23 July 2013
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1 (ESV)
‘Tis mid-July…and that means we are in the middle of baseball season. The “midsummer classic” All-Star game was held last week, and this coming weekend, 50 plus true classics of the game of baseball will gather in Cooperstown, New York for the annual Baseball Hall of Fame ceremonies.
Baseball holds a very special place in my heart. I grew up in the Cleveland Indians baseball organization where my father served as Team Medical Director for 30 years. I have attended more games than I can count, and no matter where it is played there is a purity about the game that speaks to my heart and spirit. The crack of the bats, the smack of balls hitting gloves, warm summer nights turning bright as day under towering lights, aromas of popcorn and hotdogs wafting through the air, and the hope that springs eternal with the beginning of each new game and with the beginning of each new season.
As I grew up and got to know players, managers and their families, baseball became a second family to me. And now, as is the way of the Major Leagues, these “family” members are now scattered among baseball organizations across the country. It has been a great privilege to gather with this baseball family on several occasions for the Hall of Fame ceremonies on the quiet shores of the famed “Glimmerglass” lake of James Fenimore Cooper’s Leatherstocking Tales. There, the Boys of Summer, young and old, honor newcomers to the Hall of Fame and share their passion for the game with each other and with the hundreds of fans who flood the small town in hopes of getting an autograph and to have a chance to chat with a childhood hero.
One of my heroes was family friend and Hall of Fame pitcher Bob “Rapid Robert” Feller. He often shared with us his fond memories of being raised on an Iowa farm, growing up playing catch with his dad behind the barn after “milking cows, picking corn and baling hay.” He made it into the Major Leagues based on raw talent, hard work, perseverance, and a passion for the game. Then, at the height of his career, Peal Harbor was bombed and the United States entered World War II. Bob immediately joined the Navy and served aboard the USS Alabama. Four years later he rekindled his baseball career and was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962.
Bob had an amazing baseball career. But what he was most proud of was his service to his country. I heard him say time, and time again, that “the real heroes of war are the ones who do not come back.” Old-fashioned family values were also important to Bob. When he spoke with young boys and girls, he encouraged them to respect their parents, work hard, study hard, and to put God and country first. He also told them to play baseball because they loved to play the game, not for what the game could do for them.
Wise words. I think that is why I love baseball. An old-fashioned game that begins with our National Anthem and is played in fields of grass and dirt; where families spend time together under the sun, the stars and bright lights – their hearts filled with hope at the beginning of each new game, and at the beginning of each new season. Never-ending hope. I think God must have invented baseball. <3
All this talk about baseball has inspired me…I’m going to go watch one of my favorite movies, Field of Dreams!