And The Truth Is……

imagesPeter Hissey is a current Double A/Triple A player with the Boston Red Sox

And the truth is…Everyone is always looking.   Some to the future, others toward a less stressful career, a vacation, or just a day off. Whatever it may be, we all just want a break, and are thoroughly convinced that if we got what we wanted, we would be okay. We would finally be able to relax. Unwind. I’ve been playing professional baseball for 7 years and there have been countless days where I’ve showed up to the field and desired a day off. I have been tired of the grind, the pressure, the anxiety, and the nerves that never abated. Everyday is a grind. Every night we are being tested and graded on our performance in an effort to not only win, but also to advance to the next level hopefully getting the opportunity to play in the big leagues. As a follower of Jesus, I would love to say that Jesus takes my worries away. That He lifts the anxiety off my back and allows me to play freely, and He does, if I let Him. The problem is that I’m human. My flesh, desires results and approval. I am constantly at war between what my spirit desires and what my flesh desires. The more time that I’ve been in the game, the longer I’ve realized that Jesus doesn’t take our problems away. Yes, he is the Prince of Peace and the Mighty Counselor, but He helps me get through problems, He doesn’t eliminate them. And what a gift it is to have Jesus as my counselor. As we read in John 16:33 “I have told you these things so that you may find peace in me. In this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world. “ Jesus has overcome the world. He has experienced every emotion and trial and he has passed. I pray that this truth can wash over my life and change it, but my heart is so hard I need continual reminders. I constantly have to be in the Word or else this incredible truth will be clouded over by the desires and attractions of the world.

Sometimes the feeling I have before games is that I’m carrying the weight of the world. Finally, the other day I admitted that feeling to someone and thought,

”Man, the weight of the world was on someone’s shoulders. The weight of the world has already been carried and it wasn’t by me. Christ died with the sins of the world on His shoulders. How much stress do I feel just with my own life? I can’t even imagine what Christ carried, but I can appreciate it even more knowing that what I carry is already too much for me.”

So I go on. The body can’t differentiate between what has been done in your mind, or in real life, so it’s important to have a positive mentality. When there is pressure and anxiety, the body will rely on what it understands to be true. So as a believer in Christ, reminding myself of truth has never been more important. Memorizing scripture has become a huge part of my life this year and I can’t believe I ever got by without it. Whenever the game takes over my life or a situation gets tense on the field, I am reminded of truth. Usually, my fears are that I’m going to miss the final play and lose the game. I’m going to strike out every time up. I’m going to fail tonight and everyone will know about it; because there’s no hiding here. Games are on the Internet, box scores are readily available, and so your successes and your failures are very public. Sometimes after a tough game a guy will come in and have text messages from family members asking if they’re all right. “You want to talk about your swing? Everything okay?” Yes. Everything is fine. One game is just that, one game. We play 142 of them. So I handle my fear with truth. God is with me. God did not give me a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power and love. God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. The Lord is my rock and my salvation.

The important part about baseball is responding. Enduring the tough times on the field knowing that if you focus on the process the results will take care of themselves. You’re numbers will be what they will be. As a hitting coach I had used to say,”9 times out of 10 you’re not as good as you think you are. That’s why I love the game. It humbles you.” So what makes me play the game? How do I get by? How do I enjoy the game? I remind myself daily of truths. I am loved. I am free. I have a God who loves me more than I could ever realize. I have a great family, food to eat, clothing, shelter, and the list goes on. Rather than focusing on the pressure, I focus on the gifts. A heart full of gratitude is venom to the enemy. It’s venom to anxiety, fear and doubt. It’s also important for me to understand that anxiety can be a good thing. It sharpens us, focuses us, and makes us better. Something we can feed off if we just embrace it. Embrace the discomfort. Embrace the pressure. And I continually remind myself of the truth of God’s Word. When David was surrounded by other kingdoms that were trying to takeover and murder him he declared praises to the Lord. Psalm 69:30 I will praise God’s name in song, and I will glorify Him in thanksgiving. He gave thanks for his situation. Because after all, every breath is a gift. Every thing we receive is something that we didn’t deserve.

So when I really think about it, the truth is that life is a gift. A blessing. But when we are in the heat of the moment, the flesh will wage war inside us. Be strong. Be reminded of scripture and of who God is. Look at what God has done for his people from the times of Adam all the way to Jesus dying on the cross. God is here. God is with us. And if God is for us, who could be against us?

-Peter Hissey

What are You Trading Life For?

1389770751-eccbc87e4b5ce2fe28308fd9f2a7baf3So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

1 Corinthians 10:31

 Giving it all you got is something that is looked at as a high value in our society. The one who sacrifices everything to reach the pinnacle of success in a given talent is idolized. In the arena of a professional athlete you give countless time, energy, and effort to maximize your talent. This is just the beginning of the requirements it takes to achieve this height. Once you do get there too, everyone wants a piece of you. These sacrifices, and yes, you are sacrificing, better be worth it. You need to find a reason for doing all that work. You don’t want all the hard work to be in vain, so the question becomes what makes it all worth it?

