Never was a game better matched to its season, or better, never was a season – from spring to early autumn – better matched by a game. The game was outdoors, on grass, in the sun. It began at winter’s end, and ended before frost. It made the most of high skies, clement weather, and the times of planting and growth. Until the advent of lights, then domed stadia and artificial turf, baseball was earthbound in the sense of using the earth and climate to advantage and the rhythms of light, shadow, and dusk and spring, summer, and early fall as part of itself. To be earthbound in such a fashion is, to me, pure heaven.
- Bart Giamatti, A Great and Glorious Game p56
I have prayed for Josh Hamilton more than any other professional athlete. Just to be honest I don’t pray for professional athletes all that often. But, every time I see Josh Hamilton on the field or in an interview, I am prompted to pray for him.
The reason I pray for him really has little to do with his success. Except that I would know nothing of him if he wasn’t a successful MLB player. These days my prayers on behalf of Hamilton have much more to do with his failures.
Hamilton has been very open about his past drug addiction and his continued struggles. I cannot help but feel if he had been more private about these things I would never have been prompted to pray for him in this way. I actually believe that if he hid them, as a fan, I would feel betrayed each time I found out about them. And yet, the opposite has been true for me and many more baseball fans. It’s the openness about his struggles that have caused me to be concerned with his spiritual welfare.
The church can learn from such openness. We are subtly convinced that it is our successes as Christians that bind us together. Tragically, this is why so many in the church struggle with serious sin and we never know about it. When such sin is uncovered and brought to light both sides feel betrayed.
The exact opposite should be true. It’s our collective need for Christ that binds us together. We are to be reminded of this need as we all continually cultivate a healthy openness in the life of the church concerning our failures. The more we hide our sin the more we lessen the awareness of our need for a Savior.
Let me be clear, in no way should we create environments that magnify sin for sin sake. Satan loves it when Christians worship their sin more than they worship Jesus. If we stop at sin and never get to the Savior we are just as bad off. And yet, being honest about how good we are at sinning, magnifies the greatness of our Savior’s success in saving us. Being honest about our struggles brings us together and ties our hearts together to the cross.
Here’s a video after from Hamilton’s four HR game earlier this week. Admire and appreciate the success of this talented athlete. Join me in praying for him in his continued battles with sin. May his story remind us to pray more fervently for one another.
Awkward silence ensues
Ever since we brought Isaac and Jonah home from Ethiopia, this sort of interaction has been common for my wife around their sporting events. Parents trying to match each player up with their appropriate family, begin to realize the colors don’t exactly coordinate with all the kids on the team.
To break the silence we usually say something like, “I can’t believe you didn’t notice the family resemblance?” And in no way do we begrudge these moments. We have actually become very thankful for the opportunities they provide to talk about adoption and the gospel.
Much of our kid’s sports activities have centered around baseball. Right now, we have 4 boys playing in 4 different leagues, all at the same park. One benefit to spending so much time at the same ballpark is that everyone knows our family. They have also come to know that the Haskins’ kids come in all kinds of shapes, shades, and sizes. And yet, there is one thing they all share in common. On the diamond, they all wear #44.
When my oldest son Titus began playing t-ball, we decided he would wear #44. We are big Atlanta Braves fans. And while Chipper Jones will always be our favorite Brave, we thought the history that Hank Aaron represented was important for our family to remember and champion.
I do not agree with everything Aaron has ever said or done. However, I do respect the price he paid to play in the Majors. Jackie Robinson was responsible for breaking the color barrier in baseball. But for men like Aaron, who began his career by playing primarily in the South, there were still many horrible obstacles to endure. I wanted my kids to know this about the ‘real’ HR king and appreciate it.
To begin with the #44 was just a unique tool to teach our kids about racism. Honestly, for me, it was more about Braves folklore than anything else. However, now seeing this number underneath my last name on my son’s jerseys causes me to reflect more on my own story than anyone else’s.
