Saturday, April 18, 2009

Using Baseball for My Humility


I love being a sports antagonist, and quite frankly, it has worked out pretty well for me. My Pittsburgh Steelers prove to be a great alternative to any NFL team this state offers. I was the only kid I knew who was not a Michael Jordan fan, and instead to support the team that developed "Jordan rules," the Detroit Pistons (who have seen moderate success in my lifetime). Even my Duke Blue Devils (again, born out of not liking Jordan, though this affiliation may cost me the ability to ever have a conversation with CJ Mahaney) are always a competitive team.

But there is one team that seems to break this mold. Since my two favorite baseball players of all time (Nolan Ryan and Ivan Rodriguez) played for the Texas Rangers, I have found myself a fan for years. Not only does this cease to be an antagonist fan interest (Reds/Indians fans neither consider Texas a rival, though the Rangers have beaten the Indians every time I've seen them at the Jake), but they don't seem to bring the same level of success either.

Case in Point: Just 10 games into the season, Texas is clawing their way back up to two games below .500 and are already 3.5 games back.

The real humility came this last November while I was in the Dominican Republic. I was visiting Bob & Anna Nilsen (missionaries from our church, Tim and Evelyn were stateside) during the week of a baseball outreach. There were baseball players (former and future) all over the place, and me. I've never stood out as a baseball player (or any sport for that matter), but I have always been a fan. Therefore, I thought I'd speak and act as one who "knew the game."

The Lord used this to humble me greatly.

The first night of the trip, I shared a room with a total stranger who was there for the baseball clinic. He asked where I was from and then naturally assumed I must be a Reds or Indians fan. I corrected him and told him I actually follow the Texas Ranger. "The Rangers," he laughed.

"I know, I know," I replied. "I'm a glutton for punishment. At least I'm not a [another franchise that struggles to be competitive] fan." The man--who was behind a half closed door of our bathroom brushing his teeth--nearly choked. He then started to laugh harder than I thought would be normal. When I asked why, he informed me that he now works as the chaplain for the major league team I just named. STRIKE ONE!

Trying to regain some credibility by displaying my vast baseball knowledge, I quickly tried to recover. "Well, I think our future is bright. I really think getting Nolan Ryan as a GM will help." I then proceeded to explain that I thought a former GM had put our team in difficult shape to which the team will need years to recover from. "He was just a lousy GM," I concluded. Again, the guy nearly choked [he was just finishing up]. When I asked why, he explained that the GM I had just derided was a good friend of his. STRIKE TWO!

Trying to recover, I clarified, "Well, he seemed to be a good guy and he definitely could spot good hitters. He just had no eye for pitching talent." The man simply nodded and I thought I recovered well. He stepped back into our room, so I thought it was time to turn the conversation back to him. "So what got you into baseball," I asked. The man wryly smiled as he explained that years ago he was drafted [by the GM I had derided] as a pitcher [which I said he had no eye for]. STRIKE THREE!

Two days later, I stood before a group of pastors and church leaders. I began to share with them freshly reminded that I am an idiot and do not stand before them by any qualification of my own. The Lord used the week as such a tremendous blessing, and He continued to use baseball as a tool of humility for me. I had the privilege of helping with a couple of baseball clinics. While at the clinics, I watched instructors teach "basic fundamentals" of the game which I had never learned. I watched many nine and ten year old boys who could already field and throw better than me! I am so prone to thinking more highly of myself than I ought to...and baseball was just one manifestation.

I can tell you this. The Rangers could finish this season 4-158 and I will not refer to any of them as bums. I will not be deceived into thinking I have a better eye for talent than their front office staff either. I know that my beloved Rangers (no matter who is running the organization) are in better hands than mine.

Now, if I could just remember the same principles in others areas of life. If only I wasn't so proud, maybe the humility could come without the humiliation!