For some, the reason is getting to the highest point of success, for a baseball player that is reaching the MLB. For others it may be about making a lot of money, or getting the fame you feel you deserve. Either way, you are looking to trade your developed talent and your life for something. I have traded countless hours and days of my life for the game of baseball. I have given my talent, time, sweat, and tears to different organizations and schools over the years. Why was I doing all this? What was making it all worth it for me?

In the beginning of my career I would say Pride. I wanted to be the best for attention and notoriety. I was willing to trade all that time of my life to be known, welcomed, and of course paid well. I thought it would all be worth it too. The trade seemed fair to me, I was all for it. Why not? I mean the world seemed to want my talent and was willing to give me what I was asking for. I just didn’t read the fine print though because I couldn’t keep giving at the rate I was. The world always wants more, but I am only human I have limits. This is where anxiety sets in.

We have all probably experienced this in someway. Even if you are not a professional athlete, you still understand the demands and pressures to give more of yourself to a company, cause, or event. Before we put blame on the wrong variable, it is often our own faults that we suffer like this. WE are willing to trade ourselves. In a sense we choose who the master of our life will be, as long as the trade is something we want or feel is pleasing. This is what life is about in this world and yes, we do need to trade talents and time to survive. However, what I am saying is you rethink what is truly worth it all in the end. Don’t give all of yourself to something that is not worth it. That is what I was doing early on in my career and it all come crashing down and let me empty and alone. There are a lot of choices to give your time and life too, but there is only one that will truly satisfy

Fame fades. Money fades. New toys get old and boring. Was it really worth the sacrifice you gave? Was it worth the pieces of your life you gave up? One minute you’re the coolest thing on the planet and the next your forgotten and tossed aside. I have seen it to many times in the baseball profession. I found later in my career that I was using my talent for the wrong reasons. When you give your heart to things that fade eventually your motivation will fade with it. What really started to motivate me wasn’t the promise of a trade, but from a gift that I was given for free.

This gift was more life. Yes, the world, sin, and all of its demands on me take life, but the “free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23 NLT) A free gift, no trades, no earning, just a free gift. See that was so foreign to me at the beginning, because nothing I have ever done in baseball, or with my talent, ever came without me earning it, or sacrificing for it. I didn’t have to put in the hard work, the tears, or have good stats, it was just offered to me as a gift. I was right with God because of what Jesus did, not what I did, because of this it changed everything. I no longer gave my talent and life to the world, but in thanks to God.

God gave me the talent to begin with, the desire to play baseball to begin with. I was the one who tried to use those gifts and trade them for things I thought I wanted or needed when in the end they were always there as gifts to glorify God. My talent was a way to say “Thank You” in my own style. Knowing I was welcomed and accepted in God’s eyes because of what Christ did, freed me from trying to trade my life away for things that would never fill my heart. I am already loved by God, I don’t need to fill my heart with the world anymore, now I am free to give my talent to him as a thank you, and that is enough motivation for me to last eternity. Don’t trade your talent or life for things that don’t last, because the happiness won’t last either. Use it to give thanks to a God, who gives you a life that always last, an everlasting life in Christ.

Love Thy Teammate. Even If He “Big Leagues” You.

Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31 NLT)

197143_1004493278015_3880_nThere is one judgment every professional baseball player makes when asked to evaluate another player. That judgment is whether or not he is a good teammate. Fellow players don’t care how hard you throw, how many homers you hit, or even if you’re the greatest player in the world. First and foremost we care about one thing, what kind of “guy” you are. That being said, you don’t always get a good teammate. In this game you play with a lot of bad teammates. I guess I better give a little insight into what makes a good or bad teammate when it comes to the minds of players.

A “bad” teammate or guy usually shows a certain set of behaviors around his team. He is cocky, selfish, plays solely for his own glory, and no matter what, he has to be the center of attention. He rarely tries to make diving plays or run into a wall because “He can’t get hurt.” If he is in a slump, it’s never his fault. If he is playing well, he will look down on you like you’re his servant. We call this being “big leagued.” Being “big leagued,” is when someone acts like they are already in the Major Leagues and should be treated as such, when in reality they haven’t been there at all, they just think they are. This type of attitude and pay me homage way of life, really strikes the wrong nerves of teammates. Good teammates don’t do that.

As you could imagine a “good” teammate is the complete opposite of that. This player is usually quiet, humble, plays the game hard, (whether he is struggling or not) and treats his teammates as friends. He is someone who you know works hard to be where he is at and knowing that earns him respect. You know when you go out into the field he is going to do everything he can to make the play for you. That is a good teammate, one who sacrifices for the good of the team, even if it cost him an injury. Players will always consider you a “good” teammate if you play and act like this.

As you can see to be labeled a good or bad teammate has nothing to do with talent level, it’s all about the personalities and the treatment of fellow players. However, it is rare that you get a team full of good teammates. This is no different then any other walk of life. Baseball just makes it easy to see a person’s true identity, because of the amount of failure within the game. That failure and even success at times brings out what each individual is really like. Can you handle the failure or success and still be a good teammate?

