Love - Starting 9's Shortstop

The fourth member of the Starting 9 is the cornerstone of the infield - the shortstop. Everyone knows you put your best player at the shortstop position as you build your team, and Love occupies that position for the Starting 9.

1 Corinthians 13:13b, “...but the greatest of these is Love.”

Removing Love from one’s life is like removing the Shortstop from a baseball infield.

I did some research this week to learn more about what happens to a person when you remove love from their life and learned about Emotional Deprivation Disorder. This disorder was first discovered by a Dutch psychiatrist in the 1950s and was first termed “frustration neurosis.” That term speaks to the “frustration of the natural sensitive need for unconditional love.” Ultimately, it results from a “lack of authentic affirmation and emotional strengthening by another.” This arrested development can occur when the primary caregiver criticizes, ignores, abandons, neglects, abuses, or emotionally rejects the young person. An unaffirmed person, as it turns out, is incapable of developing into an emotionally mature adult on their own.

Many baseball coaches take seriously their call to grow “young boys into men” through the game of baseball, as do I. I wonder if we take as seriously the need for us to understand their deepest levels of authentic affirmation and emotional strengthening. We call for our players to “be more confident” in difficult situations, but have we affirmed them and strengthened them so they can succeed mentally, physically, and emotionally in that moment?

This past week, I noticed one of our summer players dealing with failure harshly. If he made an error, he would make another. If he struck out, his other at bats would be worse. If he missed a sign, you could tell he was waiting for a tongue lashing. Knowing some of his family background (broken home, etc.), I took a moment to talk with him in private.

I asked him, “Do you know what the word Agape means?”

“No, Coach,” he said.

“I had a feeling you’d say that. Let me tell you what it means,” I continued. “Agape Love represents the unconditional love God has for every one of us. It means that no matter our mistakes, that we’ll be forgiven. His love is unconditional and greater than any mistake we could make. I want you to understand that I have Agape, unconditional, love for you as a player. If you make a mistake, I’m still going to coach you up and love you. Just remember that.”

“Yes, Coach,” he said, and trotted off.

While there is probably not a baseball coach in the country who would refer to himself as a “professional counselor,” we can all express unconditional love to our players as they find the authentic affirmation and emotional strengthening to become great men. When we show our players the unlimited, unconditional Love that our Father in Heaven shows us, we find new levels of peace and inspiration. Wouldn’t it be something special to have a dugout full of peaceful and inspired players?