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Baseball more than just a game to woman who lost husband

Baseball is so much more than a game to Judy Craft, a member of the Kaufman, Texas, church. After reading Judy’s personal story – which she shared with me after seeing the original version of this piece – you’ll understand why. Here’s her story, in her own words:
My husband, Ron Craft, was an avid Texas Rangers fan and a preacher for25 years. He attended as many games as possible during the season andoften carried groups from our church to the games.
In October 2001, at the age of 45, he was diagnosed with two braintumors. He underwent four brain surgeries and fought a courageous andinspiring battle for almost three years. Near the end, he was unable tospeak but was still mobile. Before he became bedfast, a close friendcalled the office of the Texas Rangers and told them of my husband’slove for baseball and asked if they would provide four tickets so hemight see one last game.
They complied with our friend’s request allowing our friend, our son,my husband and me to attend the game. During the seventh inningstretch, while “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” was playing, I turned tomy husband who, though unable to speak, had tears streaming down hisface. This was when I realized that he knew this was his last game andhe would soon be leaving us. Needless to say, baseball is more thanjust a game to me.

Years ago, a wise old journalist gave me this piece of advice: Youcan’t expect to hit a home run with every story. Sometimes, you’ve gotto settle for a double or even a solid single.
With that in mind, I’m going to take a few swings and see what happens:
— Swing one:
I asked Mike Cope, an avid baseball fan, blogger and minister of the Highland Street church in Abilene, Texas, if a person can be both a Christian and a fan of the Evil Empire (a.k.a. the New York Yankees).
Here’s Mike’s response:
While everything in me says that it’s impossible to be both a Christian and an Evil Empire fan, my theology of grace insists that it is.
For one thing, I, too, was deceived when I was young. I attended a Yankees/Cardinals World Series in 1964 and cheered for the Yankees. I lived in Missouri and would soon become a lifelong, die-hard Cardinal fan (not quite part of the Terry Rush lunatic fringe — but a fan nevertheless), but at the time I had just turned eight and was devoted to Mickey Mantle.
And for another thing, I’ve spent a lot of time in prayer for Ira Hays, whose parents, Joe and Laura, recently planted a church in Brooklyn. I continue to hear that Ira, who’s been battling for his life since he was born April 21, 2005, is a Yankees fan. So I’ve tried despising them less on Ira’s account.
Having said all that, I’m tired of the payroll that the country’s largest city offers (fueled by its huge television market) buying them the best team money can get. Other teams have to do it by drafting, farm teams, and coaching.

— Swing two: My Inside Story column includes a mention of Brent High, a deacon at the Brentwood Hills church in Nashville, Tenn., who has received widespread national publicity for bringing “Faith Nights” to minor-league and major-league baseball stadiums across the country.
Brent shared a bit more with me about mixing faith and baseball:
Baseball is one of the last remaining spectator sports that allow you to actually carry on a conversation during the game. Its season runs during a time of the year when churches are always looking for things to do together.
Ultimately, the reason Faith Nights have gained favor with so many baseball executives is because they increased attendance and revenue for the Nashville Sounds. The fact that we’re now doing 70 events in 44 cities including three events with the Atlanta Braves, got a front page story in The New York Times a year after getting a front page story in USA Today and had a feature on ABC World News Tonight is only explained with God. This is much bigger than all of us. We are finding Exodus 14:14 to be the motto of our company right now: The Lord will fight for you. You need only to be still.

Brent’s partners, by the way, are Lynn Golden, a member at Brentwood Hills, and Mike Snider, a member at the Woodmont Hills church in Nashville. Mike and his wife, Lisa, own Third Coast Artists Agency, a booking agency for 32 contemporary Christian music artists, including MercyMe, Jeremy Camp, David Crowder Band and Audio Adrenaline.
— Swing three: Eric Tooley, a former youth minister, teaches adult Bible classes at the Richardson East church in Texas. He’s program director and speaker with Aim For Success, Inc., a nonprofit educational organization that specializes in sexual abstinence in public schools.
Best of all, he, like me, is a big Texas Rangers fan.
Here’s what he had to say on faith and baseball:
I never thought of how baseball mirrors our faith journey until you asked. What comes to mind immediately is the discipline. Playing baseball almost every day for six months has always fascinated me. They don’t have time to worry about a bad game. They must go right back out and play again the next day. Don’t you wish you were comfortable enough in the grace of Jesus Christ to handle your own sins and failures the same way? Just go right back out in life and try to do better. That is discipline to a Christian.
— Swing four: Ralph Bivins, a retired editor and writer with the Houston Chronicle, is a former church elder and member of the Bering Drive church in Houston.
He shared an article he wrote earlier this year for the church bulletin:
The Houston Astros play their first game of the season tonight. I hope they will win that game and go on to the World Series.
This hope is nothing new for me. When the Major League Baseball came to Houston in 1962, I was a kid, holding unrealistic hopes that the team would be a winner.
The early-day Houston players did not have much talent. But I believed in them, even though they lost year after year.
Every Spring, I’d renew my hope that finally they could be winners.
It took over 40 years, but the Astros made it to the World Series in 2005. I hope they go back this year.
Hope and the Spring season just go together. We hope that our lawns spring back into green vitality. We hope that our flowers will blossom.
It goes right along with our greatest hope – that through the power of Jesus we will be raised again, just as he was raised from the dead about 2000 years ago.
After his death, the early disciples went through an ordeal. The religious leader they loved was killed. They had placed so much hope on him. His death dropped them into deep sadness.
Then there was the resurrection and joy. What an emotional bungee jump they had – going from dark depression to extreme elation in a matter of three days.
As the saying goes, “the darkest hour is just before dawn.”
Humans need hope. They need it most when things are the darkest.
One of my wife’s patients at MD Anderson Cancer Center has been through a terrible trial this year. He’s been fighting cancer and taking chemotherapy. This patient was unable to eat and he received nourishment through tubes.
He created an inspirational goal to make it through cancer treatment and eat again. His goal – go to the Astros opening game tonight and eat a hot dog there.
The patient made it through chemo. But unfortunately the tickets were sold out for the game. It was disappointing. No game. No hot dog.
But my wife, ever hopeful, wrote to Drayton McLane, owner of the Astros. Amazingly, Mr. McLane received the email and he was touched by the patient’s story.
So tonight, during the Astros first game, the patient will be at the stadium, in the finest seats in the house. And his dream of being able to watch baseball and eat a hot dog will be a reality.

Swing five: Kelli Childre, coordinator of publicity and news at Lubbock Christian University in Texas, shared this anecdote about LCU baseball coach Nathan Blackwood:

He is a person of outstanding character. During one of their playoff games here in Lubbock, the game was intense and he was coaching hard, but one of his children had just gotten out of school and arrived at the ballpark. They went to the stadium wall close to where he was and yelled “Dad, Dad.” He turned around, smiled, ran over and gave them a quick hug then went back to coaching hard.

That’s enough swings for now.
If you have your own thoughts or ideas on the topic, please e-mail me at [email protected].
July 1, 2006

Filed under: Insight

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