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Play ball: Travels bring ballpark fun, fellowship

‘”People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.” — Rogers Hornsby
SEATTLE — Talk about an awesome time: A recent Friday night found me in the right-field bleachers at Safeco Field, sipping Diet Coke from a souvenir cup and watching my favorite team, the Texas Rangers, play the hometown Mariners.
James A. Maxwell, minister of the Holgate Church of Christ in Seattle, invited me to the game while I was in town working on a story.
Maxwell, whom I first met at the National Lectureship in Philadelphia last year, sported a brand-new Mariners cap. His 12-year-old son, Brooks, chowed down ballpark garlic fries as we enjoyed America’s favorite pastime.
With Seattle fans all around me, I wore a red Rangers shirt with All-Star outfielder Josh Hamilton’s No. 32 on the back. I cheered politely — but not too loudly — for defending American League champion Texas. (My team won!)
I have mentioned before that I love God, my family and baseball — mostly in that order. My time with The Christian Chronicle has provided amazing opportunities to embrace all three of those loves.
In 2006, on the way to cover a church unity event in Louisville, Ky., my family and I made a detour to Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. We witnessed Reds star Ken Griffey Jr.’s 550th career home run.
That same year, at Minute Maid Park in Houston, I interviewed Astros bench coach and future manager Cecil Cooper, a member of the Anderson Street Church of Christ in Sealy, Texas. Fellow baseball fanatic David Duncan, minister of the Memorial Church of Christ in Houston, came along as the photographer.
In 2008, before going to St. Louis to report on the Florissant Church of Christ, I was disappointed to discover that a Fourth of July game between the Cardinals and Chicago Cubs was sold out. But Terry Rush, minister of the Memorial Drive Church of Christ in Tulsa, Okla., and the world’s most devoted Cardinals fan, tipped me off when a few tickets became available. My family and I witnessed Cardinals star Albert Pujols’ 300th career home run.
That same year, my son Brady and I toured Fenway Park in Boston after attending a men’s retreat at Gander Brook Christian Camp in Raymond, Maine. We didn’t see an actual Red Sox game, but we explored the nooks and crannies of that historic ballpark.
In 2009, I traveled to New York to interview NBC anchor Lester Holt and report on the Northeastern Lectureship at the Apollo Theater. Brian Nicklaus, minister of the Echo Lake Church of Christ in Westfield, N.J., offered me a guest room at his house and helped me maneuver the subway system.
Most importantly (smile), he secured a church member’s season tickets for a New York Mets game at Citi Field.
That same year, I tagged along with domestic missionary Wes Woodell and a group from the Lake Merced Church of Christ in San Francisco to see a Giants game at AT&T Park.
In 2010, while in Washington, D.C., for a professional meeting, I interviewed slugger Josh Willingham at Nationals Park. Willingham, a member of the Cross Point Church of Christ in Florence, Ala., introduced me to one of my all-time favorite players: future Hall of Fame catcher Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez, a former longtime Rangers star.
That same spring, while at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., I drove to Angels Stadium in Anaheim and interviewed Brad Ziegler, a relief pitcher for the visiting Oakland Athletics and a member of the East Grand Church of Christ in Springfield, Mo. Al Sturgeon, a former minister of the Ocean Springs Church of Christ in Mississippi who left to study law at Pepperdine, joined me. I first met Sturgeon in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Over the press-box buffet, we talked baseball and caught up on church and family happenings.
Just last month, you may have seen our story on the Future Preachers Training Camp sponsored by the Bear Valley Church of Christ in Denver. Would you believe that the Colorado Rockies were playing at home that weekend?
This may come as a shock, but I just could not resist buying a ticket.


Bobby Ross Jr. is Managing Editor of The Christian Chronicle. Reach him at [email protected].

  • Feedback
    Brother this was an awesome article I did not know we had so many saints that have been blessed to make it to the Big leagues some of whom my son and I have met. God speed and continue your great Journalism , I too have a great passion for the sport and coach little league here in the Bahamas.my son Devin is a 15 year year old 10th grader at Christian Home and Bible school in Mount Dora Florida currently.Blessings upon you as you continue in this area of ministry.
    Franklyn Simmons
    Highbury Park Church of Christ
    N/A, N/A
    October, 8 2011

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