Of Baseball Mitts, Resurrections, Announcements, and New Beginnings

I received the baseball mitt on the left in second grade. It was way too big for me then, in 1976. It’s a Bob Grich playmaker model, and I loved it. I played with it through middle school; it came with me for intramural softball in college and seminary in the ’80s and ’90s, and church league softball in the ’00s. Its latest endeavor is to accompany me as the Little League coach for my oldest son.

This will be the fourth summer that I’ll coach Little League, and I knew that one thing needed to change. I needed a new mitt. As much as it pains me to retire my beloved Rawlings, it is simply too old to continue its decades-long service to me. The leather is threadbare and torn, and no amount of oil can resuscitate it.

And so, I bought a new mitt last week.

I’m sure that the Louisville Slugger Omaha Flare will serve me well, but it will never be the Rawlings. That’s okay. I have no remorse about it, but it is change.

Speaking of change…

I turned 45 yesterday. Not an especially auspicious birthday, but auspicious that it was on Easter. This is the third time in my lifetime that the two have coincided, and it will happen once more, assuming I live through 2024. It was a beautiful day, starting with a chilly sunrise service with Solomon’s Porch, brunch with dear friends, Vinyasa yoga, and a wonderful French dinner with Courtney.

A new year of life spreads before me today, just as it does the Minnesota Twins, who will play their home opener this afternoon with a temperature right around 32F. In other words, we don’t always have the beginnings that we’d like, but we take what we can get.

The Twins are, on paper, not a good team this year. But that matters not today. The first game in the Spring is always a day of hope. Of baseball, Bart Giamatti said,

It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone.

I have some announcements and changes of my own to begin my 46th year of life.

Speaking: I have updated my speaking engagement page on my website with all of my gigs through the summer. If you’re interested in having me speak, present, or give a paper somewhere, contact me.

Teaching: I am heading into the third year of teaching a cohort on Christian Spirituality with Fuller Theological Seminary. Next year, I will be working with the students on their final papers and, if all goes as planned, I will begin a new cohort with new students in 2015. So if a D.Min. is in your future, consider joining me for that. I’ll post more info about that as plans come together.

I’ve also been teaching my first-ever undergrad course this semester: Introduction to the Christian Scripture at St. Cloud State University. To teach a religion class at a state school has been a great challenge, especially when the Bible has not been my primary field of academic work. They’ve asked me to teach that class again in the fall.

Writing: The publishing world is in a state of uneasy flux. Add to that my stance on gay marriage and ordination, which has made me radioactive to publishers who have previously published my books (yes, I will name names: Zondervan, Baker, NavPress). My agent, Kathy Helmers, and I have been working and reworking proposals, courting and re-courting various publishers since August. The number of publishers interested in religious non-fiction is surprisingly narrow 0nce all of the evangelical publishers opt out.

But I’m thrilled to announce that on Friday we reached an agreement with a great publisher for a book I’m excited to write. I’m holding off on detailing the specifics until i’s have been dotted and t’s crossed, but I’m gratified to be writing another major, hardcover book with a large publishing house.

It’ll be a couple years before that book comes out. In the meantime, I published an ebook last week, and I plan to continue the stream of affordable ebooks a couple times a year. Plus, I’m currently editing the selections for the forthcoming, Phyllis Tickle: Evangelist of the Future. I expect that book to release in early 2014.

It seems that my 46th year will be full, professionally speaking. Of course, with a young marriage, three children (13, 11, 8), a couple pups, and life-adventures to have, the non-professional side of life will be full as well.

I am honestly humbled and gratified that you continue to read my thoughts, rants, links, and posts. The private correspondence I’ve gotten from so many blog readers has been encouraging and, at times, heartbreaking. It is great to travel and meet friends who’ve been reading and commenting for years. We live in an amazing age.

In a couple week, after the snow melts, I’ll take the field with a dozen 12- and 13-year-old boys. Some of them will have new mitts, too, and they’ll be breaking in new cleats. I’ll take out the fungo bat and slap ground balls to them across the infield. The first few throws over to first may be a bit wild. But our record will be 0-0. Last year we lost in the championship game.

This year, anything is possible.

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  • PJ

    Really enjoyed reading this Tony, my old glove is in a box somewhere around the house and I guess I should go find it… Excited for the St. Cloud gig as well. I remember sitting through some lectures on the Hebrew scriptures with Rabbi Joseph Edelheit back in the day. loved every second. Thanks again for the posts!

  • Tony, it is good to know I remain a decade ahead of you!!

    As for the Twins, I believe my AL team — the Tigers — will win today in the cold of Minneapolis!

  • roger flyer

    Play ball!

  • Kenton

    My mitt is about 10 years younger than yours was, but does not have nearly the use yours did. My best friend (who is responsible for whatever level of baseball fan I am) helped me pick it out. It’s a Dave Murphy autograph. He was a big Murphy fan in the day, and once he saw it, I was either buying that glove or forever forfeiting any chance to ask Phil for advice.

    Wondering how my Rangers will do without Hamilton.

  • All of us at Patheos wish you a Happy Birthday and Happy Spring! And congrats on your book deal!

  • chuck

    45! Uh oh, your warranty has run out and you can look forward to being your doctor’s best friend.

  • Tony, I’m up at 5:00 AM in Hong Kong watching my Detroit Tigers beat your Twins on Opening Day…sorry about that. Sounds like the rest of your year has some real potential though 🙂

    • Of I’m ever in Hong Kong, I’ll watch MLB with you.

  • Sounds good…you come to Hong Kong and the beer is on me.

  • Happy Birthday!!

  • Patrick S.

    I actually remember how huge that thing was on you.