The game of baseball, as it was meant to be played, is an analogy of the Christian life in more ways than I will even mention in this post. So I would love to see some more ideas and discussion in the comments. My goal will be to speak about how we think about and approach the game of baseball as Christians. This of course is much more than thanking the Lord in interviews.
Important to the game of baseball is the idea of “respecting the game.” That means playing the game the right way, according to the principles of the game, with respect to the those who came before us, understanding why the game is played the way that it is. It is a growing sentiment today to scoff at such an idea. Certainly it makes sense being that our whole society is that way. As I once heard Mark Dewey so brilliantly say, “Sports are downstream of the culture.” Nevertheless, as Christians, we do not get our cues from the culture, not even our sports cues. We must begin with the Word of God. The reason many scoff at the idea of “respecting the game” is because many scoff at Christianity. Respect for, and honoring our fathers and those who came before us is a Christian value. It requires humility.
Baseball is a game of eschatology. Baseball is a long game that rewards those who play by the principles. It is a game of ethical victory over time. The beauty of baseball is that there is no time limit, and no one knows how long each game will last. All you can control is what is right in front of you to do and be. Do your job and take care of your responsibilities one pitch at a time. Don’t rush, don’t be lazy. This is the Christian life. We are just to be faithful with what God puts right in front of us, and trust the Biblical ethic to win over time.
Those who disrespect the game may prosper early on, but eventually you will look and see them no more. The meek shall inherit the earth. The meek are the patient and the humble. They are those who do their job and respect the game. Meekness and humility does not imply softness or passivity. It is simply playing the game the right way, which requires toughness, endurance, and a little fire. Psalm 37 applies to how you play the game of baseball.
Like history, a game is a short period of time, but seems like all that matters when you are in it. This is similar to our human problem of thinking our time in history is all that matters. The fruits of ethical victory over time are brought out by looking an the entire season, or an entire career. One game snapshots may be too short of a sample size.
Baseball is a game of dominion taking. Both in field care and game mastery. A field must be constantly gardened – rocks removed, spouting grass on dirt plucked, dirt cared for, lawn mown, edges attended to, lines drawn, etc. Different preferences can be applied to the field. Some guys like a mound to feel one way, some guys another. Some guys like the grass cut at a certain length.
Then in the game as players take positions each player adds his own touches to make himself at home in the dirt, the pitcher on mound, the batter in box. This is cultivating and gardening the earth, making it fruitful and productive.
Then there is the dominion taking in gameplay, not just on the field itself. Dominion is taken over the game by developing a mastery of pitches, grips, and arm angles. Fielders do so by reading balls off bats, learning the best routes, and learning how balls play off the walls. Batters do so by studying pitchers and their tendencies, trying to take dominion over an opponent. Base runners do so by studying pitchers, by optimizing base path routes, slide targets, and angles at bases; and so much more.
Baseball is a game of beauty and aesthetics. A field can grab our eyes and awe with its beauty, or irritate us with its lack of care. The aesthetics of the game play and the way players wear their uniforms can be beautiful or a degradation. Beauty matters, even in baseball.
Baseball beauty isn’t in its pristine-ness, or in a desire not to get dirt on your shirt. The beauty is in the dirt that sticks to a pant leg after a slide, the smeared eye black, the sweat drenched Jersey, the empty seed shells piling up, the messed up chalk from gameplay, the occasional blood, the ripped pant leg, the pine tar smears – all beautiful things.
The attention to the aesthetics, whether it is the field care, or the way one carries himself, can be persuasive to attract someone’s eye to the game, or it can degrade and repel one away. This of course is true in the Christian life. Beauty, or lack thereof, is communicating something.
This is why I struggle with all the changes in baseball. A change must be made out of principle with respect to the game and care for its beauty, to make it more fruitful. Many are made for pragmatic reasons that cheapen and degrade its beauty.
But I am incredibly optimistic about the game of baseball. For more on that, I refer you to an article I wrote, quite some time ago now on the future of baseball: Click HERE to read about baseball’s future.