Part of an ongoing series on Everyday Spirituality.
For the last several summers, I’ve coached my son’s Little League baseball team. Now, I love baseball, as readers of this blog are surely aware. In fact, it’s really the only sport that I have any affinity for. So when I first got into coaching Tanner’s team, I was expecting to have some fun with it.
But it’s become so much more.
For one thing, the time with my son has been tremendous, and healing.
For another, I’ve become great friends with two other dad (and their spouses) with whom I coach.
Those relationships, alone, are worthy of spiritual reflection. But there’s something about coaching baseball itself that, I think, has become deeply spiritual for me.
Baseball has a rhythm that’s unlike any other sport. It’s more like the rhythms of the Christian life than it is like other sports. And I’m not the first to notice this. NY Giants catcher, Wes Westrum, said,
Baseball is like church: Many attend, few understand.
I’ve found coaching baseball to be a lot like the many years that I taught confirmation classes to adolescents. I have to teach them about the rhythms of this way of life — about where to move when the ball is hit here, versus when it’s hit there; about how to encourage your teammates; about how to call a pop-up and how to take a sign to bunt, steal, and take. A couple players on this year’s team even got a lesson in how to run the bases after a homerun.
After each game, my fellow coaches and I gathered the boys in the outfield, where they each took a knee, away from parents and opponents. We gave out a couple game balls, talked about how the game went, and taught one bit of baseball vocabulary: Texas leaguer, diamond cutter, battery, can o’ corn.
About the game, the great Bob Feller said,
Every day is a new opportunity. You can build on yesterday’s success or put its failures behind and start over again. That’s the way life is, with a new game every day, and that’s the way baseball is.
That’s the other thing we said, particularly after a loss: it’s a long season, there are always ups and downs, and you’ll always get another at-bat.
It was a great season. We came in second place, losing in the championship game in our league.
Not unlike the liturgical year, the rhythms of baseball will fade with the summer, but next spring they’ll be back. So will the particular way of life that is baseball.