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INSIDE STORY: Embracing family, friends and faith on Opening Day

Why I love root, root, rooting for the home team.

ARLINGTON, Texas — My three favorite holidays: Thanksgiving. Christmas. Opening Day.

I was blessed to join my 16-year-old son, Keaton, and 49,029 fellow baseball fans at my beloved Texas Rangers’ season opener against the Philadelphia Phillies on Monday afternoon.

Bobby and Keaton Ross at the Texas Rangers’ Opening Day


I originally planned to watch the game from the comfort of my couch in Oklahoma City. But at the last minute, my friend Trey Morgan, minister for the Childress Church of Christ in the Texas Panhandle, texted to let me know he had two extra tickets to the game.
“Would you know anyone who might want them?” he asked.
(Insert rowdy scene of me doing the happy dance and calling my wonderful wife, Tamie, to beg permission to make an unscheduled trip down south.)
Trey and Lea Morgan at Globe Life Park
This was the remarkable scene at Globe Life Park for the first of the Rangers’ 162 regular-season games (as captured by a Dallas Morning News photographer):

As I was munching on a $5 hot dog before the game, I received an email from Chad MacDonald, the San Diego Padres’ vice president and assistant general manager of player personnel.

MacDonald, a member of the North Davis Church of Christ in Arlington, wrote to clarify a detail in the story I was writing about him (it’s now online). My thanks to Doug Peters, the North Davis church’s senior minister and a fellow Rangers fan, for introducing me to MacDonald.
“Enjoy opening day … one of the best days of the year!” MacDonald replied back when I told him where I was. (His Padres, by the way, defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers, 3-1, Sunday night in MLB’s North American opener.)
Chad MacDonald in the San Diego Padres’ dugout 
In case you missed it, baseball actually opened this season in a cricket stadium in Australia. That two-game set featured the Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks. Diamondbacks pitcher Brad Ziegler wrote a piece for mlb.com titled “Opening Day brings chills for Ziegler every year.” Amen, brother!
Ziegler, a member of the East Grand Church of Christ in Springfield, Mo., signs autographs with a favorite Scripture, as he shared in a 2010 Christian Chronicle interview. USA Today recently called him “the unofficial social conscience of Major League Baseball players.” He is the son of Greg and Lisa Ziegler. Greg Ziegler is a minister for the Bentonville Church of Christ in Arkansas.
Here’s a photo of Ziegler with his newborn son, Joshua, that his wife, Kristen Ziegler, posted on Facebook this week:
Brad and Kristen Ziegler with Joshua
Almost before I finished scarfing down my hot dog, my Rangers found themselves down, 6-0. Then they rallied and took at 7-6 lead after three innings. Then they coughed up the lead again and eventually lost, 14-10. That  prompted some good-natured ribbing from my friend Dan Cooper, a Phillies fan and minister for the Pitman Road Church of Christ in Sewell, N.J.
“Happy for me, sad for you,” Cooper said in a text after the game was over.
“Had a great time!” I replied. “We’ll get you tomorrow!”
(And we did.)
Fortunately, Opening Day isn’t about winning or losing. It’s about the promise of spring. It’s about starting fresh.
As one fan put it:
In so many ways, baseball is like our spiritual walk.
It reminds me of all those trite but true cliches:
You can’t hit the ball if you don’t swing the bat.
Take it one game at a time.
It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
In a 2006 Chronicle column, I wrote:
One of my favorite verses is  2 Timothy 4:7,  where Paul says: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” I’m certain that if Paul had lived after Abner Doubleday invented the precious game of baseball, he would have said something about pitching into the ninth inning and keeping his team close.
Meanwhile, I am honored and humbled to reveal that I will make my first major-league start for the Rangers tonight (or maybe they’re talking about a different Ross Jr.):
Screenshot from Fox Sports Southwest
Well, I’ve had enough fun for one column.
I’ll leave you with this simple message: Play ball!
Bobby Ross Jr. is Chief Correspondent for The Christian Chronicle. Reach him at [email protected].

From bat boy to major-league executive: Chad MacDonald devoted to his faith

• Oh, Brothers!: For Rockies pitcher with 0.28 ERA, there’s a higher calling

• Boys of summer: Josh Willingham’s faith, character praised

•  Reliever Ziegler signs autographs with a favorite Scripture

•  For love of God, family and baseball

• Cecil Cooper adjusts to life out of baseball

• Play ball: Travels bring ballpark fun, fellowship

•  Twins coach puts faith not in game, but in God

Baseball fan’s orange T-shirt is for the Birds

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