Is it any wonder that baseball in America is in decline? Athletes, in mass, defect to that particularly unAmerican sport, soccer. Why? Because soccer is fun. Granted. I can't argue.
But why leave that great American, and from my perspective, with tongue slightly in cheek, peculiarly Christian sport that we call baseball? The answer is fairly easy. It is too hard. Baseball does not provide instant results. There is a tremendous amount of frustration and humiliation.
Take a great athlete, one that has never played the game, and put him on a soccer pitch. In days he'll be the one of the top players. Take a great athlete, one who has never played the game, and put him on a baseball diamond. He will miss fly balls. He will struggle at the plate. He will be baffled at curve balls. He will quit and go play soccer.
Okay, okay, don't yell. I don't mind soccer, really. In fact, every 20 or 30 minutes, when someone actually scores, it is almost interesting. My point here is that the fact of baseball defection is proof positive that Americans have learned to take the easy road, the one most traveled by.
Take the curve ball for instance. Many people cannot hit a curve ball. There is no shame in that. It is a hard thing to do. But with a great deal of training, seeing hundreds of curveballs over and over again and getting plunked by a few that didn't curve, one can get a feel for how to do it. This takes time. It takes humiliation. It takes patience. All of the things that American adults, and now by ordinary generation, American children are sorely lacking.
You can hit a curve ball but you have to see the different spin, wait for the ball, keep your hands back, don't lose your hips. Curve balls are training for life. The boys that never learn to hit a curve ball eventually wash out of the sport, whether at the high school or collegiate level. If the pitcher knows that he can get you out on that pitch, he will do so. But many hitters know that one of the easiest pitches to hit out of the park is the curve ball, especially if it hangs in the zone for a tad bit too long.
We get curves all the time in our lives. Things do not go as we plan. The regularity of life, which we can easily deal with, changes speeds. Children get sick. Spouses die. False accusations and rumors swirl. Many Christians do not know how to deal with this, so they either don't deal with it, or they deal with it poorly. But the Christian baseball player knows a trick or two. Keep your eye on the ball, do not commit too soon, wait for it to break, deliver the time honored and disciplined stroke. And if you miss, which you are still inclined to do, then come up swinging the next time.
We sorely need this training. We need it in our churches. We need it in our homes. We need it in our sports. Sadly, it seems to be largely missing from all three.