I will be honest with you. I have played with some pretty bad teammates in my years. I have been part of team meetings where the team tries to come together, but one guy says, “No, I am not changing for you, I am doing it my way.” I have watched teammates fight each other. I even know of teammates hooking up with other teammate’s girlfriends. All the while, playing next to the guy everyday on the field. This can really affect a team’s success, but stuff like this happens all the time. However, being a Christian athlete means we are called to Love thy Teammate, even if they aren’t a good one.

Loving your teammate doesn’t mean accepting the bad things they do as okay, and looking the other way. No, Love means attempting to save that teammate from the path of destruction they are heading. I am not saying to “throw the guys under the bus.”(A baseball term meaning humiliating him in front of the entire team) I am saying however, to approach them as you would approach yourself. With forgiveness and a pathway to change. I myself have been a bad teammate before, we all have. We also have all needed someone to kindly instruct us to a better way, a more loving way. Some of my best friends today are teammates I didn’t get along with at first. People change when you love them as yourself.

To God, we have all been “bad” teammates. We all have “Big Leagued” God in our lives. We have all rebelled and mistreated God. He didn’t blow us off and forget about us though. No, He loved us enough to tell us the truth about our badness, but also to give us a path to change. That path He provided cost Him a lot too. It cost the death of Jesus Christ His Son. Christ Jesus had to die for us, because we were such bad teammates. The Good News however, is He was such a good teammate to us, that He decided to love us enough to save us. This type of love changes your heart. He wants us to be “good teammates” so bad that He took it upon Himself to make it happen. God really is a Good teammate. So, if you are a Christian athlete or an athlete at all remember to Love Thy Teammate as yourself, it may just change them.

10 Things About Minor League Baseball Players You Didn’t Know

As I sit in my seat, on what seems to be another long bus ride through the night. (It turned out to be, because we actually would break down) I realized there is a lot that goes on within minor league baseball that most people might not ever know about. What seems to be the norm to me may be a world of intrigue to you. To a lot of people, what we do on a daily basis is a dream, but this list will show you, we are people, just like you. That being said: Here is a fun Top Ten list of things you might not know about us.

 1. We Eat Pizza Three or Four Times a Week.

No doubt about it, we love pizza. It’s cheesy, greasy and delicious. Not to mention it’s the fastest and easiest thing to get after a long day at the park. Most of our games finish late at night when nothing besides a pizza place is normally open. Plus, on get away days, the clubhouse guys find it easiest to serve. Plus, since we were kids our parents always took us for pizza after a long game. Who can argue with that?

2.  We Secretly Love Rain Outs.

Ok, before all the baseball fans get all upset that we would ever think such a thing, let me explain our point of view. Baseball is and always will be a long season. We play pretty much everyday for six months. Due to this, plus all the traveling, we get beat up mentally and physically, so yes after 18 games in a row or so, we like a day off due to a little rain. Not to mention if family is in town, we get to spend a little extra time with them, which is always a great surprise.

3. The Bullpen/Clubhouse is Sometimes More of a Debate Club.

Everyone loves a good debate. After batting practice and in the lulls of the game of baseball we have plenty of time to discuss just about any topic you can imagine. Topics range from politics to how many blades of grass are on the field. (Some where around a million was our best estimate) Taboo or not, we talk about it and with so many people on a team you get a lot of different viewpoints, but at the end of the day we go out in the field and play together. That is what makes baseball so great.

4. We Really do Run on “DUNKIN,” Well, Any Type Of Coffee Really.

Baseball can be a long game. Whether you play a long nine inning game or find yourself in extra innings, games can take at least a few hours, so players often need a little caffeine to keep them going. Just about everyone has a coffee or energy drink before the field and another one just before or during the game. You can pretty much expect the espresso to come out on a day game too. Just like the 9 to 5 worker, we love coffee too.

5. Long Bus Rides can be A LOT of Fun.

We Travel a lot. I mean like every 4 days a lot. For us minor leaguers that means a lot of time on a bus. That translates into a lot of time on a bus with 25 friends, so you can imagine how much fun it can be. From practical jokes to rap battles, things can and will get out of hand. We share seats, headphones, and hear each other’s phone conversations. There is only one main rule: NO NUMBER 2’S ON THE BUS!

6. There can Never be Enough Decks of Cards.

Players play cards on the bus, in the clubhouse, during a rain out, and everywhere in between. Since, the game has been around I can imagine this has been going on. However, with all that playing, cards get ruined, beat up, and lost. There is always a need for another deck, because what would we ever do without them?

7. We Miss our Family.

This is definitely one of the more emotional and difficult things about being a minor league player. We travel a lot and play in areas far away from where our family, wives, and children are located. If you are blessed financially to be able to bring your wife/family with you that’s awesome, but it’s rare, very rare. Just about everyone leaves family behind for the six or so months during the season, only seeing them once in a while during times they can get to visit. That means seeing them over a weekend or week, every six weeks or so, when it’s possible. Pray for all of us who go through this, especially the ones we leave back home.

