Many people don’t really see the spiritual aspects of softball. As a matter of fact, neither did I … until this year. For the last six years, I have been participating in a softball league. This year, I joined my brother Jim and started to play for my home church after being “adopted” by another church for five years. I never realized how spoiled I was playing with my former team.
After winning our first game (in a seven-on-seven affair), we have lost our last eight games in a row, four of those games by forfeit due to lack of players. Some people can’t help it if they can’t make it, but others just don’t show up at all. My brother, the coach of the team, gets frustrated because he hates losing (so do I—you get that mentality growing up with two older brothers), especially if people don’t bother showing up.
So I bring you the first spiritual reward of softball: learning how to forgive. Sure, you can’t help but be mad sometimes if people are no-shows, particularly if you’re on the email list and you haven’t made a game yet. But as Christians, you have to forgive those who wrong you—even if it’s something minor as softball.
Now on any team, whether professional, competitive amateur or beer league, you have a tendency to build bonds with your teammates. Jim and I have played on the same team since we started playing in this league six years ago, and we’ve managed to be on the same team wherever we go. But we have also created friendships with our teammates off the field. We still get together with our former teammates for golf and Yankee games. The same thing goes for our present team; one of our pastors plays occasionally, and I’ll see most of my teammates at church on Sunday. There’s great camaraderie between all of us.
So here it is—the second spiritual reward of softball: building relationships. Before and after games, we pray at the plate. Whether home or away, same team or opposing, our fellowship with each other is what matters the most.
We also have a couple of non-Christians on our team. In actuality, I’m not certain as to where they stand in their relationship with Christ, but we are always more than happy to have those who don’t know Christ on our team. It gives us an opportunity to be witnesses not by our words, but by our actions, which brings me to the third spiritual reward of softball: being a Christ-like example.
Church softball in particular is more than praying at the plate and fellowshipping with other Christians. It’s getting the opportunity to witness through our actions: sportsmanship, class and dedication. My hope for those who don’t have a relationship with Christ (whether or not a person plays on our team) is that they will get to know Christ.
Finally, playing in a softball league means getting to have fun. The majority of non-believers think that being a Christian means not having any fun at all. This has to be the biggest misconception, if not lie, about Christianity ever. Rarely do you see pictures about Jesus smiling and laughing; in fact, you would almost think the Son of God would kill you if you looked at Him the wrong way. But that in fact is the opposite; God tells us to enjoy what’s been given to us.
1 Timothy 6:17 says, “Command those who are rich in those present world not to be arrogant nor put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” The final spiritual reward of softball: experiencing joy in what God has given us. There’s nothing like playing a game of softball on a summer’s evening with a beautiful sunset as a backdrop. It’s a great way to commune with God.
So while many don’t see the spiritual rewards of softball, I’ve learned to see those aspects and be thankful that I get to enjoy them. And I’m especially glad I get to hit home runs.
[Ryan McCarthy is an avid weekend warrior. He is regularly featured on E-Sports and Arena Fan.]
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