Saint Francis at Bat
How Baseball Keeps Teaching Me About Forgiveness
What does a sport of rich owners and multi-million dollar players teach us about forgiveness, that concept so near and dear to all Christians?
With baseball – plenty.
The three R’s
And the answer to why is as plain as the seed that groundskeepers spread in winter. Three concepts are crucial to making a baseball diamond fit for opening day?the three R’s?renovation, rejuvenation, and repair. In fact, read any book about baseball diamond groundskeeping and you’ll think you’re reading an inspirational book about the power of forgiveness?and what springs forth from it. Are not the three R’s foundations of forgiveness?
Listen to a fan of America’s pastime during the month of April and you’ll come away assured that baseball is all about those three R’s.
In April all the third-strike strikes, blown saves, and last-place finishes of prior seasons are forgotten as forgiven. It’s nothing short of a rejuvenation. All past baggage is left at the terminal, and it’s more than expected that that baggage will go unclaimed. Even the lowest of the low take the field then with hope that this could be a breakout season. Even Pete Rose’s chances of getting his induction onto the Hall of Fame becomes a fresh issue for renovation. Even the injury-ridden hope that a winter of repair will beg a healthy season.
The sense of time
And because you get nine innings instead of 45 or 30 minutes of timed play, baseball is all about the “last chance.” In this sport time will not judge you, nor will it kill you with a ticking clock. Isn’t it that forgiveness also refuses to operate by the ticking clock? If you lived your life as a sinner and find yourself sincerely repenting at age 70, wouldn’t you want a last chance?that last inning?to make things right? Isn’t this what makes religion a refuge for the hopeful? All we want is a last chance to make good.
Past and present
I wonder what would happen if such forgiveness were applied to my daily life. Not me being forgiven as much as me forgiving others. Would I be that much closer to honoring St. Francis’ calling of pardoning others regardless of injury? Of all the parts of the Prayer of St. Francis it’s that forgiveness that has always been the hardest for me to offer. For me, some past injuries are part of the present. I can’t let go of them. I’m like an April batter?the one who had the most horrible season of his life the year before?and I’m stepping up to home plate in April under a dark cloud.
Thankfully, most baseball players don’t operate under that ethos after bad seasons. It’s counterintuitive to the spirit of the sport. And I should follow suit.
Stepping out again
Maybe, it’s no coincidence that the onset of baseball happens concurrent with the wonder of Easter.
See, whenever I step onto a baseball diamond, and it doesn’t matter whether I’m doing it as a softball player or as a Little League coach, the feeling is always the same.
It’s what I feel upon leaving a confessional.
It’s the feeling of renewal and repair. It’s the feeling that I’m doing something for the very first time, again.