8. We always Play Cheesy Music after a Win.

Winning doesn’t happen everyday and a winning season is even harder, so when we do win we celebrate, with music. We often choose a victory song and don’t change it all season. I bet your thinking it’s probably “eye of a tiger”, or some sort of victory style song….WRONG. A lot of times it’s the most ridiculous and cheesy song out there. I have heard: “Call me Maybe,” by Carly Rae, “Trouble” by Taylor Swift, and my personal favorite “My Heart will Go On” by Céline Deion. I wouldn’t have it any other way. This songs always remind me that we got another Win.

9. We Compete over everything.

Whether it’s a game of golf, fungo golf, ping-pong, or just to see who can chew the most pieces of gum, we try to beat each other. When you see someone pretty much everyday, all day, we want to have some sort of bragging rights over each other. We compete for a living, so it’s hard to turn that switch off. Everyday is a new day and a new game that can be played or invented in which I think I can beat you. You think you can beat ME?! Prove it.

10. We feel the pain of each other’s failures.

We all have played this game long enough to know failing your team or having a bad game sucks. Everyone in that clubhouse knows what it feels like to make an error, strike out, or throw a bad pitch. This makes us very forgiving people when it happens. We don’t look down or ostracize a teammate for that, we give them a pat on the back and say tomorrow is a new game, because its true, we play again tomorrow.

 There you have it. My list of Ten Things you didn’t know about Minor League Baseball Players. Though there is more, I believe this is a Ten of the most overlooked and unknown details of our daily lives.

Am I Good Enough to Earn a “Call Up?”

This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all. 16 But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life. (1 Timothy 1:15-16 NLT)81565-21Bk

 

I alone had one ultimate goal for my life for a long period of time, and that was to make it to the Major Leagues. As a professional baseball player, and even as an amateur player, the Major Leagues were my heaven. However, I never knew what it truly took to get there. I knew it depended on my performance, but not to what extent. At times my performance seemed “good” enough, only to be disappointed, and then fail worse. There is no bylaw that states if you have a 2.50 era that you get “called up”, there is no clear path of what is necessary, its often timing, and truly up to individuals with authority to choose you. I still haven’t got the call up to the MLB, but it also is no longer my heaven. I no longer look at the back of my baseball card and ask, Am I Good Enough?

As a minor league player you struggle, often for years, to get better and put up stats that earn promotions. This may be the case in most careers, but in baseball you don’t make enough money to earn a living in the minors. All the promises of security, and good health are promised in a utopian like view of the Major Leagues. Not to mention, if you do get there you must continue to produce or you get kicked out, and back to the minors you go. There as been a lot of talk lately about this type of topic, due to the lawsuit and press going around on the state of the minor leagues. My goal is not to bring attention to that, but to bring attention to players and where true “heaven” and satisfaction is.Everyone who plays professional baseball sees the big leagues as the ultimate goal, the highest pinnacle of baseball, where every problem will be solved. No more peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. No, more long bus rides where you have to share a seat. No, more penny pinching. No, it’s a place of Milk and Honey, like the promised land of the Israelites. However, what if you’re not worthy? What then?

No, there is a more important “call up” out there and that is the one when I die, and meet my creator. I tell you what, after the feelings of anxiety and insecurity because of my stats in baseball over the years, wondering if they were good enough to earn a spot in the MLB, I no longer want eternity to rest on my performance, because I know it won’t get me in. Unlike my baseball stats, I know what it takes to get into heaven, and that’s a sinless life, which I do not have through my own performance. I can assure you I do not want God combing through my stat sheet after I die, telling me where I fell short of His Glory. No, unlike my baseball career where there is no savior to get me to the Majors, there is a Savior in real life. His name is Jesus Christ. I much rather use His stats of perfection, and righteousness as my ticket to the “show”. It’s a free gift out of love that this is offered to me, and you, and I love Him through it. So I plead with you stop thinking your stats are good enough because they are not. They may be excellent and people may see you as the best on the earth, but it will only leave you stuck in the minor leagues, missing the call up you always wanted.

I believe my life, through playing catch with Christ was to show others, that no matter how good you are, or how hard you try to please God by your own works or deeds that you will never achieve what you need to do it. Just as 1st Timothy 1 states, I feel like Paul that I also am being used as an example of a terrible sinner, who needed saving by Christ alone, and His Glory being shown for the patience He has to deal with me. For I didn’t ask to play catch with Him, but He came to me, and endured my rebellion. I am no doubt a sinner, who failed, failed, and failed some more in life, however through God’s mercy, and grace, and through the gift, of Jesus Christ He brought me to Salvation. The most important game of your life is on the line, do you take the ball yourself, or let Christ pitch for you. Are you good enough to get a “call up?”

Do You Need to Call in a Reliever?

