Major League - Classic Characters, The Young Fireballer by Keith Wahl
The feedback from our "At the Movies" series and the coinciding CG Podcast has led us on a path to continue this exploration of the spiritual lessons we can learn from our favorite baseball movies. Enjoy this month's focus on Major League!
Last week we looked at that archetypal baseball character of the old veteran catcher. We’ve all had that teammate, and that’s what makes the character resonate. We’ve also had the next character that appears in Major League - the young fireballer. Human and flawed…with the exception of that canon for an arm.
This idea of a gunslinging pitcher is not unique to baseball. In fact, if you connect the idea of a baseball pitcher to a stone slinger from the Old Testament, we’ve had highly-skilled projectile throwers for thousands of years. David was known for his prominence with stones and a sling thanks to taking down Goliath. In Judges 20:16, we see a story of war where, “Out of all these people 700 choice men were left-handed; each one could sling a stone at a hair and not miss.” Who needs Driveline Baseball when an army has 700 southpaws at their disposal?!
Yet, for some reason, this incredible skill is accompanied by youth and arrogance. It’s interesting that Jake Taylor and Ricky Vaughn appear in Major League in the same way that Crash Davis and Nuke Laloosh appear in Bull Durham. The veteran attempting to bring along the “million-dollar arm with the five-cent head.” This idea of mentorship, bringing along the next generation of ballplayers, exists in both the baseball world and the Christian faith. We all need people to bring us along and show us the ropes in the world. Unfortunately, there are too few Jake Taylors and Crash Davises around. I think we all have an idea as to why.
This idea of intentional discipleship isn’t popular in today’s society. In this Information Age, young people can get all the information they want. They can fill up on any and all amounts of information. One challenge with this thinking is that information does not bring wisdom along with it. Wisdom comes with life experience and time. Jake Taylor has it where Ricky does not. Will the young fireballer immediately accept the counsel of his elder? Of course not, and this is before the internet and smartphones.
As more information becomes available and easily accessible, the value of personal wisdom from life experience will continue to get slowly squeezed out of the culture. When wisdom isn’t valued above talent, the veterans won’t take the risk or the time to mentor the next generation. The increase in arrogance and the lack of humility of the youth (of which I would associate myself as of a couple years ago) pushes away those who have wisdom from life experience.
Unfortunately, Ricky Vaughn is something of a prophet. At one point in the movie, Ricky is signing an autograph and turns to Jake Taylor saying, “I thought you had to do something good to be a celebrity.” Jake responds, “Not if you do it colorfully.” Too many people are following Ricky’s example and doing things colorfully to gain fame. We have to continue to pray for wisdom and hope that the wisdom granted by God will continue to be passed on through the generations.