I learned a lot. One of the things I learned is that head baseball coaches are very much like head pastors of a church. They’re expected to have a wide variety of gifts and skills, and often expected to operate a very complex organization with a level of perfection. Often times a head baseball coach operates outside of his comfort zone or skill set to help the program survive. These expectations can be difficult, even crushing, and it often leads coaches into isolation. It is my goal to break that cycle of isolation and build a community of support around baseball coaches in the state of Colorado.

Complete Game Ministries is creating a network of baseball coaches, pastors, priests, and youth ministry professionals in an effort to unite, encourage, and resource the baseball community in the state of Colorado. In the initial phase of this vision, I’ll be creating a group of current and former baseball coaches, administrators, pastors and priests who are interested in being available to listen and counsel baseball coaches in the state of Colorado through Complete Game Ministries. 

I’ve been engaging in this work with a small number of coaches in the state and helping them develop their baseball programs. I’ve prayed with them and over their programs. It’s been one of the most fulfilling things that I’ve done as a coach. To walk beside a brother through a time of growth and development, or a time of trial has been incredible. Winning a baseball game or building a program is an amazing thing, but to help others do it as well or better might be even more incredible. I want to invite others to join me in that work.

If you are interesting in supporting the baseball community in Colorado and serving the ministry in this way, please contact me using any of the methods below. I’m looking forward to having a network of coaches, hopefully in each of the areas outlined by the Colorado Dugout Club, ready to support our baseball coaches by the spring season. I look forward to hearing from you if you’re interested in being a mentor for baseball coaches in the state of Colorado through Complete Game Ministries.

Sincerely,

Keith Wahl
Executive Director - Complete Game Ministries
"The Gospel of Jesus in the Language of Baseball"
kwahl@completegameministries.org
https://completegameministries.org/

Bot9 - More Than Enough

red-sox.jpg

2 Corinthians 9:8 (NLV), “God can give you all you need. He will give you more than enough. You will have everything you need for yourselves. And you will have enough left over to give when there is a need.”

I really wanted to win a championship in my lifetime. It was a thing, a deep yearning. I remember how long it took my favorite football team, the Denver Broncos, to win a Super Bowl. They finally got over that hump while I was in college and I was 23 years old. That was a great day. I remember how long it took my favorite baseball team, the Boston Red Sox, to win a World Series. They got over that hump in 2004 when I was 30 years old. Another great day. And, I remember when I finally won a high school state championship. I was 42 years old. That was a wonderful day.

Since then, the Broncos have won a couple more Super Bowls, and the Red Sox have won four World Series in past 14 years. Personally, one baseball program I started just completed a three-peat, while the other won their first state title this past spring. The past 20 years have been a time of incredible abundance.

In the midst of less and in the midst of plenty, there’s one thing that remains constant - God is more than enough. Jesus is more than enough. The Holy Spirit is more than enough. When we put anything above or in between our relationship, that thing let’s us down. It becomes more important for a time and we need reminded about our priorities. We might catch ourselves striving, or a friend might point it out lovingly, or God might even humble us until we get back to that simple idea. He is more than enough.

I’d like to encourage everyone to listen to the Chris Tomlin song and read through the lyric below as a reminder. Jesus Christ made Himself available to us through the Cross and He is more than enough for us, now and forever. Rest in that this baseball offseason.

As a note, I’m going to take a break from writing Bottom of the Ninth on a weekly basis until the new year and focus on completing my second book. I’m excited to share that book and new content in 2019 as we continue to speak The Gospel of Jesus in the Language of Baseball. We’ll see you in 2019!

