What faith? It’s all about family

Hopefully, after more than a year of writing for GetReligion, I have won the respect of you, kind reader.

Surely, by now, you realize that I would never use GR as a personal platform — as an excuse to write about the sport that God probably watched when he rested on the seventh day.

Of course, my fellow GetReligionistas would never let their personal affection for any given athletic endeavor influence their musings in this space, either.

By the way, did I mention that today is a national holiday?

Opening Day, that is.

Speaking of, um, the field of dreams, Yahoo Sports’ major league baseball editor has a truly compelling piece on David Eckstein following a sort of family tradition by donating a kidney:

David Eckstein is up next, and he’s filled with familiar anticipation and butterflies. He’s been on-deck thousands of times as a major league ballplayer, a few steps from home plate, waiting his turn. But this is different. He’s ready to donate a kidney because that’s what people with his last name do.

He’s been preparing most of his life, and, as with an at-bat, he’s watched others experience it first. Only three months ago, David’s brother Rick, the hitting coach for the Washington Nationals, donated a kidney to their oldest brother, Ken. An entire scorecard of Ecksteins, in fact, has either needed or donated kidneys.

Everybody goes under the knife. The current Eckstein box score: Five kidney transplants with six more anticipated. Two family members and a close friend have donated kidneys.

At 2,900-plus words, this is a thorough, well-researched story that goes behind the scenes of a close-knit baseball family. In many ways, it’s a joy to read. But this is GetReligion, so you know what’s coming.

The big ole elephant in the room.

Or shall I say, the ghost.

Readers learn this about David Eckstein:

One of the smallest players in baseball at 5-feet-7, 175 pounds, he is an overachiever known for a tireless work ethic and relentlessly positive attitude.

“Everything my family went through gave me a life lesson at an early age that a game is just a game, it’s not life-or-death,” he says. “But along with that, it taught me to never take a day for granted.”

Something bigger than life or death? Is it me or does that hint at something spiritual? Religious even?

Oh, near the end of the story, there’s even this:

“My wife and I have zero concerns about having kids,” David says. “God isn’t going to give us something we can’t handle. If it’s put upon me that one of my children has this disease, that’s what God wants.”

God, huh? Is it me or is there a possibility that faith plays a role in Eckstein’s life? Except for that one paragraph, you sure wouldn’t know it from reading this story.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the reporter had included some background on Eckstein’s Jewish faith? Oh, wait, Mollie the Cardinals fan is screaming at me. Just a second. Oh, OK, it turns out that Eckstein isn’t Jewish. Even jewornotjew.com knows that:

Of course, if one’s Judaism were determined by a name, then David would be MVP of the Hadassah instead of the World Series. But Judaism isn’t name deep. David’s just a hard-working goy playing on Rosh Hashanah and getting slapped on the tuchas after a clutch hit.

Let’s try again then: Wouldn’t it be nice if the reporter had included some background on Eckstein’s Catholic faith? According to The Tidings, the weekly newspaper of the Los Angeles Archdiocese, he takes it pretty seriously:

St. Louis Cardinals players David Eckstein, John Rodriguez and Jeff Suppan, do not often tout their Catholic in public. But they believe their actions on and off the field define them as Catholics.

All three were born into the faith, attend Mass regularly and make prayer a key part of their daily lives.

Interesting. Too bad an otherwise fine piece struck out when it came to getting religion.

Now, everyone please repeat after me: “Play Ball!”

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About Bobby Ross Jr.

Bobby Ross Jr. is an award-winning reporter and editor with a quarter-century of professional experience. A former religion editor for The Oklahoman and religion writer for The Associated Press, Ross serves as chief correspondent for the The Christian Chronicle. He has reported from 47 states and 11 countries and was honored as the Religion Newswriters Association's 2013 Magazine Reporter of the Year.

  • http://www.cyberbrethren.com Paul McCain

    For reasons that allude me, the management of the Cardinals decided to trade Mr. Eckstein on the heels of a fabulous season…he is no longer a Cardinal, but was last wearing a Padres uniform, and is currently a free agent.

  • http://www.cyberbrethren.com Paul McCain

    Make that elude, not allude.


  • http://knapsack.blogspot.com Jeff

    At least “Bull Durham” took the chicken bone voodoo curse cure seriously.

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    I bet if Eckstein were accused of something nasty his apparently devout Catholic Faith would have been front and center in a story.

  • http://catholicecology.blogspot.com/ Bill P.

    I’m more and more convinced that the media covers Catholics only if they’re one or more of the following:

    1. Priests that abuse children
    2. Bishops that transfer them
    3. Nuns that write against the Church
    4. The bishops who criticize them
    5. Ex-Catholics
    6. Politicians that seek Communion after saying Church teachings don’t count
    7. And the bishops that criticize them

    All-American athletes don’t fit these categories.

  • http://www.sonrisemorningshow.com M. Swaim

    Required viewing: The “Champions of Faith” film that came out a few years back from Catholic Exchange, which has a pretty decent segment on the relationship between he and Jeff Suppan as fellow daily Massgoers during their World Series winning year.

  • Daryl

    Enjoy and appreciate your site and the discussion here. I had to laugh when you started talking about baseball as something God watched on the 7th day. It is a slow enough game that it might be legitimately excluded from the category of “work” for the players. ;-)

  • http://getreligion.org Bobby

    Daryl, that almost sounded like a criticism of the game? :-) Nonetheless, it’s a perfect opening to mention that my Rangers whipped the Red Sox today.

  • samg

    It’s interesting to note that both Eck and Suppan were Bosox farmhands, playing for the AA Trenton Thunder.