For Your Lenten Friday Night at The Movies III

Today is a Feast Day (and all that this implies)! What better way to celebrate than with burgers and hotdogs on the grill followed by a movie about the greatest game ever invented? Is this heaven?

If it’s still too cold to think of grilling where you live, than live vicariously through me and my family. We’ve been playing baseball since March 14th (my sons team is 5-1 so far) and enjoying every minute of it. Except it was a bit chilly yesterday (shiver me timbers!).

But no matter. Did you guys see my friend Pat McNamara’s post on Catholics making better athletes? Who cares if it’s true or not. But it was dripping with baseball and I’m a sucker for that game ever since my oldest got interested.

So here is the movie for this week: The Rookie, starring Dennis Quaid. Based on the true story of a high school baseball coach, who against all odds tried out for his dream job and actually makes it to the Show. Oh, and he’s a husband, daddy, estranged son, and a teacher too.

It ain’t easy street, by any stretch of the imagination. But that is part of the appeal! Everything matters, and like a famous saying about baseball coined by Yogi Berra, it ain’t over till it’s over. This is the best “G” rated movie, that isn’t animated, that I have ever seen. Check out the trailer,

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98 miles an hour?! He should see Blaise Pascal’s cut-fastball. You all know where to go to pick up your videos. Go forth and enjoy.

Next week? Sidney Poitier in Lillies of the Field.

For the Psalms and Spring, Family and Sports

It is getting ready to be a very busy time for me and my family. That’s because Spring is just around the corner, and around my house this means our children’s sports teams will begin hitting the ground running.

Not everyone gets involved in such things as sports for their kids. Not every child enjoys organized soccer, or baseball, or softball, volley ball, basketball, horse riding, or any of the other myriad possibilities to turn your child’s attention to.

So why do we even bother in our household? Joy in living is the only real reason that I can think of. That and the realization that though our children’s gifts and abilities are out of our hands, they should still be developed. Besides, everything we spend time doing matters.

It is a tight-rope and certainly there is a fine line between the healthy reasons for involving our children in sports, and the unhealthy turning of sports into an idol. On the positive side, for example, our oldest son has played organized baseball for 8 years, since he was 7 years old. As it turns out, he is pretty good at this game. Honestly, he is ten times better at it than I ever was.

How did this happen? I really have no idea. It is nothing that I expected. And let me assure you, my wife never saw this coming either. But God saw it coming, and of that fact I have no doubt. He has decided that, through our children, He will take my wife and I places that we never intended to go on our own.

And there is the riddle of our son’s gift, for example. Though endowed with excellent hand-eye coordination, and having an arm that can accurately throw thunderbolts, the most important characteristic of all isn’t even a physical one. It is that my son simply loves this game. And this love for it drives him to do things that only love can make him do.

Like get up early for practice, and study hard to keep up his grades. And endure practices that look like something that the Marine Corps would endorse. Sure, it wasn’t like that when he was in little league. That was all fun, and that is also where the seeds of this love were planted. But now that he has made the high school team, the love for the game has been tested by the fires of hard work and sweat. There is a spiritual message in all of this somewhere, I am sure.

As an aside, one of the great things about being Catholic is that we have never missed a Mass because of baseball, or any other sports games of my children either. Blessed to live in a diocese with more than one parish, Our Lord has also seen fit to provide more than one Mass said at each parish during the weekend across our area. The only excuse for missing a Mass is sloth, and thankfully, that hasn’t ever occurred.

One day, my son’s baseball career will come to an end, as all good things generally do. And on that day, my career as a baseball dad will end too. Life will go on. But until that day comes, I’ll keep supporting my children in these endeavors.

Because in the end, unless you measure things crudely in only utilitarian and materialistic terms, the benefits of participation in sports (or other extracurricular activities) far outweigh the negatives. Especially when you acknowledge that these abilities and talents being developed are gifts from God, and not of our own making.

I teach my children, and pray that they will remember, gratitude for these truths sung by the Psalmist,

I praise you, so wonderfully you made me;
wonderful are your works!
My very self you knew;
my bones were not hidden from you,
When I was being made in secret,
fashioned as in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes foresaw my actions;
in your book all are written down;
my days were shaped, before one came to be.
How precious to me are your designs, O God;
how vast the sum of them!
Were I to count, they would outnumber the sands;
to finish, I would need eternity.

And also this Song of Ascents of David, which is well suited to keep the soul of an athlete grounded in humility,

Psalm 131

LORD, my heart is not proud;
nor are my eyes haughty.
I do not busy myself with great matters,
with things too sublime for me.
Rather, I have stilled my soul,
hushed it like a weaned child.
Like a weaned child on its mother’s lap,
so is my soul within me.

Israel, hope in the LORD,
now and forever.

Amen.

Because On This Championship Ball Club, Everyone Can Play

Early on, before I officially started upon the path to becoming a Catholic, I read Thomas Merton’s autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain. I had already read Blaise Pascal’s Pensées, and Thomas à Kempis’ Imitation of Christ by the time I rolled around to Merton. In baseball terms, it was a strike-out for the side— the side of the Church, that is. Here is the play-by-play.

Blaise was the first pitch, thrown to the inside corner of the plate, and caught me looking. Looking up at the scoreboard, I saw the number “102″ flash under the MPH sign. Gulp. Then, Thomas #1 came in like a fastball, forcing me to swing. But it was a slider and the bottom fell out of that pitch as I swung the bat. No contact at all. By this time, I was 0-2 in the count, and that isn’t where you want to be as a batter.