Enough by Chris Tomlin
All of you is more than enough for all of me
For every thirst and every need
You satisfy me with Your love
And all I have in You is more than enough
You are my supply
My breath of life
And still more awesome than I know
You are my reward
worth living for
And still more awesome than I know
All of you is more than enough for all of me
For every thirst and every need
You satisfy me with Your love
And all I have in You is more than enough
You're my sacrifice
Of greatest price
And still more awesome than I know
You're my coming King
You are everything
And still more awesome than I know
More than all I want
More than all I need
You are more than enough for me
More than all I know
More than all I can say
You are more than enough for me

Baseball Chapel 2018 - Humble Beginnings

IMG_4637.JPG

by Christian Bitar, CG, Baseball Chapel Staff

Baseball, in nature, is a humbling game. I mean think about it… failure permeates the game through and through, yet, the one who hits the ball three out of ten times is considered, not just above average but, great. However, even with this as our reality, experiencing this failure can bring us to our knees, or provoke tears, anger or frustration. I remember during my sophomore year at Regis University I had experienced this first hand. My freshman year saw much success, which, set expectations for the next year. So, when season came, I had this idea of how it would play out, yet somehow, failure was not a part of the picture, or my picture at least.

During my sophomore season I ended up hitting less than I weighed (at the time I weighed 225 pounds). It was as if the game had gut punched me, taking the air out of my lungs. Each blow that season was heavy, leaving me bruised, refined and most importantly humbled. In all honesty, I never thought that the game would do this to me again, but I was wrong.

This last Friday marked the beginning of Complete Game’s “Baseball Chapel,” or so we thought. When the start time came around, the field behind Cherry Hills Community Church (this is where the chapel is being held), showed no signs of a harvest. Each tick from the seconds hand was heard and magnified by the silence on the field.

With no sign of young men coming, our excitement, had morphed into confusion, frustration, disappointment; the list could go on. Never had we expected this to be the result of our labor. Yet it was. Adversity had taken its shot and connected, staggering us some, but not fully taking us out. We will be back this Friday, with more vigor, ready to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the Language of Baseball.

What this Baseball Chapel aims to do is communicate who Christ is, what He has done, and how it permeates not only into our hearts but into how we view the world. In the next three weeks, at Cherry Hills Community Church, our vision will be communicating the idea of victory and how the world views it but how the gospel obtains it. As a staff, we want this message to hit the hearts of the young men present so that Jesus takes root, and creates a dwelling place within their hearts, through the power of the Holy Spirit. This being said, parents, we need your help in making this happen. This is an opportunity to radically change your sons’ lives, and your families’ as well.

In the past, there has been a major focus on just the boys. But seeing that this an expenditure that may take away from some family time, we would like to offer time to invest into you as parents. When the boys go over the lesson for the evening, one of the other members of our staff would like to talk over what the boys are learning and how this can be taken home for meaningful family time. For family time will be infinitely more valuable in the grand scheme of things. What this ministry wants to do is equip. We want men, women and children for Christ, and to do that, we need parents to take up their role in doing this.

Deuteronomy 6:5-7 gives us great perspective on this. In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses, is giving one long and final sermon before he is taken away to be with the LORD for all eternity. This passage in particular shares profound truth; in fact Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6:5, when the Pharisees asked, “What is the greatest commandment?”

What Deuteronomy 6:5-7 says is:

“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” (English Standard Version)

Through the words spoken by Moses, we see that we first need to set all that we are; mind, body, and spirit; on God and His ways. From this vantage point, the Spirit comes on us and writes in our hearts the law of God, which then bears fruit in the lives that we will live, and in the case of the family, into the lives of children. So, I end this with the hope that those who come and participate, will know that what their boys will be experiencing in Christ. Our prayer is that the God the Father would pour out His Spirit, so that Christ may be revealed and dwell in the hearts of many, bringing glory to the One true, triune God.

Bot9 - I Love Numbers

main-qimg-b78d0d10f6fe9b329e8fe06c417406a6.png

I love numbers. Anyone who knows me or has coached with me or has played for me knows that I’m always trying to figure out which numbers to use to guide our thinking and performance. If I’m coaching a game, I’m watching the numbers tell me a story. If I’m teaching a hitter, he’s got a sensor on his bat and I’m measuring other external data as well. Without the numbers, I believe I’m uninformed. With the numbers, I feel informed and like a more effective guide for a team or player. I love numbers.

