Bottom of the 9th, #38 – Fall Ball

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Bottom of the 9th - Fall Ball

Fall Ballby Tom Walters

 â€œThank you God for giving me strength and making me a ballplayer.† Jim “Catfish†Hunter

     The Major League Baseball season is a long one.  In the big leagues, from the time the pitchers and catchers report just ahead of Valentine’s day, to the completion of the World Series around Halloween, is almost 9 months.  Spring Training gives way to the regular season, a grueling 162 game schedule that runs from opening day in early April, through the entirety of Summer, to the last out down the stretch in the end of September. Dave Parker said, “October is pantyhose month. No nonsense.†Parker’s colorful comment means that October is dedicated to the post season.  The best teams remain, a format of wild card games, a best of five game division series, a best of seven game league championship series, culminating with the World Series. It is all decided in the Fall. Those of us who enjoy the game, see baseball season as the best time of year.  Winter is for off-season strength training, conditioning, cage work, and skills acquisition.  Winter is when we get bigger, stronger, and faster. Some of us get a little skiing in too! Baseball has quite a grip on our lives.  It allows us year round opportunities to grow in Christ and to grow in baseball.  Jim Bouton, former New York Yankee, said, “You see, you spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball; and in the end, it turns out that it was the other way around all the time.â€

Baseball gives us great opportunity to grow in our relationship with Christ.  As a kid, I had a bit of a vending machine relationship with God.  My relationship involved me putting in a little effort, expecting a reward of some kind.  I would make deals with Him about doing my homework and my chores, helping Mom and Dad if He’d get me a new bat or glove, I would even settle for a hit or a nice catch once in a while.  Later I think my relationship matured to a training wheels relationship, I would teeter, about crash (I actually crashed a fair bit), but He always righted me.  As we grow in our spiritual walk, I am reminded of the parallels of growing physically, athletically, intellectually.  Isn’t tee-ball interesting?  There sits the baseball perched on the tee, begging our bat.  It is interesting that many, many cage sessions at every level of baseball involve the tee. Seeing, timing, rhythm, movement, contact, extension, follow through. It begs a return to our foundation, to fundamentals, to God.

... and in your knowledge, self-control and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance Godliness. 2 Peter 1:6

     Geri Larkin said “Spiritual growth is like learning to walk.  We stand up, fall, stand up, fall, take a step, fall, take a couple of steps, fall, walk a little bit better, wobble a bit, fall, run, and finally, eventually fly.† Spiritual growth then, is not so different from learning to play baseball.  We throw a couple of feet, catch what falls into our glove (sometimes), hit off a tee at .200 or so.  Those who love it, play or follow tee-ball, recreational ball, competitive baseball, high school baseball, some play collegiately, some go on to play a kid’s game for a paycheck. Persistence matters in spiritual growth and in ball. 

     It has been a long season of baseball and of spiritual growth. Fall is a reminder that it is time to reap the rewards of firing on all cylinders, but also to finish the race for the pennant no matter how weary and beaten down the individual feels. The sum is so much greater than the parts of a season – or of a spiritual walk.

     But grow in the grace and knowledge of your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. 2 Peter 3:18

“Love is the most important thing in the world, but baseball is pretty good too.† Yogi Berra

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