THE SPIRITUALITY OF BASEBALL
The most beautiful definition of spirituality is to awaken and discover the message of life. The Higher Power has created each of us and gives us a gift of life. The purpose of life is to discover who you are in conjunction with God’s creation. One of the greatest gifts I received over the years is the gift of the game of baseball. Over the years, the basics of the game have not changed. Unfortunately the god of money has tried to steal the meaning of the game. Yet, that is the journey of life; the battle between the God of our understanding and the gods of greed and power. Baseball is a gift that teaches us about life. From its early beginning when we needed to play a game just to relax, to the 1920’s when baseball survived a major scandal (Black Sox). The game gave us heroes of many varieties from the insanity of Ty Cobb to the gentle, humble man, Lou Gehrig. We have seen all types of people and experienced the human condition in this wonderful sport. We have witnessed life, from the sandlots to the Little League to semi-pro and professional to the softball games played on the asphalt of South Philadelphia to the green country fields of dreams. From stickball on a city street to high school and college ball; from broom sticks and cracked bats to aluminum bats and Louisville Sluggers, this game touches us all. In the forties during the war and ever since the Depression, baseball goes on. It was our relief from stress and depression. It was our way to take a break from our problems and for a few hours we could relax and live our dreams in a game. From the fifties, we have seen the struggle and the breaking of the racial barrier by Jackie Robinson and Larry Doby. Baseball reflects life. From the Negro leagues to the big leagues, we experience life. The sport truly explores the great struggle of life.
From the golden years of baseball to the money years of baseball, the dream of every little child is to put on a big league uniform and play between the chalk lines. Baseball truly is a gift. This dream is possible on any day of the week on baseball fields around the world. In the game, you can be an instant hero and fall flat in the same game. In the Field of Dreams, we feel the bond between parents and child. We see Shoeless Joe say that heaven is playing baseball. Lou Gehrig in a dying tribute said, “I’m the luckiest man on the earth.” We all need heroes and everyone wants to be a hero. Just for a few moments-to make the catch that saves the game; to hit the home run in the bottom ninth; or to feel the sting of defeat in “Casey at the bat”.
I would like to share a story of a spiritual journey, a journey of a child. A little boy, lonely and sad, created his world. He had a dream. In his loneliness, he created the dream through his baseball cards. His heroes became his friends. He played stickball and learned to be creative, like making a baseball out of a golf ball, rubber bands and thick tape. He created a bat from an ax handle. Baseball had already taught him how to deal with life. You see, baseball is like life. It’s played between the lines, there are rules, it’s a game of inches. Even the best hitter only makes it 30% of the time. It’s a game of hustle and skill and like life, you need to get dirty. Some days things work and some days they don’t. Things always balance out. On any given day, anything can happen. Like it’s not over until it’s over. There’s always a chance. You can make mistakes and still come back. It’s a game that involves patience and endurance. It’s a game that humbles you. You never stop learning.
This little boy grew into a man; he didn’t really know himself. In fact, he hated himself for trying too hard. Then one day he found his child; he learned about life on a baseball field. It became his new church with green grass and brown dirt and it was a special place where he could be close to God. Sitting in the dugout and watching the sun come up on Easter Sunday, he could feel God’s presence. In this simple game, he learned about life. He learned how to play and socialize and how to be a little boy again. In life you try hard, you struggle, you succeed and sometimes you fail; it all balances out. In the game like life, there are rules; there are guides that help you through life. Like life, there is a beginning and an end. It’s not important whether you win or lose. It’s how you play the game that counts.
Things in life always balance out. This little boy found out that life is a gift. It’s fragile, but it must always be respected and honored. In life, you even get to meet your dream. Your hero is human like you. He has hurt, he struggles, and he has pain just like you. We are all heroes and fools at one time or another.
Baseball is like life. You cry, you scream, yell, get frustrated, and sometimes you celebrate. When you wake up in the morning and God yells, “Play Ball!”, give it your best shot, learn what you can, and don’t forget to enjoy it. Life, like baseball, is great teacher.
Life is a spiritual journey. You play it one day at a time. Each day brings you a new experience. If you truly believe you’ll be led, the Higher Power, like the baseball Gods is in charge. We are simply servants open to be led. Enjoy each day. Give it your best. Remember, you are a gift created by God. As Yogi says, “It ain’t over till it’s over.” And Ernie says, “ Let’s play two”!