I know that both teams playing in the World Series are a step ahead of their competitors in how they use the data as well. That can be said for most, if not all, of the teams in the MLB Postseason. In fact, just this week I met a young man who pitched in the big leagues for two organizations this year. One of the organizations had made the postseason and the other did not. I asked him about the difference between the two organizations. He said it boiled down to the scouting reports and the data. The one who made the postseason was way ahead of the game in using data and giving it to their players, even in the minor leagues.

I’m also coming to love (maybe appreciate is a better word) the book of Numbers in the Bible. God instructs the people to take a census and He arranges the people around the tabernacle. God shows an order and He’s in the center.

But that’s not the most interesting part of Numbers. That’s in the rebellion of the people in the wilderness. It is in the book of Numbers that the people’s complaining intensifies and they demand to go back to Egypt. We see that God allows His people to obey or disobey, and face the consequences of those choices. In the end, God determines that this generation of people will not enter the promised land but that their children will.

God’s grace, mercy, and faithfulness in the face of rebellion is on display through the book of Numbers. We see how God allows us to walk towards him or walk away, and to face the consequences of our choices. It’s free will and sovereignty on display. Having walked into the wilderness for a couple of years now, I can tell you that I’m thankful for God’s grace, mercy, and faithfulness. I continue to pray that we will be proven obedient and worthy to enter whatever promised land He has for us. It is my hope that one day I will look back and love Numbers as much as I love numbers.

Bot9 - Creating Beauty

David+%26+Yelich.jpg

Playoff baseball is the highest form of creativity. I’ve had to pause in amazement watching the Astros, Red Sox, Dodgers, and Brewers play this postseason. I’m trying to put my finger on this idea of the creativity I’m observing. It’s like I’m staring in observation of the extraordinary as I watch baseball on the television in the same way I’ve stood motionless in front of a Van Gogh or an inspired work of art in a gallery.

The creative elements of the game are on full display in the movements of the players on the field and in the application of data and analytics. People are using their God-given physical gifts to play the game, and people are using their God-given intellect to put the right players in the right position on the field. What an incredible act of worship the game of baseball is!

A couple of months ago, I wrote about how knowledge can lead to arrogance. What I’m coming to understand is that creativity can lead us to health.

Writer James Clear had this to say in his article titled, “Make More Art: The Health Benefits of Creativity”:

“The moral of this story is that the process of making art — whether that be writing, painting, singing, dancing, or anything in between — is good for you.

There are both physical and mental benefits from creating art, expressing yourself in a tangible way, and sharing something with the world. I'm trying to do more of it each week, and I'd encourage you to do the same.

In our always–on, always–connected world of television, social media, and on–demand everything, it can be stupidly easy to spend your entire day consuming information and simply responding to all of the inputs that bombard your life.

Art offers an outlet and a release from all of that. Take a minute to ignore all of the incoming signals and create an outgoing one instead. Produce something. Express yourself in some way. As long as you contribute rather than consume, anything you do can be a work of art.

Open a blank document and start typing. Put pen to paper and sketch a drawing. Grab your camera and take a picture. Turn up the music and dance. Start a conversation and make it a good one.”

The heading of James 2:14-22 in the ESV Bible says, “Faith without works is dead.” I wonder if part of the subtext of the word “works” there for James could have something to do with creative inspiration. Even in writing this my conscience is screaming at me, “Is this idea heretical?” I often wonder if we hold back some of our creativity because of that kind of fear.

Paul and the other writers of the epistles wrote letters as their creative outlet to exhort and encourage new believers in the faith. In 1 Peter 1:13-2:10, Peter connects Old Testament ideas to the current situation of the new believers. He specifically draws them into this idea of a “cornerstone” in Christ. What a beautiful image that has now lasted over 2,000 years!