Because being 0-2 in the count plants some serious seeds of doubt in your mind. Consider, when I first got up to the plate, I was convinced that the Catholic Church, er ball club, had not a leg to stand on. I knew, just knew, that I could handle any and every pitch that it threw at me.

But now I was 0-2 in the count, so I just did what I had to do. I choked up on the bat, determined to make contact. That is when She (they have females in this league) threw me the Merton pitch. It was a killer rainbow curve that caught me just like this one,

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Wow. You don’t have to understand the language being verbally spoken in that video, to realize that this was an amazing last pitch, now, do you? Watching that replay over and over again in my own mind, I knew there was only one thing to do; call my agent and beg him to trade me to the same ball team that these guys played for. Thankfully, I swallowed my pride and the trade worked out. And now, here I am playing on the same team with the legends of the game.

The interesting thing about this here ball club (metaphor alert! read “the Catholic Church”) is that the players come from all over. That used to be unheard of in the big leagues at one time. Heck, some teams are still basically drawing their players from only one geographic area, or culture. But not this team.

Oh they tried that, early on, if you recall. Yeah, way back in the beginning when our first manager, a guy by the name of Peter, had it out with one of the star players on the squad, Paul. The row between these two in the clubhouse was about trying to make everybody who came from another place, fit the same exact mold of the original guys, even if they came from another culture altogether different. It’s all right there at the Baseball Hall of Fame Archives Center.

Man, the dust must have been flying in the dugout that day. But the two agreed that forcing everyone to adopt the same cultural practices of the country that the original players came from didn’t make sense because it wouldn’t help them to win ball games. They knew that the only culture that really mattered, is the Team’s culture. And our owners (there are Three of Them, though the uncanny thing is, They all think and act as One) take winning ball games very seriously.

I saw a story in the sports pages the other day that sounded like “Déjà vu, all over again” as another baseball great, named Yogi Berra, once remarked. A bunch of guys thinking that some people just can’t play baseball.  Period. Bats and gloves, and cleats are just too foreign to them, was the argument. What a load of hooey.

I mean, that just doesn’t make any sense at all. Because as best as I can recall it, and check the Rule Book for me on this one, the Owners say everybody can play baseball. No matter who you are, or what country or culture you come from. Let me see…yeah, here it is. This is from one of the Owners,

All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. (Matthew 28:19)

That Owner, named Jesus? He came down and played ball with everyone at one time. He was a major “game changer” back in the day and as hard as this is to believe, the “old game” players took him out and killed him for revolutionizing baseball. But the amazing thing is, He came back to life (I told you He was a “game changer”) and he gave us all that play above to carry out,  right before he headed back to the Owners’ Sky Box.

So let’s go play some baseball, huh? Stop worrying about if some can play the game and some can’t. Because it has been proven, over time that everyone can play on this ball club. And don’t forget this either, have fun out there.

Baseball (Music for Mondays)

A few days ago, Webster posted on the imperfect call heard ’round the world. Baseball has been a big part of my life, especially after I became a dad, with two boys who play the game. Softball is pretty big too, as my daughter plays that game (and my alma mater, UCLA,  is in the College Softball World Series championship game, Go Bruins!).

There is a lot of baseball on my, and my oldest son’s plate this week as he has a camp, hitting lessons, games, and finally try-outs for the high school team.  All of that on the weekdays, and of course, more baseball this weekend too.  So when thinking of music for this Monday, I have baseball on the brain.

Baseball gives me chills sometimes.  This scene from The Natural always does.

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Brought to you by the guy who wrote and sang such hits as Short People  and I Love L.A., Randy Newman did the score for The Natural.

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Anyone not remember this speech from Field of Dreams?
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And the theme? Composed, co-orchestrated, conducted, and produced by James Horner.

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A baseball music post would not be complete without John Fogerty’s Centerfield. Check out that baseball bat shaped guitar. Nice!

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Nor would it be complete without Wild Thing covered by the band X. Made famous from the comedy movies Major League and Major League 2.

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Take me out to the ball game!

Because Nobody’s Perfect

I’m betting that Armando Galarraga has a saintly Catholic mother and that somewhere, last night about 10 p.m., she was smiling quietly to herself. Because we all saw the replays from the ninth inning of last night’s Tigers-Indians game. And because we all saw what Galarraga did after the play and after the game. As a nation of outraged baseball fans saw on the ESPN replays, the Tigers’ young pitcher made the third out, and umpire Jim Joyce blew the call. Joyce admitted it after the game. “I just cost that kid a perfect game,” he told reporters. Galarraga had retired the first 26 Indians in a row and was on the verge of only the 21st perfect game in Major League history. Instead, he had a “one-hit” shutout. And what did Galarraga do?

While his teammates howled at Joyce from the dugout, then swarmed him after the game, Galarraga smiled—after a momentary reaction of dumbfounded, childlike amazement. He walked away from an argument with Joyce, returned to the mound, and retired the next batter. Then, according to The New York Times:

Galarraga told reporters that Joyce apologized to him after the game, adding that he had no instinct to argue the call. “He probably felt more bad than me,” Galarraga said. Smiling, he added, “Nobody’s perfect.” 

That’s a good Catholic kid for you, I’d say, with the emphasis on good. There are plenty of baseball players and evidently many who were raised Catholic. But how many of them, in the same circumstances, would turn the other cheek . . . and get the next batter out? Good work, Mrs. Galarraga, wherever you are!

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