Last fall, I had the privilege of stepping in to coach the Junior Varsity baseball team at my boys’ school for the off-season program. By rule, the “real” coaches are not allowed to be on the field with the players when they are not officially in season so they recruit others: dads, past players, outside coaches, etc to step in a run the practices and games on their behalf.
Obviously, they asked about 30 others before deciding to call upon me, but in the end, they reached out and afforded me the opportunity.
The fall season was short, just a 6-game league play where — due to a field shortage — we had to play everything away. Also, just to see where our boys stacked up, our head coach of the baseball program signed us up for the JV1 division which means we would be playing against 5A and 6A schools, instead of the 2A and 3A-sized schools that we typically play against. No complaints, we had a great time.
We also got our teeth kicked in most games. Thankfully, we improved every week, ending up pulling out a win in our last game to finish the season with a 1-5 record…
One week ago today, I got my face readjusted by a line-drive back up the middle. I have no concrete way of knowing but based on age-specific averages, the exit velocity of the baseball was probably between 68-75mph. I was probably about 25-30 feet away from the batter when the ball was hit but it would take a much smarter math wizard than I to figure out how much time I had between bat contact and face contact. (Hint: it wasn’t much)
Just to be clear, I was standing behind an L-screen and my entire body was behind it when the ball was struck. What I wasn’t aware of, was the small hole that had opened up between the netting and the pole that it was attached to right about face-height for a pitcher as they follow through with their motion. The ball found it and my maxillofacial bones without too much trouble.
I was immediately turned and dropped with a handful of blood and a gaggle of 7th grade boys running to my side to check on me. While it happened fairly quickly, I remember most of it quite vividly.
Since I’ve made it about seven days, I figured I’d document a few things I don’t want to forget going forward:
I am a lucky/blessed man. Depending on what your belief system is, I am fortunate on multiple fronts.
It could have been a lot worse. There’s a chance this story could have never been pinned and I’ve thought about that more than once.
I have people in my life who care deeply for me and I hope I never take that for granted. My wish is the same for each and every one of you… to have this and to know this (without enduring a similar experience). The calls, texts, food, prayers, emails, texts, calls, notes, kind words, hugs, etc. Y’all are awesome.
With all of it’s faults, we do have a pretty spectacular medical system in the United States; my journey isn’t over yet but the speed, the expertise, and the technology that I have seen over the last week has been pretty impressive.
People are understanding. Everyone has deadlines and needs but most I’ve dealt with have been understanding of my situation and provided grace as I return back to full speed.
Protein shakes aren’t that tasty. I’m looking down the barrel of a 6-week soft food diet and trying to find things to keep me from wasting away. I’ve tried a couple so far and I had a buddy bring me a new mixable powder today but I can’t say that I’m ready to go all-in on a liquid diet forever, just yet.
I didn’t realize how much I talked. Sorry all, maybe the next 6-8 weeks will train me to be a little slower to speak and quicker to listen. Strong verbs, short sentences. *
It was only a matter of time. It’s kind of morbid to think about but I’ve been climbing into batting cages (or fields, bullpens, sand lots) for over 11 years as a coach/father and you just have to figure with the law of averages that at some point, I was going to get hit. I’ve taken plenty of arm and leg shots, but I’m assuming this will be the one I remember the longest.
It wasn’t his fault. Note to self: You’ve reached out to both of his parents and will continue to do so, just help him to understand nothing about this was his fault. He hit a great ball and it was a total freak accident, don’t let him wear it.
I’ll be back. It’ll take a minute and I’m sure it will rattle me a little, but I love those dudes and that game too much not to saddle up and give it another go.
They know best and they mean well. There are days where your wife and your mom are probably right, even when you don’t agree with them. Let them be right sometimes.
I’ve never had orthodontia. But I guess now is as good of a time as any.
I turned down the plates and screws. It’s his job, it’s how he gets paid, obviously he’s going to recommend it. But I don’t have to do it. I’ll endure the protein shakes and mashed potatoes over metal and surgery. Sure hope I’m right.
Medical stuff wigs me out. Pretty sure that CT Scan shot lasers through my brain and I didn’t like it one bit.