The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. A righteous man may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all; (Psalm 34:17-19)

 

Moore, B. (2009, 09). Cubs Pitching Change . Flickr. Retrieved 05, 2014, from https://www.flickr.com/photos/shgmom56/3941775121/in/photolist-adHi1c-eGQDZs-8ffVdV-2rwwhd-fp3mRf-8gnn2S-3P5YuU-ajmcnE-8hg8pN-4SYRnK-bzDZtk-fdaF2D-8BkpiH-fao5Xt-aiTdd1-321CKt-cJ5e5U-2ruEFh-6e8oVJ-71jCq2-5puZdS-71nGeQ-9BQEUt-6Wee7Q-5priMc-6C8KYc-8BkkTg-8gnnvC-MTo1x-cBZhbW-f9dK4s-8Go4ee-6C8LGv-6Pxgsu-eHuvht-cBpzX1-4UeuVw-74YzeN-8154xh-8o7E8c-egvcc-4Em5nU-6Qz22e-6QD6vA-6QD65A-eJpM7t-eccdRu-bVhcmG-4Em65q-c5wYPU/
Moore, B. (2009, 09). Cubs Pitching Change . Flickr. Retrieved 05, 2014, from https://www.flickr.com/photos/shgmom56/3941775121/in/photolist-adHi1c-eGQDZs

Each pitch you throw your heart begins to race faster and faster. As more guys reach base you start to sweat just a little bit more. You’re searching, searching for something deep inside you to help you get out of this now seemingly dire situation. You’ve tried every pitch you got and nothing seems to be working. Before you know it, bases are loaded, and you got nothing left. Every pitcher, who has ever played the game of baseball, has found himself at one time or another in trouble. Pitchers call this trouble being in a jam. In baseball, being in a jam usually consists of a few things: runners on base, struggling with command, watching the lead dwindle, and finding no way to get anyone out. At this point you need help. When a mound visit by the coach didn’t work, there is only one more option, to bring in a reliever.

I have been in plenty of situations like this in my career and the last thing you want to do is be taken out of the game with your runners on base. You now have to leave the mess you created in the game to somebody else. Your future, in that moment, is now in their hands. For anxious people, like myself, this is emotionally challenging. Everything you just worked for, whether you’ve pitched well up until that point or not, is left in a fellow teammate’s hands. You get to watch as the inning unfolds without you. At this moment I can tell you one thing, you want someone you trust.

When the game, your game at that moment, is on the line, you want the best man for the job. This usually means you want to see the best guy in the bullpen come in behind you. The pitcher who is going to come into the game and get that strikeout, or get that double play ball that’s desperately needed. However, that doesn’t always happen. Sometimes you don’t always get “the best guy,” which only makes you worry that much more. When that happens you just hope he has his best “stuff” that day.

I know that may sound a little rough, but it’s true. I have been on every side of this before. I have been the guy taken out, and the guy put in for somebody else. I have created messes, and I have cleaned them up. Being at times a starter and a reliever, I’ve got to experience it from both sides. As I said before, being in the dugout watching someone else control your future is tough, but as a reliever it’s your job to fix it, and you feel that pressure. As a reliever I never wanted to give up my teammates runs. I want to go out there, strike every one out, and leave the hero. However, that just doesn’t always happen. Don’t get me wrong I have done it before, but other times I’ve failed, and another reliever has had to follow me. Those aren’t good days, and you don’t even want to look your teammate in the eyes, due to your shame of letting him down. I mean that’s your job as a reliever: to relieve the situation and relieve your fellow teammate’s pain.

This happens a lot in real life too. We have all created messes in our life that we wish someone would come in behind us and clean up. Even as a kid I remember breaking a toy or bike that I had, only to go to dad to help me fix it. The difference in real life though, as you get older, is that you get to make the decision yourself whether or not to bring in a “reliever.” You also get to choose who that reliever may be. The game may be on the line, so you want someone you can trust and has the stuff to get it done. Who is that for you?

I know whom I have come to trust. His name is Jesus. I have made a mess of my life. I have sinned and got myself in many “jams” because of it. For the longest time I would just keep myself in the game, trying to fix the situation and fix myself. I did this because I didn’t want to give up control. I didn’t want to be on the bench watching someone else in control. However, no matter how hard I tried, I kept failing, and sin was putting me in more and more jams. I finally surrendered and asked for some relief. This would turn out to be the best decision ever too, because Christ’s “stuff” is unmatched.

At first I was a little nervous leaving everything in his hands. I mean this is my life, its important. Not to mention I have always struggled giving my trust to anything right away. Soon enough though, my anxieties and fears would subside. I don’t worry any more about God being in the game for me. He is the best one for the job. I actually enjoy life a lot more now knowing that in a sense He is in “the bullpen” watching my back. I still get myself into jams, and create messes, in no way am I perfect. The only difference now is that I acknowledge when I create a mess and need saving. I don’t try to get myself out of my own jams. I admit my failures (sin) and make a call for relief. We all need relief in our life. Will you admit that? Or will you try to do it yourself like I did for so long? Are you in need of a reliever in your life right now? If so, whom would you want to see coming into the game? If it’s Jesus, He is the bullpen waiting for your signal.

God Given Talent, Does it Really Exist?