Should we do the same with our faith? Instead of only reading or studying the Word this week, what if you created something with what you’ve learned? Write, discuss, apply, paint, sculpt…do something with your faith this week. Exercise those muscles and see what occurs. For me, that’s what Bottom of the Ninth and the other pieces we create through Complete Game are - a creative exercising of our spiritual walk. I hope it serves to inspire others to create with their faith as well!

Bot9 - Rewrite the Rules

griffey-hr-derby.jpg

Sometimes it’s interesting how similar baseball and the Christian life are.

The marketing for this year’s postseason baseball run includes an interesting ad. The name of the campaign is “Rewrite the Rules” and ends with Ken Griffey, Jr. saying, “Let the kids play.” The video juxtaposes the unwritten rules of baseball with players of today breaking those rules.

Everyone in the game understands why Griffey represents an appropriate finish to the ad. His backward hat was a symbol of rebellion in the 1990s and he changed the game in so many ways, particularly in what was and was not acceptable. Being a child of the ‘90s and a Griffey guy back in the day (one of my first and wisest Rotisserie Baseball investments), I remember how his Griffey’s very existence seemed to make my dad’s blood boil. Griffey had that effect on the previous generation, but also ushered in a new generation of baseball ettiequte.

Traditions matter and they die hard. The Apostle Paul encountered the same thing in the early church, specifically in The Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15. In Acts 15:1, the Bible says, “Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers: ‘Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.’” Those who fit into the traditions of the pre-Jesus Jewish movement wanted to impose their traditions onto those new believers who were choosing the follow Christ.

Those debates were lively in the early church as Paul and the apostles spread the Gospel of Christ throughout the Mediterranean and Middle East. Just as lively is the debate around how the game of baseball should be played. The generation before attempts to tell the next generation how things “should” be done. While some tend to be more conservative in their approach, I tend to stress freedom for the players. I love expressions of joy and excitement on the field. I love new generations of thought giving the game a totally different flavor.

In both baseball and the Christian life, I’d encourage us to listen to the next generation. We don’t want to sway in the wind and move traditions easily, yet we also don’t want to get stuck in the mud and live by “that’s-how-we’ve-always-done-it” thinking. We should always be open to examine ourselves and seek to move the things we love closer to the essence of Christ.

Bot9 - Curses and Science

bill-james-0790060781.jpg

This time of year brings out so many great memories. While it might sound strange, some of my favorite memories are related to the so-called “curses” associated with different teams and their postseason ineptitude. The Black Sox Curse that haunted the Chicago White Sox for so long. The Billy Goat Curse and the Bartman incident rolled into one for the Cubs. And, of course, the king of all curses - the Curse of the Bambino that hovered over the Boston Red Sox until 2004.

The sad part is that these curses seem almost silly now. There was this mystical quality to the game in the previous century, and it seems like all of the metrics used the game today has driven out that spirit. The man pictured above, Bill James, started this revolution and anyone who knows me knows the irony of such a statement coming from me - I LOVE the metrics. But I also love the emotion that came from feeling connected to a curse. It was bigger than the game.

I’m leading a book and Bible study right now and we’re reading More Than a Carpenter by Josh McDowell. In a short chapter around science, McDowell draws out an important distinction between two different kinds of proof. Scientific proof is repeatable in an experiment. Legal-Historical proof is proof that is beyond a reasonable doubt. There are things you can prove using the scientific method, and others that require proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

People have used science to drive out the spiritual from our daily consciousness. In some ways, the same has happened in baseball as it has become so driven by the data. But because baseball is a game played by humans, there will always be a spiritual nature to it. As I’ve learned and grown, it’s right and good to use the metrics to guide some decision, but people need other people to use the Holy Spirit as they coach and play. Humans need mentors to guide them through this life. The spiritual will always be there in baseball and in our daily walks!