Telling others is weird. Writing this post, telling people via text or phone, or generally sharing in any capacity feels odd. It feels like I’m bragging but I promise, I’m not. It’s why I haven’t posted on social media or anywhere else yet, I don’t want it to seem like I’m pandering for empathy. I know you care.
I’m glad it was me. Do you know how bad I would feel right now if I had one of my players throwing batting practice that night to the other ones? I don’t think I could sleep.
My business partner is a pretty solid dude. I’d have fired me long ago. He just rolls with it and continually picks up the slack.
“At least 3 fractures.” Bones (and our bodies) are crazy things. They break and then they heal. Hard for me to reconcile that fact with other theories out there.
I’m sure there’s more.
I’m re-adjusting. It’ll take time but I’ll get back to 100. If you want to see me in rough-ER-aftermath-shape, I’ve added a picture after the break. I don’t blame you if it’s not your thing.
I went on a bit of a tweet-tear this morning, might be easier to read in this form:
Youth sports is a machine now. It’s a money making engine. And it’s not just baseball; many of you parents do it for soccer, cheer, dance, lacrosse, swimming, basketball, etc.
I am fully aware that my family feeds into it.
There is a place for recreational sports, it doesn’t have to be ‘select’ or nothing.
My Saturday morning consisted of hosting Opening Day ceremonies for our local Rec program and it was amazing. The joy on the faces was contagious.
Parade of teams; first pitches; new uniforms; home run derby’s; T-ball kids running to the wrong base; and parents that were just excited to see little Johnny try something out.
Parents of young ones, if I have any advice, don’t look past those days.
Will there be a day that you need to move Johnny into something more competitive? Possibly. But I promise you, it’s entirely okay to allow them to play for fun.
Please don’t take the fun away. Not for an upgraded jersey or a $5 ring (or worse, your own bragging rights).
Let them dream of playing in the big leagues. Are their chances high? No. Do fractional statistics about their chances of playing SS for a living on the Yankees matter to a 10-year old? Nope. Encourage them to dream big.
Utilize team sports to teach lessons. Teamwork. Encouraging others. Dusting yourself (and others) off when you fail. Overcoming struggles and losses. Celebrating little and big wins. Building (and re-building) confidence.
I’ve seen it and said it 1 million times:
Parents ruin youth sports.
Don’t be that parent.
My rules for being a good sports (or other extra-curricular) parent:
1. Cheer for your player and their teammates.
Now, I admit that I break rule number 1. I don’t have it all figured out but I’m working on it. When I’m a grandparent, I’ll nail it.
When the game is over. Tell them you love them and that you enjoyed watching them play. Mean it.
They’re going to strike out. They’re going to make errors. They’re going to *insert every mistake you can think of for your preferred sport*.
Tell them you’re proud of them.
Some of the best lessons my boys have learned have come from things that have happened in the participation of activities with others. I’m thankful for those lessons, some of which I can’t teach on my own.
However, there are a couple I can teach; your mileage may vary…
Lessons that I have on my plate to teach them:
1. Love God
2. Know that God loves you.
3. Love your neighbor.
4. Know that your family loves you.
If I can get them to understand those, the rest has a good chance of working itself out.
If I ever make it my goal of teaching them that their worth is based on their performance, I failed. (And trust me, I have)
“I love you and I enjoyed watching you play.” – dad
If you can do that, you’re gonna nail being a sports parent.
My apologies, this tweet storm probably would have been a little more suited for an email or a blog post.
I guess the moral of the story is this: baseball is fun. Go play catch with your kid (or do whatever else it is that they love to do).
At the time of this writing, I’ve been married over 21 years. I bought this hat in college, prior to getting married, meaning that I’ve owned it for more than 21 years. As you can see, it’s been worn a couple times.
The bill shows signs of wear. A frayed edge; exposed guts; sweat rings; a faded autograph. There’s paint on it. The blues are muted and the whites definitely aren’t white when you set it next to something that is.
I don’t wear it that much anymore. Sometimes I’ll pull it out of the closet and toss it on backwards. The barrelled curve of the bill isn’t as trendy as it used to be, but more than that, it’s a little hard to finagle when wearing with my glasses. I’ve mowed in it. I’ve surfed in it. I’ve rescued it just before sinking to the bottom of the lake on a summer day. I’ve worn it to baseball games. I’ve tucked it under my leg while riding my motorcycle knowing that when I took my helmet off I would want something to hide the craziness of helmet-hair.
