Growing up in Montreal, I liked baseball. Hockey was my favorite, but I watched both sports on TV, played with my friends, and collected trading cards (those were the days when they came with bubble gum, and we preserved them in binders). In my later teens and twenties, I didn’t follow sports that much. There was a moment later on that baseball caught my attention in a special way. We had returned to Montreal in the latter half of the 1980s and one of my household contributions was doing the evening dishes. So when possible, I would listen to Montreal Expos baseball games on the radio. From time to time, they would have a special commentator on by the name of Bobby Winkles. Winkles had been a major league manager and coach. Knowing the game as he did, he drew the listener into the mind of the manager. The effect was a pulling back of the veil, so to speak, and I was able to see the intricacies of the game as never before. People will often criticize baseball for being slow and boring. But once one grasps what’s really going on in preparation for each and every pitch, the anticipation becomes as interesting as the action.
It gets better. Years later, now back in Vancouver, I was due to give a sermon at the congregation we attended. I was working in web hosting and design at the time. While I was at my desk, I had some music playing. The song, Home Run by the band Geoff Moore & the Distance, began to play. I knew then what to speak on. Being aware of the statistical reality that home-run hitters tend to be strike out leaders, I was going to explain how people who are called to attempt the greatest achievements tend to experience the most embarrassing failures. And unless those folks learn to how to deal with failure, they are never going to fulfill their destiny. Too many people are sitting in the stands, watching the game (of life), because they are too afraid of failure. It turned out to be a very special morning.
This one object lesson has become a book’s worth over time. I came to realize that there is something about baseball that illustrates the dynamics of real life in a way that perhaps no other game does. Some years ago I put many of these ideas to paper, hoping to publish them one day. They continued to sit on the shelf when last year I received a surprise invitation to be the chapel leader of Ottawa’s new professional baseball team, the Champions. Through all this time, I have pondered why it is that the theme of baseball would capture my heart the way it does. My greatest passion is for the Scriptures – that I would be able to help others effectively connect with God and his Truth as revealed in his written Word. Yet at the same time I know how essential it is to let God do the leading, and that the paths he calls us to take may seem very strange to us. While seeking God about my possible baseball book, I had no idea that I would ever be asked to be involved in sports ministry.
And I never would have dreamt that this sports ministry would end up being a spring board to a most unusual baseball (and life) adventure as Robin and I get ready to head out to Brooklyn for the World Baseball Classic Qualifier, featuring the national teams of Brazil, Great Britain, Pakistan, and…wait for it…Israel!
Team Israel is favored to win as they have the most players with major league experience. The vast majority of players on Team Israel are Jewish American. Like all these teams, players don’t have to be citizens of the country, but simply eligible for citizenship. If you are interested in learning more about Team Israel and this week’s tournament, here’s a great article.