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Of Ballplayers and Believers

Friday, May 18, 2018 @ 9:05 AM
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Mark Oss Audio Producer MORE

Sometimes a mistake can turn into a good thing.

When I was younger I loved to play baseball and softball.  I played from the time I was 6 until I was 35 when my knee was destroyed (that’s a story for another time).  I have heard people say what a great learning tool team sports are, and how children learn responsibility and interaction skills from playing on a team.  I just liked the competition!  In fact, the good plays of ball games from years ago still play in the theater of my mind from time to time. 

One fond memory I have is snagging an especially difficult line drive.  I was a right-handed pitcher, which means my body naturally twisted toward first base during my follow through.  That’s what made this play so unlikely.  My fastball was smacked right back over the pitcher’s mound, and it would have passed behind me on the third base side if I hadn’t reacted like lightning and twisted to my right to backhand the ball as it was whistling under my right arm.

Another time I was playing second base when our pitcher mishandled a grounder back to the box.  The ball bounced off his glove to my side of the infield, so I scrambled forward and barehanded the ball after he slowed it down.  I remembered there were men on first and second with one out, and the best thing would be to turn a double play.  That was out of the question since I was bent over and running forward.  I decided the next best thing to do was get an out.  I didn’t even have time to stand up, so I fired the ball over to first from my bent over posture.  Fortunately, the first baseman had the presence of mind to cover his bag and we just nipped the fast runner.

But probably my best ball playing memory was bad base running with a good outcome.  It was during a city league softball game on a rainy day.  My team had a record of 8 wins and no losses, but that day we seemed to be suffering a mid-season let down.  Nobody had any energy or enthusiasm, and we were behind 5 to 0 in the fifth inning.  I was the runner on second base when a short fly ball landed in front of the right fielder.  The third base coach mistakenly told me to dig for home.  The catcher already had the ball before I was halfway down the baseline!  I was a dead man running.  In a case like that, a runner has three choices.  He can just give himself up and be tagged out.  He can try to get back to third.  Or, like I did, he can run for home and hope for the best. 

The catcher was standing about 5 feet up the line from the plate, the ball in his mitt and a smirk on his face.  I was a little bigger than him, so for a second, I considered just plowing him over.  But, instead, from a dead run, I stopped just before I hit him.  I don’t know why I didn’t slip in the mud.  I sucked in my gut and arched my back so that he missed the tag as he swiped from low to high.  Twisting to the side, I dove past him and slapped the muddy plate with my left hand.  The umpire called me safe!  I bounced up screaming and pumping my fists in triumph.  I even high-fived the ump (the poor guy couldn’t resist the impulse, I guess).  I shouted at my teammates in the dugout, “Yeah!  Now let’s beat these guys!”  They got a little excited, too!

We went on to win that game and finished the season with fifteen wins and one loss.  I don’t really remember the loss. 

For some reason, when I think about that play on that rainy, muddy day, I remember what Joseph once told his brothers.  You remember the story.  Joseph’s brothers sold him as a boy to a band of travelers.  By-and-by Joseph became the second most powerful man in Egypt and saved his family and lots of other people from perishing by famine.  When his brothers finally realized the powerful leader was none other than their brother Joseph, he told them, “What you meant for evil God meant for good.” 

I know that’s a little heavy for a softball story.  To tell you the truth, I don’t think I even prayed while I was running from third to home.  But that experience reminds me that sometimes good can come from what initially looks like a mistake.  It also reminds me that “God works all things for the good of those who love him and are called according to His purposes.”  Who knows?  Maybe He’s doing that right now as you’re reading this.

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