A few links that might be of interest while I keep my head in the books:
And finally: Go Reds!
Why We Were Created
a blog by Eric Sammons
A few links that might be of interest while I keep my head in the books:
And finally: Go Reds!
One of the most iconic images in sports history is Carlton Fisk’s walk-off home run to win Game Six of the 1975 World Series. The Boston Red Sox, with the Curse of the Bambino hanging over them, had not won a World Series in almost 60 years. They were down 3 games to 2 to the Cincinnati Reds in Game Six, which went to extra innings tied 6-6. Carlton Fisk hit a home run in the bottom of the 12th inning to win it for Boston and send the Series to Game 7 (which, as a devoted Reds fan, I’m happy to report Cincinnati won). The image of Fisk waiving the home run fair is embedded in American sports history:
I was recently reading an account of Game Six and I was struck by a quote from Fisk regarding this home run:
Other than being the father of two children, this was the greatest thrill of my life.
Think about what Fisk said for a moment. He just compared something that only 14 men have ever done – end a World Series game with a home run – with something that millions of men throughout history have done. Hitting a walk-off World Series home run takes a unique combination of skill, hard work and luck; having a child takes no special skill or ability. Just about every boy dreams about hitting a home run to win a World Series game – and Fisk did it in one of the most thrilling situations – yet the Red Sox catcher said that one of the most common activities known to man – having children – was more thrilling. So what does that tell us about parenthood?
We are made in the image and likeness of God, and God is a Creator. He created the heavens and the earth, and He created man. We, too, are fundamentally creators. We create things every day – meals, notes, pictures – and each creation of ours reflects us in some way. But our greatest privilege is that we are cooperators with Him in the creation of new life. Nothing reflects us more than our own children. And without our participation, God would not create any human persons – souls who are destined to spend eternity with Him. As Carlton Fisk realized on some level – what can be more thrilling than that?
For all you parents out there, always remember that your participation in the creation of new life is more thrilling than anything possible on this earth – even more thrilling than a World Series walk-off home run.
Regular readers of this blog know that I am a die-hard baseball fan. This year was very exciting for me, as my beloved Cincinnati Reds made it to the playoffs after 15 years of languishing in obscurity. Unfortunately, their stay in the playoffs was so brief that you missed it if you blinked. But my favorite American League team this year has been the Texas Rangers, who made it to the World Series for the first time in their 60-year history. So I still have a team to root for, albeit not as enthusiastically as I would if the Reds made it.
I did not follow the Rangers because they formally resided in the Washington, D.C., but because of their star player, Josh Hamilton. For those of you unfamiliar with the story of Hamilton (and are still interested enough to be reading this far into the post), he was the “Number 1 Number 1″ draft pick in 1999 (which means he was the first player picked in the first round of the draft) by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. He was a prodigious talent and everyone pegged him as “can’t miss.” What got most baseball executives salivating over him was that his incredible talent was matched by an equally strong character. No one had to worry about him hanging out with the wrong crowd or getting involved with drugs or alcohol.
Until he did. A year or so into his career, Hamilton was rehabbing from an injury, had too much down-time on his hands and ended up spiraling downward in dramatic fashion; he started by getting some tattoos and ended by being passed out in a crack house a few months later. His descent was dramatic and almost unbelievable: here was the “good kid” and he was now a crack addict who would most likely be dead before he was thirty.
But God intervened in his life and saved Hamilton from himself. Through the efforts of his father-in-law (a former addict himself) and especially his grandmother, Hamilton was able to quit his habits and gave his life to Christ. He returned to baseball and is now one of the best players in the game.
What I like most about Hamilton is the fact that he is so obviously flawed and weak. After the Rangers won their division, the team engaged in the traditional “champagne shower”. But Hamilton didn’t join the fun, because he knew that he couldn’t have alcohol being poured over him without it leading him to a relapse (after the Rangers won their playoff series, they decided to replace the champagne with Ginger Ale out of respect for Hamilton’s addictions). Here is one of the best players in professional baseball – a man who can hit a baseball a country mile and adored by millions – yet he is so weak that he can’t even be in the presence of alcohol. With Hamilton, you always know that he is just one mistake from a terrible relapse; he must depend on the power of God at every single moment in order just to make it through the day.
This reminds me of St. Paul’s statement, “when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10). We all are weak and flawed individuals, and we all must depend on the power of God every single moment of the day – we just don’t usually realize it as clearly as Hamilton probably does. Hamilton, due to his dramatic descent into darkness, knows how close he is to the edge and therefore must turn to the Lord for the strength to carry on. We too need to recognize our own weakness and our dependence on God, and in doing so, we too will be strong – in the Lord.
…that’s how long I’ve been waiting for this moment:
And there was much rejoicing in the Sammons household.