I remember standing in line at the post office with the first gift I would ever give my two new sons, who were still in an orphanage in Ethiopia. As I prepared to send two Atlanta Braves hats to them, I realized one day these boys would also wear #44. I began to daydream about two little boys, once orphaned in Africa, running onto a little league diamond with my last name across their backs. I began to tear up right there in the post office thinking about how amazing this would be to see.
As much as I hate to admit it, racism was a part of life in the small rural town in Tennessee where I was raised. Compared to the violence of the 50s and 60s it could have been considered a quiet racism. But it’s underlying wickedness was just as loud as the Tennessee orange we wore every Saturday to cheer on our beloved Vols!
The residue of such awful days gone by could still be heard in words used around our dinner tables and in our churches on Sunday. In these private and still very segregated settings, words were spoken and jokes were told that would have started riots in our desegregated lunchrooms on Monday. My stomach still turns to think about the sort of racist hypocrisy that even I was guilty of behind the closed doors of my home and church.
That’s why the first time I actually saw all four of my sons, two white and two black, standing with my last name and #44 across their backs this number was more than just neat baseball history for me. For me, it represented a redemptive moment for my whole family. It represented a transformation that I have seen even among members of my extended family as they all have embraced my two newest sons.
Haskins #44 constantly calls my attention to these kind of stories that I thank God my family is experiencing. Haskins #44 also reminds me that if the Father is ever asked, “Which one is yours?” He will not be ashamed to say, “That one right there. Haskins the former racist!”
(this is a picture of issac and jonah 1 year ago. we sent them atlanta braves hats while they were still in ethiopia)
We began the process of adopting two boys from Ethiopia nearly 14 months ago. Because my two older boys love baseball and spend just about every day of their spring and summer on a baseball diamond, I was consistently asked, “Are your new sons going to play baseball?”
For some, this was just a question to communicate their excitement about our family’s adoption. But for others, there was a suspicion that maybe Isaac and Jonah, would be treated differently. My response was always, ” They are my sons aren’t they? Then they’ll play baseball.”
Neither, Isaac or Jonah, have ever touched the dirt of a baseball diamond. And yet, they already love the game. Why? Because I love the game! Isaac already states emphatically that Chipper Jones is his favorite baseball player. (He stares up at a Chipper Jones fathead each night as he goes to sleep!) He even knows a few things about Hammering Hank Aaron. His number this season will be #44 just like his older brothers.
Baseball is apart of my life. It’s a staple in my family. Isaac and Jonah really are my sons. Therefore, they really will be baseball freaks. (And just like their great granddad taught me to do they will always cheer for America’s team.) And it goes much deeper than even this.
My pastor and mentor, David Prince, is also known for his love for baseball. In a recent article for Baptist Press, he explains how baseball provides the perfect context for fathers to teach their sons the mystery of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Understanding this concept, I cannot help but be excited about spring and what it will mean for all four of my sons.
My friend Pastor Jason Thompson has also written a post explaining why baseball helps him connect with his sons who were just adopted.
Are you going to teach theses boys baseball? I have received this question from several folks when I have told them we are trying to adopt two boys from Ethiopia. Some ask the question as if these boys will fall into a different category of son, one different from Titus and Nathan.
Titus and Nathan have grown to love baseball. I hate to admit it, but just last week the three of us were outside in a bitter 31 degrees throwing baseball together. Baseball is ingrained into what it means to be a Haskins boy. So if these two boys from Ethiopia become my sons, you better believe one of the first things we will do after getting off the plane is head out to the diamond, despite the weather. As a matter of fact, once we pass court in Ethiopia, they will not only receive new first names from us. They will immediately receive their very own Braves’ jersey with Haskins across the back. If they are to be called sons, they will have all the rights and privileges of a true son, which includes the opportunity to learn and appreciate the game of baseball.
Our pastor has recently written a short article concerning the role baseball can play in teaching our sons the gospel. After reading the article, I am even more emphatic. Will I teach these boys baseball? Like my life depends on it! Read Pastor David’s article here.