As we roll into the postseason, watch how the great coaches and teams are connected emotionally, while also connecting to the most important data. And, of course one of the best teams at this is the New York Yankees who are heading into the divisional series against my favorite team, the Boston Red Sox. Dang it. Some curses never quite leave your consciousness.

Bot9 - Doing Spiritual Work

DF5rjqpV0AEGsXl.jpg

Last week I referred to all of us as “baseball missionaries.” Through writing and coaching the game, I’ve learned how to help people make connections to faith with, through, and using examples from the game. It’s an opportunity to live like Jesus if just for a moment - you get to help someone make a connection to the Holy Spirit through an example from baseball. It’s truly amazing.

You can do this, too. In fact, I would say that you’re called to do it. You’re called to make disciples of baseball players and coaches, just as I am. You’re called to teach them and baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. In our Western model of education and ministry, we have come to believe that you need an expert to do these things. Nope, not a thing. The Bible doesn’t say you need certified, to take a class, or earn a degree to do spiritual work. I’m certainly not downplaying those things, and I have been looking into things like ordination, seminary, and the like. I’d enjoy doing that level of learning. But it’s not a requirement.

Check out John 4:2. The whole verse is in parentheses: (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples).

Interesting, isn’t it? Jesus is on earth, He’s the expert. Does He do the baptizing? Nope, the disciples do it. The guys He found in all walks of life and in all levels of failure. They did it. There’s are two really important principles in here, and I think it carries over to other parts of the ministry as well. The first is to just do the work the Holy Spirit is calling you to do. Be available to people and share what Jesus is teaching you.

The second is hold that work loosely. In Acts 8, we are blessed with the story of Philip and the eunuch. I’d encourage you to read the whole story, but take a look at the baptism part of the story in Acts 8:36-39:

And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing.

This was one of those stories that I had to pay attention to as it came up in a conversation with my wife and then in the sermon at church. Here’s Philip teaching the eunuch and they come upon some water. Philip baptizes him and the Lord carries Philip away. Philip’s work there was done. Move on. Let the Holy Spirit go from there.

Bot9 - We Are Baseball Missionaries

prayer-circle2.jpg

If you’re reading this, I’d refer to you as a baseball missionary. You see your time on the baseball diamond as time in the harvest field. You recognize the lessons of God and Christ that are available to be taught in and through the game. You’re looking at things with spiritual eyes and not physical ones.

The audience of Bottom of the Ninth are baseball players, coaches, and parents across the country and world with similar eyes. But we know that few share this view with us. For most, baseball is just a source of recreation, a game to be played for fun. I’ve been floored by the number of Christian people who separate what happens in their spiritual lives with what occurs on the baseball field. Baseball (and other sports) is the microscope for where you are in your spiritual walk and maturity. It provides all of us with a stick by which we can measure our progress.

I watched Silence this weekend with my wife. Silence is the story of priests who endure incredible trials to share the Gospel in the nation of Japan in the 1600s. So much of the film was about the subversive, underground attempts to encourage the believers in the secret churches, and the violent attempts by the Buddhists to thwart the spread of Christianity in Japan. It’s a fascinating film and one worth watching and processing.

The thing that stuck with me is this - through Complete Game we are called to spread “The Gospel of Jesus in the Language of Baseball.” In Silence, they were called to spread the Gospel of Jesus through the language and culture of the Japanese. It’s a long, hard road and it requires deep, intimate understanding of the culture. You’re not going to colonize a group of people who process and think about things one way to an entirely different way of thinking overnight, through a single message, or a single blog post.

Our call as baseball missionaries is to learn, to observe, to walk this road, and to live out both of these Scriptures:

“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” - Matthew 10:16

“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only…” - James 1:22

Get into the culture of baseball and learn it. Make the movement of Complete Game like the secret church. Help people to see that this game is meant to find and build disciples. For if the purpose is only the game, there is no purpose at all. This beautiful game was created so that we can show people the goodness of God and the glory of Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit.

“Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” - John 1:3

“For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.” - Colossians 1:16