Take a look at these two amazing catches, made by two different players on the same team (whose hats look eerily familiar to this Cincinnati Reds fan):
Baseball fans throughout the Roman Empire are excited about this year’s hot team, the Jerusalem Apostles. After a slow start, the Apostles have caught fire and are dominating the league. Here is tonight’s starting lineup:
1: John Zebedee, centerfield
Clearly the fastest man on the team (he once smoked Simon Peter in a foot race), young John has put up some impressive numbers this year in the leadoff spot. And his amazing eyesight (earning him the nickname, “Eagle Eyes”) has helped him in the field as well, as it seems that he catches everything hit his way.
2:Matthew, right field
Another speedster, Matthew has a gun for an arm, which serves him well in right field. Usually overshadowed by the flashier John, Matthew still produces respectable numbers.
3: Thomas, left field
Probably the most underrated player on the team, he still is trying to live down the infamous scene in the ’33 Series when he questioned his manager’s presence in the clubhouse. But he has always been a strong hitter and proclaims that he would “die” for his team.
4: Simon Peter, 1st base
Team captain Simon Peter has been plagued with inconsistency throughout his career, but management has stuck with him throughout. Although he has a high number of strikeouts, it seems that whenever Peter puts his bat on the ball, it leaves the ballpark for a round-tripper, making him the clear choice for the cleanup role.
5: Andrew, 3rd base
Andrew, brother of Simon Peter, excels at bringing people to home. An RBI machine, he loves to be in the background and allow others, especially his brother, to shine.
6: Philip, 2nd base
Not very well-known outside of a base of hard-core fans, Philip year after year puts up solid, if unspectacular, numbers. Little known fact: Philip actually recruited Nathaniel to play for the Apostles, extolling Jerusalem’s famous manager.
7: Nathaniel, shortstop
Another little-known player, Nathaniel can be counted on to play the game fair. During the sad Steroid Era, no one suspected this player of any shenanigans.
8: Simon the Zealot, catcher
No one, I mean no one, plays with the intensity of Simon. There is fear in the eyes of opposing players when they round third base for a close play at home, and Simon zealously protects the plate like no other catcher. At least three players have gone on the DL after a run-in with Simon.
9: James Zebedee, pitcher
James has been the bulwark of the staff this year. His only weakness is that sometimes he enjoys the limelight too much. He also has a tendency to be sent to the showers early in games.
Long relief: James Alphaeus, Jude Thaddaeus and Matthias
These guys toil in anonymity, but no team is complete without players like this who are willing to do the grunt work necessary to make a team successful. People are still talking about the game that Jude entered in the 3rd inning down ten runs. Everyone thought it was a lost cause, but behind his strong pitching, the Apostles were able to climb back into it and win in extra innings.
Closer: Paul of Tarsus
A newcomer to the team (replacing the ill-fated Judas Iscariot, who gave up the winning runs in last year’s Series), Paul has been sensational in the closer role. He seems made for building on the foundation of others, and he is a remarkable 33 for 33 in save opportunities this year. There have been reports of friction between Paul and team captain Simon Peter, but both deny it is anything substantial.
Many observers felt that last year’s crushing Series defeat would hang over the Apostles’ heads, but their manager has managed to turn that defeat into the driving force for this year’s success. Combined with the announcement of their manager’s retirement at the end of this year, the Apostles’ inspired play in the first half of the season has resurrected dreams of a championship. But they have a small window in which to work: rumors abound that small-market Jerusalem won’t be able to hang onto all their players hitting the free agent market this winter. There is already talk that superstars Simon Peter and Paul are being wooed by the big-market Rome Imperials to play for them next year. But for now, it seems to be Jerusalem’s year.
Growing up in Cincinnati, my brother and I played little league baseball. One year, my brother played against a team who had a player whose dad was a well-known Major League ballplayer. My brother played center field, and when this kid got up to bat, he hit one so far over my brother’s head that by the time he ran back and picked up the ball, the kid had already crossed home plate.
That kid, aka “The Kid”, who became the greatest baseball player of his generation, has decided to finally stop playing the game. I’m sure we’ll see him in Cooperstown in five years.
Bishop James Conley, auxiliary bishop of Denver, throws out the first pitch before a recent Rockies-Nationals game:
I had the pleasure of working with then-Fr. Conley in the early 1990′s on pro-life efforts. He was an outstanding priest, and I’m sure he is an outstanding bishop. And it looks like he’s a pretty tough southpaw as well.
We interrupt our regularly scheduled Catholic blogging to bring you this announcement:
My family was featured on the official Cincinnati Reds blog last week. Check it out here.
Speaking of the Reds, have I mentioned that they are in FIRST PLACE? (Yes, it is rare enough of an occurance that I feel the need to announce it).
When an article opens with the story of the Baltimore Orioles defeating my beloved Cincinnati Reds in the 1970 World Series, I have to admit, I’m unlikely to be very interested in what it has to say.
But I’ll make an exception for this article, which details the Catholic faith of Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson, who, like me, is a convert from Methodism to Catholicism:
When Lee May cracked a two-bouncer inside the third-base line in game one of the 1970 World Series, Brooks Robinson’s response was nothing short of legendary.
