Bottom of the 9th, #39 – Quality at Bat


Bottom of the 9th - Quality at Bat

Quality at Bat

“ ... when you think about me, do you think about 17 ...†(Eric Church)

     Todd Helton’s walk-up song has been looping in my mind for a few days. I saw his last home game at Coors Field, complete with bobble head. It was a fun night of tribute and appreciation, and a look back at a storybook career. Lists of statistics and awards all rightly point to his Hall of Fame potential. There was, however, no mention of something I do think about when I think about number 17 – the quality at bat. 

     You know you are a mature baseball player and fan when you are more impressed by a quality at bat than any highlight-reel caliber play. A true batter vs pitcher duel is poetic, and no one did it better than Todd Helton. He played the plate like a master cellist. Every movement, every moment, every muscle, tuned to perfection. Plus, it helps to have that Helton-esk poker face! Quality at bats do not often make the sporting news. We are so focussed on outcome, that rarely do you see the four minutes of taking and fouling off of pitches, but there lies the essence of the one-man-against-nine beauty of this game.

     It was not until our involvement in Valor Baseball, that I first saw the criteria for a quality at bat (QAB) listed and even specifically rewarded. The “Q†approach is a college/professional-level hitting philosophy that gives value to statistics that produce runs. The criteria of a QAB:

     1. Hit

     2. Walk

     3. Hit by pitch

     4. Live drive

     5. Advancing a runner into scoring position with less than 2 outs

     6. Sacrifice Fly

     7. Score a run (putting the ball in play)

     8. Seven or more pitches in an AB

     9. Putting ball in play with two strikes

     The goal, according to our coaches, is to stop thinking about the Batting Average. Focus on getting a QAB every at bat. Succeed in every single at bat. Doesn’t this sound like Todd should be its poster child?

     How can I apply this quality criteria to my spiritual life? After all, this is one of those times when I do not want to live and die by my average. How much more fulfilling is it to spend some time at the plate and learn the nuance of a relationship with my savior? What do I do to further my personal interaction as well as the kingdom of heaven? Like a quality at bat, I shouldn’t be swinging for the fences on every pitch. Rather, I need to listen to the sign, read the situation, be patient, be thoughtful, be willing to sacrifice. A quality at bat requires mental toughness and perseverance, especially when you are down in the count, but I can choose to take victory from every situation (either for myself or for the next batter). Getting good at this has built-in rewards – a life more fully lived. Like a quality at bat, my quality of spirit becomes a blessing to everyone in my field of play. It is less a personal statistic, and more an indicator of the greater strides we take when we live for others, and for Jesus Christ.

     Quality at Bat is the Holy Spirit of baseball. It is that unsung factor that takes things from a “let’s rack up a bunch of runs and beat these guys†to a “let’s play this game and all its subtleties and feel successful at every turnâ€.  

Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.   Philippians 3:12-14

     When I think about 17, I am going to think about living with quality, not just for the personal benefit (because, ironically, taking the focus off of your batting average and putting it on Qs actually improves your batting average), but the benefit it will have in lifting up the brother-and-sister-hood. That has Hall of Fame Life potential!

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