In the big inning. What more could Holy Scripture say to clarify for both believers and the uninitiated that baseball is God’s sport? The Bible starts this way. Well, perhaps not, but the onomatopoeia does make me wonder.
I realize that the idea of God having a favorite sport is rife with controversy. There are some potential connections between the faith Christian Church and baseball. Christianity holds a true belief in one God, the Holy Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The most rudimentary baseball fan knows that one frame of each inning is divided into three outs. Each at-bat is further divided with three strikes. Three strikes and you’re out in baseball. Like the Church’s mercy for anyone who repents, a count of two strikes still affords you the mercy and redemption of a two-strike single. A two-strike single can still move the runners or score a winning run.
Baseball, like Christianity, reminds us of our legacy. Few people who are born as fans of Nolan Ryan and the Texas Rangers will convert to fans of the hapless Chicago Cubs. While some do find and become faithful followers of the Yankees, or Red Sox, most of us grow up with the legacy that our family taught us.
The first steps we take into our baseball fandom are not that different from those of the church.
Baseball also has sacraments. Attending a game is like a baptism. Attending a Major League game is Confirmation. Spring Training is like function for last season’s ills. Perhaps becoming a player is akin to ordination.
Conversion is difficult too. Hard like it has to be for Brooklyn fans who finally relent and support their team now in the City of Angels, Los Angeles. We might even argue that as converts, it is easier to become Catholic from another Christian body than it would be to convert from a fan of the Red Sox to a fan of the Yankees.
I also think there are some similarities in representing a team or representing your faith. It may be on your team’s field or in the pews or out doing charitable works as ballplayer or Christian.
At the plate, you are an individual. You may have to sacrifice to help your brother to the next base. At the plate, you may also be in the confessional and get to watch your own weaknesses come out as you swing and miss on a hanging slider.
The Church also teaches us about perfection and the embodiment of it in Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, we still live in a broken, imperfect world. Again, as perfect as baseball is, no one would question that while it is the greatest game played, it is far from perfect.
Perhaps some of you remember June 2, 2010. That is a date that will live in infamy. At least baseball infamy. It was that day that a missed call by umpire Jim Joyce ruined what would have been a perfect game by Detroit pitcher Armando Gallaraga. Understand, this is not the Jeffrey Maier incident with a questionable call. Joyce came to a public confessional and admitted his mistake. A play away from perfection. Since that time, Gallaraga has been reassigned to the minors and released.
While baseball is finally starting to embrace the idea of instant replay, it has relied on the frailty of human judgment. In our journeys of faith, though, how often do we stray when given the opportunity to do so? It isn’t so much that sin calls out to us as we run toward it.
Baseball’s Opening Day started yesterday with the Cardinals taking on the Cubs along with two other games. A few years ago that opening series coincided with Easter. Easter is a perfect moment for us to consider our lives. Like the start of a new season, Easter offers us the chance to renew ourselves spiritually.
Easter is a chance for last season’s sins to be forgiven. Our sacrifices during Lent are much like spiritual spring training, preparing us for our next step. I spend a great deal of time in politics complaining about others’ sins, but not often enough on my own.
For me, Easter is an opportunity, like baseball, to round the bases so to speak and find your way home. Baseball’s whole goal is to get from first to second to third and round that last base and find your way home. Isn’t it the same with Christianity? My question for the reader is how are you helping yourself or someone else round second. Are you working with Muslim immigrants showing them the mercy Christ suggested by the Good Samaritan? What have you done to feed those poor of spirit or hungry?
As Christians and baseball fans we are baptized, find our way to confirmation, and other Sacraments, hoping to bring our souls home. Home is a simple enough concept in baseball – just an awkward pentagon shape to score a run – but for Christians isn’t it similar? We must find our way to a holy home by participating in those Sacraments that bring us home – closer to God and who we are. Perhaps baseball shows us a way to get there, but we still have to take the field. Will you play today? Will you help others on this team of humanity find their way home?