On the back, it has a ‘1974’ embroidered on it. It’s a commemorative hat. April 8, 1974 was the day that Hank Aaron hit career home run number 715, passing the mark set by Babe Ruth. Hammerin’ Hanks record (755) stood for another 30 years (and if you ask some purists, still stands today).
The lower case ‘a’ on the front is a throwback to the one worn by the Atlanta Braves in the 70’s. Today’s version is a capital ‘A’, sometimes combined with a tomahawk.
There’s controversy with the name. There’s precedence for change. The Football Team went first and then the Guardians. One has to wonder how much longer before the Braves become the Vipers, or the Pine Trees, or the all encompassing Team of Baseball Players. (more…)
This is an open letter — a response in one of the few ways I know how. It’s mostly just going to be a stream of consciousness that could ultimately turn into a longer conversation.
Dear 1950’s style church member, thank you.
I used to be you. My “theology” matched your theology. Our “doctrines” aligned. The “church,” as I believed it, was the most important thing. When the doors were open, we knew we were supposed to be in the “church.”
I wasn’t there this week but the funny thing is, as much as ever, I believe we’re supposed to be in the church. I want to teach my boys this. I want to set this example for others. I want the world to know the Jesus that I know.
I think (mostly because I don’t know your internal motives), in that regard, we’re one and the same.
Except for the fact that we’re miles apart. In sports terms, we’re so far apart, we’re not even playing the same game.
What’s changed? The church? Nope.
What has changed for me is the simple fact that I missed the boat for so long. For entirely too long, I viewed those four walls, those padded pews, those hard-bound song books, that air conditioning, those vaulted ceilings, and the 9:00am once-per-week 45-minute dive into scripture as the Church. Here’s some examples of my previous ways of thinking:
“Hurry and finish your breakfast, we’ve got to get to church.”
“Nah, sorry, we can’t do that on Wednesday night; we’ve got church.”
“What time does church start?”
“Can you run up to the church and grab X?”
“Hey friend, (I know it’s a little awkward but) are you interested in going to church with me?”
Sound familiar? I promise I can go on.
You know what changed? Me. When I realized a little while back that our “theology” — as you might be inclined to passively throw in my face on Facebook — doesn’t line up nearly as much as it used to.
What amazes me is that you truly think that your take on doctrine is the only Truth there is. The simple fact you emphasize your one building; in your one-horse town; of your one denomination (even when you say you’re not a denomination) as the “Church” is completely opposite of what the Bible you stand on teaches.
My seat was empty on Sunday
My kids play sports and I get that back in your day things looked a little different. You had Blue Laws, I’ve heard all about them. And you just knew that if Christ returned on a Sunday or Wednesday night and you weren’t in your assigned seat at church, you lost your place in line. I totally understand your thinking, that crap is hard to shake.
And look, I’m probably the last guy you want offering up Jesus returns prophesies to you but I’m fairly certain you can count on a couple of things:
1. Jesus doesn’t care about what your building looks like.
2. If he showed up on a Sunday and upon his return He just luckily sauntered into your place of worship, He’d be disheartened at what He saw. I don’t think He’d be turning-tables mad but I do think He’d be sad that you shot-your-shot at creating His perfect church and you missed so badly.
You wanna know why I know this?
Cause Jesus didn’t ever once call a building the “Church.” And in his years of ministry, never once did He set aside two days a week to go to “church.” And never did He say, ‘those who enter this building with the wood-paneling and temperature-controlled baptistry will be called my Church.’
Nope. He pretty much said the opposite. For his entire ministry. Until the day he died and he called out in agonizing pain: “Father, forgive them, because they still have no idea what they’re doing.” (paraphrasing, mine)
You’re probably gonna read this and think, “we don’t read the same book.” You’re wrong.
I think if you’ll take a look back through that Book you read with honest and fresh eyes, you might see something a little different. I did.
What you probably won’t see is that point where Jesus laid out the scriptural times of worship of 10:00am, 6:00pm, and Wednesday night at 7:00pm. Adjusted accordingly for time change, of course.