Wheeling three paces to his right, Baltimore’s third baseman fielded the ball in foul territory, took two more steps and threw against his momentum. The throw bounced once on its way to first baseman Boog Powell and beat May.
It was one of many in a spectacular defensive performance by Robinson that helped the Orioles defeat the Cincinnati Reds in five games, as the World Series MVP lived up to his nickname of the “Human Vacuum Cleaner”…
He remains…the only non-pitcher to win 16 Gold Gloves, given in recognition of defensive play. No one ever spent more consecutive seasons with a big league club than the 23 he logged with the Orioles from 1955-77.
Equally enduring is the Hall of Famer’s character.
One of Baltimore’s favorite adopted sons, he stands out as a class act from a bygone era, one whose life seems to embody the all-American values portrayed in a Norman Rockwell painting of the third baseman signing autographs at Memorial Stadium.
“A lot of times we have a Tiger Woods who’s not really who we thought he was,” said Jim Palmer, a Hall of Famer pitcher who played with Robinson. “Well, that’s not the case with Brooks.”
As Baltimore fans reminisce about 1970 and the star at the hot corner, Robinson remains humble and unassuming. The 72-year-old grandfather is committed to his family and his community, his Catholic faith sustaining him in the face of health concerns.
Raised a Methodist in Little Rock, Ark., Robinson never figured he would become a Catholic. But, after marrying Connie, his Catholic wife of nearly 50 years, the baseball standout was drawn to the church. With three sons and a daughter, Robinson thought it important for the entire family to attend church together.
“When the kids got older, they were inquisitive and wanted to know, ‘How come dad doesn’t go to church with us?’ “ Robinson said. “It made a lot of sense to join the Catholic Church.”
He began studying the faith with Monsignor Martin A. Schwalenberg Jr., the Orioles’ chaplain and one of Robinson’s tennis partners. He was received into the Catholic faith in the late 1960s at the Church of the Nativity in Timonium.
“I couldn’t be happier being a Catholic,” he said. “It’s worked out well for me and it’s been a good impression on my kids.”
Mary Lou LaMartina, a parishioner of St. Agnes in Catonsville and an administrative assistant at The Cardinal Gibbons School in Baltimore, organized the first Brooks Robinson fan club with friends as an 8th grader at St. Agnes School. Ronald LaMartina, her brother, was Robinson’s confirmation sponsor.
“He’s a very devout man,” said LaMartina, who refers to Robinson as a “big brother.”
If you ever felt like you have insurmountable obstacles in the way of reaching your goals, take some inspiration from this video:
Yesterday, the Feast of the Resurrection, is my favorite day on the liturgical calendar.
By happy coincidence, today is my favorite day on the civil calendar.
Now this is a story that I just HAD to blog about, as it combines two of my favorite things, the Catholic Faith and baseball:
Grant Desme entered the 2009 season with an injury-prone past.
The A’s prized prospect exited the season with a head-turning presence, accompanied by a bat that produced 31 home runs and a speedy 6-foot-2 frame that stole 40 bases in Class A ball — making him the only player in Minor League Baseball to enjoy a 30-30 campaign.
An exceptional performance and MVP honors in the Arizona Fall League followed, so surely Desme was close to getting a call, most assumed — if not for a trip to The Show, then at least for an invitation to Spring Training.
Yet, Desme insists he’d already received the call long before his final at-bat in the fall came and went — the one that would take him to bigger and better places.
It just so happens it wasn’t what the A’s organization — or anyone else, for that matter — had in mind.
The call, Desme announced Friday, came in the form of priesthood in the Catholic church.
Here is the money quote, which is a great example of how one can know their vocation:
“As the year went on,” he said, “God blessed me. I had a better year than I could have imagined, but that reconfirmed my desire because I wasn’t at peace with where I was at. I love the game, but I aspire to higher things.
Even though Desme was doing something he loved and doing it in an extraordinary fashion, he was not at peace. I told this story to my own kids to give them an example of how they will one day know what their vocational call is in their own lives.
What I also find so amazing about this story is the timing of Desme’s decision. He is only 23 years old and he is leaving baseball right on the cusp of fulfilling what was surely his lifelong dream: playing in the Major Leagues. No one would fault him if he planned to play for at least 5-10 more years, then decided to become a priest. But God’s plans are not our plans, and when He calls, our response, like Desme’s, should be immediate.
We celebrate the power of The Call with today’s feast, the Conversion of St. Paul. No one could have predicted that the great persecutor of the Church would have his life turned around so suddenly, but when God speaks His Word, it is effective.
This also reminds me of a priest I know who told me he was called to the priesthood at the age of 3. And if that is not amazing enough, he wasn’t even Catholic! He had to wait until high school to convert, then he entered the seminary as soon as he could.
When we hear The Call in our lives, we only have one option: to respond in faith, knowing that the Lord will guide us down the right path.
Pray for Desme and all seminarians today.