Saturday, October 3, 2009
God's Ample Blessings
I was reminded of God's ample blessings this past week in a most unusual way.
This past summer was the first summer in nearly a decade that I did not play hardball. Baseball is a passion in my life. I love the game and the joy it brings to both watch and play.
The reason I did not play baseball was due to being invited into the Deacon Formation Program of the Seattle Catholic Archdiocese. I knew this four-year educational commitment would be time-consuming and have a deep impact on family life. As I looked at things I could give up, baseball was the one selfish endeavor I could no longer justify.
I made the announcement to my team's managers about four games into last season, but asked that we keep it quiet to the other guys until the end of the season. After toiling for years in mediocrity in the Puget Sound Senior Baseball League, our team, under the new name Iron Pigs, was finally on a winning streak and I didn't want to create any distraction, minor as it might be.
That was until we went into a losing skid near the end of the season. With three games left, we had a team meeting after a tough loss and everyone was asked to say something if they had something to say. I was the last to speak and told the team this would be my last season playing baseball. My calling to the diaconate would take me away from the game I loved. I told the guys I had never been in a championship game in all the years in the league and hoped we might be able to go out winners this season.
We won the next three games by a combined score of 60 to 23. We were white hot going into the playoffs. After battling through some adversity in the playoffs, we worked our way back into the championship game.
On a rainy September night, we lost the game by a few runs. My baseball playing days were over. As I packed my baseball bag for the final time, I noticed my teammates secretly gathering at the side of the field. They were doing something, but I could not tell what. After my bag was packed I walked up to the guys and my teammate Jeff stepped forward and presented me with the game ball signed by all the guys. They also told me that the team had voted to retire my number 21. It would never be worn by another Iron Pig. I was humbled to tears. And speechless. I told the guys what an honor it was to play with each and every one of them and to know them personally. We were a community of friends who cared about each other. That is what I would take with me on my life's journey.
Fast forward to last weekend. I saw on Facebook posts that my former teammates were in the Championship game again. Against the same team that beat us last year. The Iron Pigs would need to win a playoff doubleheader to be PSSBL Rocky Division champions.
After my son and I did our monthly volunteer food pick-up for the Mukilteo Food Bank, we drove down to Peter Kirk Park in Kirkland to watch the guys play. They were up by a dozen runs and saving some of their better arms for game two. Unfortunately, due to a prior commitment, we could only stay about an hour to watch. While there, Jeff pulled out a baseball from his bag. It had my number #21 on it. He said he carried it all season as a good luck charm. What a beautiful gesture.
As we parted, I said a little prayer for victory for the guys.
That night as I was driving home from my commitment, I had a voicemail from the team. They were out celebrating after winning both games. The Iron Pigs were champions! And they had a message for me: They wanted me to have a championship patch for my Iron Pigs jersey.
The tears came again as I stammered to tell my wife what the guys were doing.
God blesses us all in our lives. We just have to open our eyes to see... and blink through the tears.
Former Teammate Jeff With The Championship Trophy