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 ESV

For my whole professional career, I have heard one reason for why I possess the talent I have, that I was born with it. That God, from birth, blessed me with some innate talent of baseball. This sounds great, and even makes for an epic creation story. One in which, I was some how formed and molded specifically to pitch. This definitely feeds right into every player’s pride as well. That God made us so good at something that others marvel at the greatness we possess. Is this true? Do I have God given talent, which made me better then most people at baseball? Was I born, like an old Greek mythology tale, with a lighting bolt for an arm?

Despite all my sinful nature wanting to say yes, due to pride, the answer is simple, No. I was not born with a 94 mph fastball or a devastating curve ball that made hitters shake. I was simply born human. Just like everyone else. Maybe with some slightly different genetics, but for the most part, I am just like everyone else. I am not even what scouts want to see when they think of a pitcher. They want tall, long, and projectable bodies, just as if you could make a molded pitcher from heaven. I can hear a lot of you asking, “Well, if people aren’t born with God given talent, how do you explain the great talents?” To me that’s easy. Love.

There is one thing God does do for everyone, creates us in the image of Himself. Now that can mean a bunch of different things, but one attribute of that to me, is being creative. He made us creators, in a limited way, but creators, nonetheless. We imagine and create things. Some people love to create objects, some like to create art; others like myself, like to create talent. When I first saw the game of baseball I knew I wanted to play. I had a love for it. That love for it translated into wanting to play it, and get better at it on a daily basis. When you love someone, you want to spend time with that person and get to know that individual, same thing goes for the thing you love to do. This is the beginning to anything great.

When I was little, I loved a few things in my life, God, my family, and baseball. Due to this fact, that is where I spent all my time. This is where God gets involved I believe in showing you your “talent.” He will use whatever you love, (which I believe He puts certain loves in your heart) to guide you to your talent, because if you love what you do, you will spend more time on it. This time spent, will lead to getting better and better at it through experience and hard work. This is what leads to becoming great at something, not just being born with automatic skill. You have to practice.

There is no shortcut to greatness. I think a lot of people want to say, “You were born with it,” because it makes them feel better that they can’t do it. The funny thing is though, they can do a lot of things I can’t. I don’t say, they were born to be accountants, or CEO’s. No, they worked hard to become those things. They trained, went to school, practiced by studying to learn and became those things. Just like I trained almost daily from a young age to become a professional baseball player. I believe God gave me a love for what I do, that’s the gift, not a lighting bolt of an arm from the heavens. However, God in His providence, if you ask, will guide you along.

I cannot sit here and say that I did it all on my own. That I achieved all the things I have in baseball, because I alone worked hard at it. No, I needed coaches, players, and trainers to teach me the game. Without their prior knowledge, and God putting them into my life, no matter how much I loved the game, I would never learn the right way to play, much less play at a high level. This is where God’s grace and providence comes into play. James 1:17 states,  “Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens.” He made everything that is good; He wants us to be good at what we do, along with enjoying them with Him. There is nothing wrong with choosing a profession you love and are working hard to be great at it. God knows we will struggle to learn, but that’s the point, in that struggle we know that we need help. Being great means you need to ask, ask God and others for help. Let them teach you, learn from them, and trust God to guide you in that journey. That’s the talent He truly gives.

He gives us a talent, the talent of love. Don’t let anyone tell you that you were born without the automatic talent so to achieve what’s in your heart isn’t possible. If God put a passion for a certain career in your heart, go for it, trust God to guide you. It is there for a reason. He may guide and change your journey, but continue to trust that He first gave you that love and He knows best where that love should go, and it always ends back in one place, God. God is love; He gives us the capability to love what we do, and others. So it makes sense that He will always guide us to the source of that love, Himself. So when you’re looking for, “God given talent,” remember its not that you’re born with it, but you are born with a love to work at it. God given talent is to love what you do and do it the best you can.

When Failure Leads to True Confidence

indexMy Health may fail,and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; He is mine forever.” Psalm 73:26 (New Living Translation)

 

As the quote made famous by William Edward Hickson states, “if you don’t first succeed, try, try, try again.” You could not ask for a better quote to describe the mentality of a professional baseball player. A regular season schedule for a player, or team, consists of 162 games, over a period of about six months. That means in one month, there may be two off days. This means that almost everyday there is another game. This can be a blessing or a curse depending on how you’re feeling at the plate or on the mound. However, one thing is certain, you have to get back out there and try again, win or lose. Most the time, in baseball, you will lose, or fail, especially as an individual. This correlates directly with life. Everyday we get up hoping for the best, but most of the time failing to achieve our goal. This doesn’t mean we give up, no, because success isn’t always about how many times we fail, but about the success we can squeeze in between those failures. To be able to do that, we must first find strength.

People look for strength to continue through failures in many different ways. Some look to the achievement they hope to secure. Others look to motivational quotes or inspiration of others doing great things. Whatever it may be, they must find something to keep them going through the failures. If not, they go the other way, and try to forget about their failures. Baseball players can be a unique crowd when it comes to both these avenues. I have witnessed several types of ways that players go about handling this: There is the listen to rock/rap music to get pumped up guy, there’s the, put quotes on my locker guy, the slam a red bull guy, the drink to forget guy. There are so many methods to try to deal with this that I could go on for days. It all boils down to one thing though, how to deal with the failure? And the first thing that will always fail us is, our body.

