Thought of the Month For April 2020 : “The Spirituality of Baseball”

By Vince DiPasquale

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 the 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 real 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 the game just to relax, to the 1920’s when baseball survived a major scandal (Black Sox), by giving us heroes of many faces from the insanity of Ty Cobbs, 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 Little League to semi-pro and professional, to the softball games played on the asphalt of South Philly to the green country fields of dreams. From stick-ball on a city street to high school and college ball and 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 Great Depression, baseball goes on. It provided a relief from our 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 down of racial barriers by Jackie Robinson and Larry Doby. Baseball reflects life. From the negro leagues to the big leagues, 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 child is to put on a big-league uniform and play between the chalk lines. Baseball is truly 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 on your face in the same game. In Field of Dreams, we feel the bond between parent and child. We see “Shoeless” Joe Jackson say that heaven is playing baseball. Lou Gehrig, in a dying tribute said, “I’m the luckiest man on the face of the earth.” We all need heroes, and everyone wants to be a hero just for a few moments ~ to be able to make the catch that saves the game ~ to hit the home run in the bottom of the ninth ~ or to feel the sting of defeat in “Casey at the Bat.”

I would like to share the story of a spiritual journey, the 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 stick-ball 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 of hitters only make a hit 30% of the time. It’s a game of hustle and skill, and, like in life, you need to get dirty. Some days things work and some days things don’t. Things always balance out. On any given day, anything can happen. The game, as Yogi Berra says, “ain’t 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 really didn’t know himself. In fact, he hated himself for trying too hard. Then one day he found his inner child. He learned about life on the baseball field. It became his new church with green grass and brown dirt. 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, socialize and how to be a little boy again. In life you try hard, you struggle, you succeed and sometimes you fail. It balances out. In the game, like life, there are rules and there are guides that help you through life. Like life, there is a beginning and an end. It is 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. Its fragile, and it must always be respected and honored. In life, you get to meet your dream. Your hero is a human being like you. He hurts, he struggles, and he has pain just like you. We are all heroes and fools at one time or another.

Baseball is life. You cry, 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. Like life, baseball is a great teacher.

Life is a spiritual journey. You play one day at a time. Each day brings you a new experience. If you truly believe, you will be led.  Remember, the Higher Power is in charge. Enjoy each day. Give it your best. You are a gift created by God. As Ernie Banks said, “Let’s play two!