Sand Lot Salvation

30 03 2008

Baseball. Love the game. It’s my only game. I’m not a sports fan at all, but I do love baseball.

I first fell in love with the sport when our church group made its yearly treks to Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati to watch the Reds take it to the visiting team. That was the era of the Big Red Machine… Rose, Bench, Morgan, Griffey (Sr.), Foster… and on the list goes. All was right with the world there in the upper deck with a brat, coke, bag of peanuts and my dad at my side. They said that Riverfront was “cookie cutter”, but I didn’t care. To me, the thrill of walking through the gate and into a bowl of humanity and that big green field below was all I needed to fall in love. It wasn’t a field, it was a stadium. And it brimmed with all the mystique and magic a young boy could contain.riverfront stadium

I met Pete Rose a couple of years ago when I was still in radio. He was signing autographs for a record company – one that wanted to position themselves as having all the “hits” just like Pete. It was well after the big ban, but Charlie Hustle still seemed bigger than life. As my turn came to get a ball-cap signed and a picture snapped with the living legend himself, I couldn’t stand it that my 2 seconds with one of my baseball heroes was gonna boil down to a sign, smile, snap and move on. So I blurted out, “Pete, you’ll be in the hall-of-fame someday”. I’m not sure that my opinion on the matter will sway the upper ups of baseball, but there for a second, I had the hit king’s full attention. He looked up at me and said, “Thanks, Greg!”. Then it was over. I was escorted away while a Polaroid picture was thrust at me. As the moment faded, the picture gained more and more clarity.

Opening day is at hand, and life will resume. And this might be the year, it just might be.

There is nothing significantly theological about this, but I can’t help thinking that God gave me baseball as a special gift. I can’t throw a ball two feet, I rarely can put wood to leather when swinging, and if I should catch a line drive I’m likely as not to grimace from the pain. But I can play the radio (or listen online) just fine, thank-you. I might at times get caught in the fantasy and see myself on the field, but I also know that the day will come when I can play with the best and take on any comer. Baseball is a gift because it melds the sweltering days of summer with the yet-to-be sweet summers of Heaven and reminds me that even though I live in mortal flesh, I can also taste eternity. Heaven isn’t a far off thing – God lets us sample from the box every now and then. And it’s called baseball.

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