Due to the amount of games played in a row during a baseball season, the body is always the first, and quickest thing to go. Once, the body starts to fail, then, next is the mind/spirit. This is also the most dangerous; because once the spirit fails there is often times nothing else left. You began to just give up, and stop trying. You can try to fake it for a while and grind through, but I think there is a better way. A way that gives us continued confidence that will last in tough times, and in triumph. It is a confidence not found within our inner selves, but in God.

The Psalmist points this out beautifully in the above passage. See he admits that his health, and spirit will fail, or grow weak on him, something we can all relate too. Where he goes next though is surprising. He finds new strength, but from where? Not some method, or superficial thing, or even from within himself. No, he finds it in God. This is where the ultimate confidence comes from. After we have failed time after time, that false confidence is ripped away and exposed for what it is, a fake. This doesn’t mean give up, and stop trying to find it, no it means we must find the real thing, not some watered down version of it. The real thing, the real success, the ultimate strength and confidence are from God, and failing, is what brings us there.

Athletes are always told, “you got to have confidence, and you got to believe in yourself.” I have bought into this before, and its not a bad thing, its just the beginning though. This is the starting point to the real thing. See after you fail yourself time and time again, it’s hard to find that confidence, because you now know through trail and error that you will fail at some point, you have witnessed yourself continually failing time after time. Yes, you do have some successes too, but they seem more like hope after awhile then fact. See the failures will far outweigh your success in life, this is a fact in baseball, and even more so in life. This means at some point, that confidence within you to achieve all and be mostly successful with no failures is a fallacy. After this though, the best thing happens, you search for the real deal, and you find it in God.

See after our pride gets beat up for awhile and we learn that we cannot do it all on our own or by our own strength, we search for things to do it for us. That is why you see the headphones guy, the quote guy, and the red bull guy in life. It is because they are in the process of looking for something that works. Well, we can take a shortcut, and listen to the palmist, and find strength in God. The one who never fails, who is always in control, who cares about you, and who alone has the power to make things happen. This confidence also comes with a long-term contract, forever. Never again will you have to go searching for your confidence in a failure, because you know where it is, in Him. So keep searching, keep failing, because I think it will eventually lead you to the real deal, God.

Error On the Side of Forgiveness

Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. (Colossians 3:13 New Living Translation)

If you watch enough baseball, you know that it has a unique scoreboard. At the very end of that scoreboard, there is a big letter E. This E stands for one thing, errors. Yes, baseball keeps track of how many errors you make. An error is a stat that every team and player wants to avoid. However, an error will inevitably strike. Someone on that field will make a bad throw, drop a ball, or let one go right through their legs. These things happen, and are part of why baseball is a game of failure. Baseball, is also a game played by individuals, and those individuals do have emotions. Anytime you make an error, you feel shameful, and embarrassed. Not only did you just commit the error, but also, that error, affects the whole team, and can be the difference between a win or lose. However, everyone makes errors, and a good team or teammate will pick that person up, which is forgiveness, in baseball.

Errors suck. They really do. I have made plenty of errors myself in my career, 16 to be exact. Every single one of them was an embarrassing, sorrowful experience. I have over thrown first basemen, I have fumbled the ball, and yes, I have even tripped and fell. Some of those errors have cost my team a win. In some cases though, a teammate would make a great play on the next pitch to get me out of the jam. To know you just messed up, but your teammate got you out of it, is more than a relief. The “that a boy” or glove tap that we often give them doesn’t do it justice. It’s not uncommon that the next day that guy might just get his lunch paid for. It’s that big of a deal. If you don’t think so, just ask Boston Red Sox fans about the Bill Buckner error.

From a pitching perspective, errors in the field behind you can be frustrating. I can again speak on this from experience. The last thing a pitcher wants to see whether he is making pitches that day or battling to get guys out, is an error. You get the pop up you needed to get out of a jam and then your fielder drops it, or you get a ground ball and he throws it in the stands. As a pitcher, you now have a choice to make. Are you going to make a scene and yell at the guy asking him“what the heck was that?” or are you going to tell him, “don’t worry about it man, I got your back.” The choice seems easy on paper, but not so easy in the heat of the moment. Remember, the game is still on the line.

When an error like this happens, now everyone will have to work a little bit harder to prevent that guy now on base from scoring. See everyone else may have done their part, but the player who made the error didn’t. That just makes the problem bigger for everyone. Not to mention the crowd just turned on you. Yep, you just got booed, welcome to professional baseball. All this makes you feel like the smallest person on the planet. This is the reason you need a good team that picks you up. You need a team that forgives you, and helps you bear the burden, and all the good teams do this, because the truth is, everyone has committed an error before.

