Pod people: One more Easter home run

As most of you know, Sunday was an important religious holiday.

In my “All hope is not lost” post, I already highlighted eight compelling enterprise stories that graced the nation’s Easter front pages.

But I’m not talking about that religious holiday.

I’m referring, of course, to Opening Night and the beginning of a new Major League Baseball season. (Even though my beloved Texas Rangers lost that first game, they came back and won the next two against the lowly Houston Astros, including an almost-perfect game pitched by Japanese sensation Yu Darvish).

In my original Easter post, I purposely did not mention one story with a strong religion angle that I found on the Sunday front page of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. That’s because the story — a profile of Pittsburgh Pirates star Andrew McCutchen — was related more to the new baseball season than the Christian holiday.

The gist of the 3,700-word profile: star center fielder stays humble and remembers his faith.

The lede:

FORT MEADE, Fla. — Four men look at an 18-year-old baseball player, and they see a blessing.

The young man sitting in front of them has been picked by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the first round of the 2005 draft, and his life is already changing, to the tune of a $1.9 million signing bonus. The men are here, at a Red Lobster in Lakeland, Fla., a half-hour’s drive from home in the small town of Fort Meade, to pass along some wisdom before the long journey begins.

In a matter of days, Andrew McCutchen’s professional career will set sail with the Gulf Coast League Pirates. A team scout has told him that he is special, that he could be Pittsburgh’s baseball savior, the next Barry Bonds. It’s a lot for a teenager to handle, so Lorenzo McCutchen asked three trusted men of God to help lay a foundation for his son to fall back on when the world gets crazy around him.

They are attempting to speak directly into Andrew’s heart, about staying true to himself, about keeping God first, about the pitfalls of the fame that could come his way.

“We were giving him his wings,” Lorenzo recalls.

It’s truly an exceptional story that revolves around the role that faith played — and plays — in the life of McCutchen’s parents and the baseball star’s upbringing. And the piece hints at the importance of God in the center fielder’s own life:

McCutchen is a big leaguer now. The offseason has just begun, so he can do whatever he wants.

Pirates pitcher Jeff Karstens and his wife have invited him out to dinner to celebrate his birthday in Tampa, about an hour from McCutchen’s house in Lakeland. The night goes pretty late, and the group comes back to the Karstens’ home.

For McCutchen, that means the night is over.

“He’s like, ‘I’ve gotta get my clothes for church tomorrow. I gotta meet my parents,’ ” Karstens recalls.

McCutchen hangs up his Sunday best and goes to sleep. He’ll be at Peaceful Believers Church in Fort Meade in the morning.

“I got up,” Karstens recalls, “and he was gone.”

I love that kind of detail. But after reading the entire story, I wonder if the story truly provided insight into faith or just skirted at the edges of it.

I’d love to know what GetReligion readers think: Is the story fine (more than fine, actually)  if one reads it as just a baseball fan and not as a religion news critic? Or would more detail and depth on what God means to the McCutchens, on what the Peaceful Believers Church believes and teaches, and how both relate to the “man of God” that the baseball star has become improve an already excellent profile? So please read the whole thing and weigh in.

Meanwhile, in the latest “Crossroads” podcast, host Todd Wilken and I discuss the highs — and lows — of media coverage of Easter, not to mention former GetReligionista Sarah Pulliam Bailey’s foray into the world of mainstream religion news. After you read the McCutchen story, be sure to enjoy the podcast.

Image via Shutterstock

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.

  • FW Ken

    Pittsburgh seems to be blessed with an abundance of writers who get religion. Thanks for this story, Bobby. It got me close to tears.

    Sorry I missed that Yu Darvish game.

    • Bobby Ross Jr.

      Thanks, FW Ken. That Darvish game was one I won’t soon forget.

  • http://kenfallon.net Ken Fallon

    As a baseball fan (Go Giants!), I loved it (though I could have done without the random snapshots).

    From a GR perspective, I was frustrated with it. Mr. McCollough might argue that McCutchen’s reluctance to discuss his past made it difficult to delve into the faith angle, but it seemed like every time the reporter came close to addressing how faith has shaped the McCutchen family, he backed away as if it was fire and he was afraid of getting burned.

    How did that conversation with three pastors shape who he is today? Pastor Cornelius makes repeat appearances early in this story, but I’m never quite sure if his influence is one of spiritual advisor, mentor, pastor, or…? How did the early pregnancy and Cutch senior’s decision to leave school affect their son’s upbringing and spiritual formation? How about the parent-teen entanglements? And is his confidence and seeming unflappable nature an indication of nurture, nature, faith or…?

    • Bobby Ross Jr.

      Thanks, Ken. I actually kind of liked the random snapshots.

  • John M.

    Yu Darvish’s father is/was Iranian. (Thus the surname). Anybody know if he adheres to any religion?

    -John


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