Every year at this time, life's regular routine competes with spring and the beginning of baseball season. If it were up to me, everything would take a vacation for baseball. This sentiment is especially true now that my son will be 10 next month, and is playing on two teams, one of which I am managing. I have coached my son since he was old enough to hold a baseball, but this is the first year I have been his team's manager.
Whether my son and I are on the field during the season with the dedicated coaches and parents in East Harlem Little League, participating in the summer program at Harlem RBI or spending time at our second home, Yankee Stadium, which we had the privilege of doing recently with Rachel Robinson and her wonderful staff at the Jackie Robinson Foundation on Jackie Robinson Day, the two of us are full-time baseball guys. (At least until his football and basketball seasons roll around.)
Baseball has always been considered the perfect father-son activity, but Little League baseball includes more and more mothers and daughters these days. In fact, I confess I am behaving badly as a first year manager by trying to steal an outstanding first basewoman from another team at this very moment.
One day the mother of one of my players was asked to allow her son to play in Sunday games in addition to our regularly scheduled Saturday games. She declined because of her family's religious obligations every Sunday.
My rule-breaking pursuit of players on other teams notwithstanding, I am a minister myself. So, of course, I respect this mother's decision. Meanwhile, my offer to celebrate communion on the baseball field before Sunday games did not go over too well.
One beautiful, blue, cloudless Sunday, as my son and I were getting ready for his game, I thought about that mother and her son and their religious obligation. And there I was, an ordained clergyman, with no justifiable counter argument, feeling a little conflicted and guilty. Does the title of "manager" supersede the title of "minister?" How does one reconcile faith and baseball?
What inspires me, my son, and countless other parents and children, is not easy to translate. But when I witness a friend I have asked to be my assistant coach age 20 years in reverse when he walks on the field, or an umpire stop a game to explain to both teams why I wore #42 on April 15, the game and all of its virtues are worthwhile.
I offer no substitute or CliffsNotes for faith, religion, liturgy, theology or worship on Sunday. But here is something I hope that gives us justification to excuse ourselves whenever we can to have fun with our children.
A Psalm of Baseball
Baseball provideth me green pastures. It endureth no storms.
It preserveth my youth.
It accepteth my failure as average.
It keepeth me in order.
Baseball alloweth me chance after chance, despite my errors.
It forgiveth my stealing.
It encourageth my sacrifices.
Yea, though I have taken all I can, I am able to walk.
It alloweth me to lead.
It sendeth me home safely. The plate I do not overrunneth.
Baseball giveth me rest in the sabbath inning.
It relieveth me.
And surely when I am not complete,
Baseball promiseth me an opportunity to be saved.