As I point out above, He never actually calls a building the church. Nor does He call it, “going to church”; “going to the church”; “worshiping at the church”; “running by the church”; or any other mis-verbification you can come up with.
What does He say then? Well, He does tell Peter (in Matthew’s account) that on him, He will build His church. So we’ve got that. But I’m fairly certain that statement alone doesn’t mean Jesus hired Peter as a general contractor to go out and get a bunch of sub-contractors and an architect to build a physical building with a steeple and a pulpit. (But again, I don’t have a Masters in Theology.)
Wanna know what Jesus talked about more than a church? Like 100 times more? A Kingdom. And not one far away. Not one down the road in the future. And definitely not one that was made for the humans of this world to rule over each other with.
“The kingdom of God is near” is kind of a weird thing to hear, right? I’m like, “hey Jesus, what’chu mean by that?”
Since you asked, here’s my measly, human interpretation…
“I’m Jesus. I’m here. I’m building something far better than you can ever imagine. It ain’t a building. It doesn’t need a time slot. It doesn’t leave people out. It doesn’t require a great (or terrible) speaker each week. All I ask is that you love me and take care of my people. I’m the kingdom and I’m right here. Near you. Bueno?”
also (and equally as important)…
“Don’t forget something… the people. The ones who are lost. The ones who have walked away. The ones who have never heard. The ones who are broken. The ones who are misguided. The ones who want nothing to do with me or with you. The ones who say the most filthy, vile, and vulgar things about me (and you). They’re really freaking important to me.
And you know what? Now maybe you should write this one down… I’m kind of partial to this one… love them. Go after them. Please go after them. With all of your heart, soul, mind, and might. They’re not always going to be in the places you are. In fact, they’re rarely going to be in the place you feel the safest. Please, please, please, go after them and love them. Just as they are. You do that and I’ll work my magic as well, together we can bring them home. To the church. Not the building. To my church; my kingdom; my place of rest.
I was at a baseball game on Sunday (six, actually)
Look, my kids play sports. On Sunday. And I know that annoys the hell out of you. And we post pictures about it. And we celebrate it.
You know what else we celebrate? The fact that we are with the church. My boys know it. They know they’re called to such a higher standard than the world sets. They know Christ comes first. They know the Love of the Lord. They know the songs. They know we long for times to sit in and worship with like-minded believers to be refreshed and encourage each other.
They also know they’re called to so much more.
Those 10 other kids on the team? The 10-15 families associated with those kids? Holy moly, who better to teach them about Jesus, His love for them, and their place in the Kingdom than us? Than my wife? Than my boys? That’s a church. That’s a mission.
You know what we have no ambitions of? That .0296% chance of becoming a professional athlete that you post about on social media. We don’t talk about it. We don’t encourage it. We also don’t shoot it down when our kids say, “dad, I wanna be a baseball player when I grow up!” You want to know why? Cause I wanted to play baseball when I grew up too and you know who didn’t shoot that down? Every adult ever. Let the kids dream and play. (It’s scientifically-proven good for their brains.)
I get that you don’t get it. I get that this will stir so many of the wrong and unintended emotions in you but you’ve gotta understand that the “Church” as you know it is on the decline and part of that — from my simple estimation — is simply due to the fact that you’ve thumbed your nose at both believers and non-believers alike who do not exactly align with your doctrine. Different doesn’t equal wrong.
Love God and love your neighbor. I can’t do the second without the first and if I don’t do the second, I’ve failed this test miserably.
On any given Sunday I might be at a baseball field, but hopefully someday you’ll come to the realization that my family and I are as much or more a part of His church than you’ve ever taken the leap of faith to be.
So, Thank you. Thank you for outing yourself once again. Thank you for setting the stage for me to finally put something down on paper (this has been a few years coming). Thank you for giving me material to once again reinforce the teachings of Jesus with my kids. Thank you for reminding me that Jesus is really important. His teachings should be heard, especially by the lost — those who need it most.
What I hope my boys never inherit is a short-sided view of what Christians — followers of Christ — are supposed to be. Your “church” will likely continue down a slow path of attrition and death but Christ’s Church will endure forever. I hope they choose the latter.