This is why Colossians 3:13 tells us, “Make allowance for each other’s faults.” We all have faults, just like all the players on a baseball field have an error to their name.No one can say they haven’t committed a fault, or error in life. If they do claim that, they are just straight out lying. Yes, faults, just like errors, suck. They do let people down and often make life a little bit harder for everyone else. Instead of being mad and having hate in your heart towards that person, pick them up, (forgive them), just like in a baseball game. Then, when you make an error, at some point, they will forgive you too. Life just works better that way. It is also what God did for us, and He never made an error. If He who is error-less and perfect can forgive us, then we better forgive others, because we can’t claim anything close to an error less, perfect life.

Errors happen. People commit them. That’s why we have whiteout and that big E on the scoreboard. You shouldn’t be looking down on someone because they made an error. It happens. I know when I made all 16 of those errors, the last thing I wanted was someone to always point it out and remind me of my faults. No, what I really wanted was someone to help me through it, and maybe make me better for it. That’s a real teammate.

You may be a better player then me. You may make fewer errors then me. However, you will never be error-less and when that time comes, you now feel the shame and guilt of letting someone down. In that moment, you will know what everyone else felt, and I pray that someone picks you up and forgives you too. In the scoreboard of life, you will have a lot of E’s up there. Don’t let this discourage you, because if there is any error we should be making, it is to error on the side of too much forgiveness.

Are You a Real Teammate?

“And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32 NLT

You ever see a guy that just appears out of uniform. Every other player of that team matches, except that one guy. Whether he has the wrong hat on, or uniform, he just stands out like a sore thumb. It’s pretty funny for us players. Every now and then, someone wears the wrong uniform for that day. Usually, it’s just the wrong hat, but on rare occasions, someone wears the wrong jersey. What a great day that is. What most people don’t know though, is that there is a little game called, “don’t give it away.” The main objective is to not tell, or give away the fact that he is in the wrong uniform. The longer he goes without knowing, the funnier for everyone else. Even during the national anthem, and if the team is willing to take it far enough, they will let him go into the game like that. It’s all for a good laugh, but when that guy finally figures it out, usually by someone telling him, to my experience, he says one thing in embarrassment, “I see who my real teammates are.”

See that player doesn’t know any better. He is looking at all of us thinking he matches, but in reality that’s not true. He is in a sense blind to the situation. His ignorance to the fact doesn’t help him either, because the truth is all that matters here, and he is out of the loop. What makes it such a lighthearted game is that everyone makes mistakes and at some point you yourself will fall victim. I wish I could sit here and tell you that I never put on the wrong uniform, but I have. I have been on both sides of the coin here. My teammates waited so long to tell me one time that I had the wrong hat, that when I got the call to the bullpen to go into the game, they had to run in a get me the right hat. I laughed, felt like an idiot, and then moved on. However, if they never had told me I would have pitched like that totally oblivious to it.

Sometimes on a team you get a really nice guy though, who just hates to see anyone embarrassed and tells the guy, “hey man, wrong hat.” The rest of the team gets mad, saying things like, “why did you tell him, come on.” However, that player whom he told is now thankful, because he just saved him from all that embarrassment. Again, this is a lighthearted game, within the game of baseball, and its what makes baseball such a fun sport. However, there is a deeper connection here for me that I see in the world regarding truth.

Truth is hard to find sometimes, and we often don’t know we may be living a lie until someone tells us. Just like that teammate who is oblivious to wearing the wrong hat, we are often oblivious to some truths in life. Unlike just having the wrong uniform though, which can be funny, things in real life that we don’t know about can have grave consequences.

Being a Christian, not telling the truth of salvation is the biggest one to me. I used to go around as a young man thinking that if I were a good person I would go to heaven, because, hey, I was a good person. I may not follow all the rules, but I tried, so I figured my good outweighed my bad. This way of living seemed to work for me too. I seemed to live a moral life, and people would pat me on the back, telling me how good I was. However, in reality the joke was on me, I was wearing the wrong uniform the whole time. Until, a “real teammate” told me the truth.

The truth was that Christ was the only way to heaven, and He paved the way for me. This was a shock, and I felt embarrassed. I was living my life all wrong thinking I could earn my way to heaven. Thank God though for a real teammate who told me the truth, because he set me free. Telling the truth is a good thing, even if it may be embarrassing at times. If we don’t tell the truth to people, while claiming to love them, are we really being a good teammate? I don’t think so.

The most important thing is about getting it right, and living in truth, as if we all are wearing the same uniform. Being blind to the truth doesn’t save us from the embarrassment of having on the wrong uniform, because if no one ever tells us we just might go out into the game like that. It is all fun and games on a baseball field, with little to lose, but I don’t want to face God being in the wrong uniform that’s for sure. No, I would be glad someone told me the truth at that time.

Baseball is fun, I still laugh at myself when I forget to put my belt on, or put on the wrong hat. I am also still glad when someone tells me before I go into the game like that. When it comes to life though, I am forever thankful that someone told me the truth about God. I may choose to let a hat or different colored uniform in baseball pass by for a good joke. As a Christian though, when it comes to your eternal destiny, I will tell you the truth. I hope you can count on me being a real teammate.