What a thrilling World Series! We’ve seen some of the best pitching in the league, graceful leaps into the air to snag the ball with the cone of the glove, unusual pick-offs to end the game, obstruction calls, solid hits, courage, grace under pressure. The Cardinals and Red Sox are so evenly matched that it’s hard to tell one from the other statistically (in a face-to-face comparison the teams might look slightly different, unless they shaved). But whether you’re a Red Sox or a Cardinal seems a distant second compared to the excitement and drama of the Fall Classic itself.
What I marvel at the most is the players’ composure when the stakes are so high. How does he blot out sixty thousand fans at the stadium and millions more at home when he’s trying to deliver a pitch, or swing at a 93 mile per hour fastball? His split-second decision could determine the fate of not only his team, but many more (i.e. the faith of fifty million people … ~ Gatsby)
I played baseball growing up, from Pee Wee to Little League, on into high school. Admittedly, I was not so graceful under pressure. I easily lost my focus. In more than one occasion a game was lost because of an error on my part, whether as a pitcher walking home the winning run or as a third baseman throwing the ball in the dirt so the first baseman couldn’t catch it, resulting in the tying then winning run score, eliminating us from the playoffs.
I have done everything I can to avoid pressure situations. When I was a sophomore, our baseball team made it to the playoffs. I was one of the players called up from JV to go with them. But instead, I chose to stay home and take my finals. In my mind, academics trumped athletics. In the back of my mind, however, I was thinking of another underlying reason: I didn’t want to face the pressure. I didn’t want to be called on in the clutch and then mess up.
All throughout my athletic tenure in football, basketball and baseball, I demonstrated to my coaches, and to those watching, that I struggled to focus during critical moments. When the game was on the line, I was on the other side of it, and gaining distance. In fact, I think I probably would have played better had I stuck a pumpkin over my head. This would have been effective for multiple reasons, one of them being that I would have seen better.
I believe that all of us are athletes in some manner. Maybe not physically, but mentally. We’re put in high pressure situations in our jobs or in school or in our families where we are asked to perform. It may not seem dramatic, but the decision of whether to tell someone the honest truth about yourself may make or break not only your life, but the lives of those watching you.
In this arena, let us strive to excel, to play our best, to try out hardest—in whatever endeavor we undertake, whether it’s touching someone else’s life, or in fighting for the lives around us. Our athleticism is in our courage and respect, our sacrifice, our love. With these skills we will win. For it is already won.
Thankfully we have One who played the game before us. He went through it on the cross. He played every down. Took every pitch. Took every hit. Ran every suicide line. He was pushed. Far beyond what we will ever dare to understand. His Father pushed Him. He pushed Him not because He needed to be pushed, but because He wanted to perfect The Game itself, which is the forgiveness of our sins, and our return to His arms.
The World Series is a fascinating sport to watch, replete with a gloveful of thrilling moments. I like to watch it because it encourages me in my own sport, where my heart will determine how well I play, one that already has the crown for which it is vying, one that grants me grace for the moments I do not perform under pressure, and strength to face the moments when I do.
The baseball players for the Red Sox and Cardinal spend all year perfecting their swings, honing their pitching skills, deepening their knowledge of pitch counts and game scenarios. I’m comforted in watching them, knowing that their physical sport is a mirror of what goes on inside a man. The discipline. The sacrifice. The pain. The hurt. The conditioning. The suffering. No great crown has ever been won without it. I’m comforted in Hebrews, where it explains that God disciplines all His sons, and that though it may be painful at the moment, it produces eternal rewards.
The Word Series is like a man’s life in even the most boring moments. For in those moments game-on-the-line struggle is being waged—one that ultimately determines the fate of his eternity. How he think determines how he acts, how he live. His positive thoughts determine how well he performs. I suppose those athletes who are cool under pressure have learned that skill, to think positively and not worry about outcomes.
I’d like to apply that to my life—to think positively about the day, about others and myself—to fight for what is good and right. For my actions will determine how my day ends, not only for me, but perhaps for those around me as well. If that’s so, then I pray, I crave, to be disciplined— just as disciplined as if I were playing in the World Series.
Hebrews 12:7-13: “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. ‘Make level paths for your feet,’ so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.