For 35 years of my life, I could classify myself as a very marginal baseball fan. I would watch the World Series and half-way pay attention to a really good catch or hit on Sports Center. Occasionally I would see a Redhawks’ game or catch one of our Council Road Baptist Church kids play in a local high school game.
Three years ago, all of that changed when God led me to write “A Life Worth Following” and then form the Ambassadors baseball team. That was when I really discovered baseball, and today I am a 38-year-old “baseball guy” who is flat out hooked on the sport.
The past three years, I have come a long way spending time with the Ambassadors and the coaches learning the game. For example, today I can walk into a dugout anywhere and look like a baseball guy, spit seeds like a baseball guy, flip my hat like a baseball guy and can even get superstitious like a baseball guy. You could say that I have had a baseball makeover, and I just love it.
I, like most of you reading this blog, am one who loves and appreciates this incredible game. So far, I have only scratched the surface learning many life lessons that are caught both on and off the field.
One of the things I love the most is getting to wear an Ambassador uniform, and I am proud to have the # 0. As part of the Ambassadors, one of my favorite places by far to catch these life lessons is during a game right in the middle of the dugout.
To be honest, most of my time in the dugout is spent by filling water jugs, passing out seeds and, of course, doing a whole bunch of cheering. My official role with the team is to teach the Bible and push our guys spiritually. So far, I have not been called on to offer baseball advice. To be honest, when it comes to the details of baseball, I am a rookie. But it sure is a blast wearing the uniform and sitting in the dugout surrounded by incredible coaches and passionate players.
I want to take a minute and pass on a nugget of wisdom that I learned this summer in the dugout from this amazing group of guys who call themselves “Ambassadors.”
It was a very hot summer day with little wind, and we found ourselves in the middle of a dogfight on a hot field in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The tournament was winding down, and our pitching was getting very thin. We were playing a tough team from Colorado and were headed into the 7th inning. We had a 2-run lead, but this team was tough and they had captured significant momentum in the bottom of the last inning.
It was so hot that we wanted to get out of this inning and get to the house. We managed to get two outs, but this two-run lead was in hanging in the balance. We had given up some hits and they had runners on the corners while we were staring at their strongest hitter who was coming to the plate. Everyone watching this game felt that the momentum had shifted, and all the signs pointed to the fact that we were going to let this game slip through our fingers. Heath Herrington, one of our toughest pitchers, was on the mound and he was giving all he had on this scorching Oklahoma afternoon.
I was captivated in the dugout, sitting on a 5-gallon baseball bucket, when all of a sudden Coach Vallerand. yells at the top of his lungs, “TIME BLUE!” He walked to the mound and gathered the infield together. Coach Vallerand knew that Heath was about maxed out on the number of pitches he could throw and was feeling the burden of the moment in this battle at the ballpark
Coach Vallerand. seized the moment and looked at all of our infielders and said, “Guys, you’ve got to pick Heath up. He needs you and it is time to pick up your teammate. Pick him up right now.”
Heath had pitched his heart out and was exhausted, but he managed to gather some strength from the faces of his teammates. He went back to the mound, pulled himself together and went after that hitter. Very quickly, Heath got ahead in the count, but the reality was that they had the momentum. Even though Heath threw a great pitch, their #3 hitter got a hold of it and ripped the ball in the left-center gap.
Immediately, Coach Vallerand loudly exclaimed, “Dad Gum It, Tie Game!” Their runner coming from first was pretty fast, and he got a pretty good jump with the crack of this hit. The runner on 3rd scored easily, making it a one-run game. Levi Schlick was playing centerfield and hustled to the ball. He hit his cut off who happened to be Josh Clark. Josh made eye contact with the runner as he rounded 3rd base. When their eyes met, both ball players instantly knew he could not make it home, so the base runner stopped and sprinted back to 3rd base.
As the runner turned, Josh knew that this runner rounded 3rd too far. He instantly made a“heads up” play and fired the ball to Jordan Booth, who was patiently waiting on 3rd base to tag him out. Josh made a perfect throw, Jordan made a perfect tag and the game was over. Ambassadors win.
In that moment, I impressed myself with how high I jumped from that five-gallon bucket. What a great ending to a great game. Our team was facing dire circumstances, heard a challenge from their leader to pick up a struggling teammate and managed to rally together for a win.
Baseball is a very interesting game, and the dugout is the best place to catch many of life’s most important lessons. In the dugout, I have experienced really good players make really great plays skillfully executing the game just like it’s supposed to be played. I have also watched really good players make costly errors putting their team in difficult spots. That is just how the game of baseball goes.
Many years ago, I began a personal relationship with God. I experienced a moment intime when Christ completely washed my sins away. Believe me, this gift that God gave to me was not something that I deserved, and it was definitely a gift I did not earn.
After forgiveness, there have been many times when I have put God’s word into practice and lived life exactly how God called me to live. There have also been times when I allowed sinful habits to rule in my heart, which led to costly errors that hurt not only me, but also those around me.
This week has been tough for the Ambassadors because one of our teammates has gone through a public struggle due to an error in this game of life. Though this error has been challenging for all of us, it has pushed us to sound the familiar call that Ambassadors have heard many times in the dugout. It is time to pick up one of our teammates because he needs us.
I am not making excuses or making light of a teammate’s mistake. It was an error, and it put our team in a difficult spot. We believe the Bible, and we believe that sin is a big deal. In fact, a verse of Scripture that is very close to our hearts right now is Genesis 4:7 which says:
“If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door. It desires to have you and you must master it.”
Throughout the journey of life, we will make many mistakes because of our very real battle with our sinful nature. The truth is that this is not the first time, nor will it be the last that one of our teammates makes an error and needs our team to rally. Ambassadors have no problem stepping up to the plate in situations like this because we have all been touched by God’s ultimate and amazing forgiveness. We are thankful that God keeps His promises and chooses to “work all things for the good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.”
We are not a perfect group of people. In fact, we all have many flaws. What makes us different is the amazing fact that we have been reconciled to One who is perfect.
Three years ago, God did a work in our lives and clearly guided us to start a baseball ministry focused on helping people connect with the Savior who came to this world to rescue every human soul.
Because Jesus Christ paid the penalty for our sin, when we fall down and make an error, we are compelled to get back up and keep striving to become more like Jesus. Sometimes we fail at living lives that are really worth following, but the fact is that the only person whose life is truly worth following is Jesus because it was His life, His death and His resurrection that was worthy to pay for the sins of mankind. He gave us the amazing gift of forgiveness and eternal life.
In spite of our mistakes, we are going to stand together and help restore a broken teammate. When Ambassadors struggle and fall down, we get back up and help each other keep our eyes on the life that was truly worth following. The life of Jesus Christ.
“We are therefore, Christ’s Ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” 2 Corinthians 5:20
Wed, November 4, 2009
by Chris Wall