I am a huge baseball fan, so for me spring is a great time of year since it marks the beginning of the baseball season. Some of my earliest memories as a young boy are of my father and me sitting on the first base side in Vero Beach, Fla., watching the Los Angeles Dodgers spring training baseball game. It was then, like many boys, that I decided I wanted to become a major league player. I became fascinated with the game, playing T-ball, Little League, and Babe Ruth baseball. But that was as far as my talent took me. I then began to collect baseball cards (up until about a year ago I had more than 200,000 of them) and other baseball memorabilia.
After our marriage, my wife and I spent seven years in Atlanta, Ga., and Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium became our home away from home. Those were the days when it wasn’t popular to be an Atlanta Braves fan because they always ended up in last place. It was also a time when you could sit in the outfield seats for $2, so it was a wonderful way to spend an evening.
I was a fan of the game back in a time when the love of the game seemed more prevalent than the paychecks. Anyone who follows the game has to agree it is a game of beauty, skill, courage, talent and class. But I have to admit that at their most sinful and human, baseball owners and players have almost wrecked the beautiful game by their greed. I remember the 1994-1995 strike that cancelled most of the season and the World Series. I wasn’t sure baseball could ever come back, and though many fans did stay away for awhile, after a couple of years I think it earned back the title, “America’s Pastime.” I do not care who brought on the baseball strike, or even artificial grass, or indoor stadiums, or nighttime playoff games, but on more than one occasion America’s Pastime has been eclipsed by football and apathy. Pundits have continuously declared over the years that MLB is DOA. And yet, year after year stadiums are pleasantly filled with fans hoping to get a glimpse of their favorite star.
As I think about it, I see some interesting parallels between baseball and the mainline church that I would like to share with you. Yes, taken too far these parallels might not make sense, but at face value I think there is validity.
• Greed, sin, strife and concern for only self can destroy a great institution like baseball or the church.
• A fresh spirit and excitement will fill the seats and/or the pews.
• Pundits were wrong to write off baseball. Pundits who write off the mainline church are wrong as well. Maybe the greatest proof of the existence of God is that no matter how hard humans might try, the living God will not let us destroy the church He founded.
• Americans still want to be part of something that is bigger than themselves.
• A little excitement is contagious, so is hard work and dedication. Combine all those things and you will have a winning team, whether on the baseball field or in the sanctuary.
• Loyalty is a two-way street between leaders and participants, participants and leaders.
• Baseball continues to come back from low attendance, so can the church.
Attend a local church service this week and support your team!