Friday, April 10, 2009

It's that time again!

Well, it's that time again. The time of the year where the weather starts to warm up, and I find some excuse to make my way onto a baseball field. In case you're wondering, it's spring! Spring has finally made it's way to the Tri-Cities! I say this because, over the past 3-4 years I've noticed that the warm weather is actually coming slower every year. Some say "global warming" and others (like me) say it's the natural cycle of the earth. Which is accurate is irrelevant. What's important is the warm(er) season has been hitting SE Washington later over the past few years.
When warmer weather hits I am naturally drawn to the great outdoors, namely the baseball field. As many of you know I have been a baseball player longer than anything else I've been (other than a homosapien of the male gender). Seriously though, I've played since I was 4 years old. One of the saddest, yet best, things to happen to me was for God to show me that baseball was not what I was going to do for the rest of my life. This can be truly devastating to someone who has worked so stinkin' hard at something since they were 4 years old. After college I played in a local men's league for a few years, but I haven't for the past two years. Heartbreaking...
Why is this so hard for me? Why can't I just let it go? Well, I see it like this:

When I'm on a baseball field I come alive. I feel at home. I know baseball better than I know myself. Baseball is always there, is always the same, and all I have to do is go out there and have fun doing what I do best. I know this sounds silly, but I haven't played for two years and I can still go out there and throw strikes from the pitcher's mound, field ground balls and make the throw from short-stop with ease, and I can still crush the ball with a baseball bat. It's like my body was created to play baseball. It's heartbreaking to have worked so hard, and for so long (22 years), only to have it taken away. This is an issue I deal with every spring, and I wrestle with God... STILL... over the fact that baseball is not what He wants me doing.
I played competitive ball through college, though God began showing me He wanted something different for my life than baseball. It really began when I became a believer in Christ back when I was a teenager. I use the term "believer" because that's about all it was until just a few years ago. During my high school years I began to really excel and stand above the crowd of baseball players in the TC's. At 16 I made the "Dusters" baseball team, which was (at the time) the best of the best. From there my desire to play baseball past high school (and even college) began to take root. It was nose to the grindstone time. I began to take TONS of batting practice, show up early, stay late, take more swings than anyone, and I also began to work on my pitching ability even more. I developed 4 solid pitches, and I gained control enough over them that I could throw them anywhere I wanted within an inch. This may sound far-fetched for those of you who don't know baseball, but this is what it takes to be really good as a pitcher... especially one who didn't throw super hard like me. The following to years I really began to enjoy my success in baseball, and my growing talent(s).
Looking back I can see when it all started to unravel, and God began to do His work in my life. I, of course, had no idea what was going on and kept fighting to keep baseball at the front of my life (a pseudo God, if you will). My freshman though junior years of baseball had been played at a local public school, and the competition was pretty stiff. I played baseball for the public school, but attended a local private school because the education was better at the private school. I enjoyed 3 basketball seasons at the private school, but they never had a baseball program. That is, of course, until my senior year. In order for me to continue to play at the higher level of competition of the public school, I would have to transfer for my final semester back to the public school. This made for a rather difficult decision for me; do I choose to further my education and stay/graduate with all my friends, or do I choose baseball over those things? Well, I chose to stay with my friends because I felt they were more important than baseball. This proved to be my first step away from baseball, though I didn't yet know it.
Playing for my private high school proved fun because it was with my friends, but going from a 3-4A level of play to a B league is awful. Oh sure, I hit almost .700, was able to play shortstop, and did really well on the mound, but it was so easy! The difference in the leagues, in case you don't know, is like going from playing Major League baseball back to a no-name community college... It's still the game, but the difference in the level of play is night and day. I was still able to play Legion ball that summer to stay competitive, but I was very frustrated the entire season and didn't enjoy the same success that I had previously.
After high school I was talking to three colleges about playing baseball: Univ. Southern Utah, Northwest Nazarene, and Western Baptist College. The University of Southern Utah's coach called and was working out a letter of intent for me, and we had several phone conversations. Everything was looking good for me to head down there to play, but I called after not hearing anything for a couple weeks and found out the coach had been fired. I was never able to get hold of the new coach, thus making this path fall through. Northwest Nazarene offered me a nearly full-ride scholarship to play for them, but my best friend and I visited the college and just got a weird feeling while we were there so I chose not to got there. So I called Western Baptist College's (now Corban College) coach about playing there, and he offered me a small scholarship to play my first year. I decided that WBC would be a good fit for me, so I went there.
Now, I've always been a better fielder and hitter than I was a pitcher, but for some reason pitching was the only thing the coach down there wanted me to do! This is something I will probably never understand, unless all I need to understand is that God was taking baseball out of my life and pulling me to Himself.
To wrap of this little novel, God did slowly, yet painfully for me still, pull baseball out of my life... at least competitive baseball. As I said before I played a couple years in an adult men's league here in the TC's after college, but it really wasn't good baseball. It was fun, but it wasn't competitive.
So here I am once again at the start of the baseball season, my beloved Minnesota Twins have started their season with a 2-2 record (.500), and I am sitting here wondering why I'm not playing for them. To tell you the complete story of my baseball career, and how God gently began taking it out of my life, I would truly need to write a small book. I don't even know if anyone reads this blog, but it's been good for me to be able to write stuff out. But if anyone does actually read this blog and would like to know more about this story, I'd love to chat with you about it.
Throughout my entire baseball career I was never appreciated by my coaches, nor given a chance to show how good I really was, and I still have some frustration there. But I have reached a point, finally, that I am ok with where I am. I realize now that God is enough, that I don't need baseball to have worth, and that all my worth is found in my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. He has saved me from pursuing something that would never have fullfilled me the way He can, and I am forever thankful for that. Do I miss baseball? Yes... Absolutely. Is God big enough to fill that void? Yes... Absolutely. Do I feel like I have a different outlook on life now that baseball is not priority 1, or 2, or 3, or even 4? Yes... and it's truly wonderful to find that freedom! God has granted me freedom from baseball, and now, when I do get the chance to play, it's just fun!! I'm not letting my baseball knowledge go to waste though. You know that private Christian high school I attended? Well, I'm in my first year of tying my best to impart my knowledge and passion for baseball into the current attendees at LCS. But first and foremost, I'm letting them know that God is priority 1, and that He never fails, abandons, lets go, leaves, or disappoints you.
God is good... All the time...