Did you see the unbelievable video of the Minnesota high school pitcher who struck out a close friend to end the baseball game and secure a spot in the 2018 Class 4A State Championships?
When Mounds View High School pitcher Ty Koehn struck out Jack Kocon of Totino-Grace High School last week, Koehn immediately left the mound and ran toward the batter’s box to console Kocon, his longtime friend.
In a viral video clip of the game’s end, Koehn is seen hugging Kocon for several seconds and then walking his friend toward the dugout before joining his team’s celebration.
“I knew I had to say something,” Koehn told reporters. “Our friendship is more important than just the silly outcome of a game. I had to make sure he knew that before we celebrated.”
What sportsmanship! What a picture of true friendship. And though most people would agree with Koehn that baseball is just a silly game, we can still learn a lot from baseball as Koehn’s actions prove.
If you think about it, baseball is a microcosm of life. And if you look closely at that microcosm and delve deeper than the surface of the mere game, biblically-based life lessons abound on a baseball diamond.
I believe a good game of baseball on any given field can be one of the best ways for God to teach kids, parents, and even spectators some of His life lessons. In fact, God has been using the game of baseball to teach me lessons for most of my life.
My dad started his educator’s career as a baseball and basketball coach. I barely remember those days, but I do remember how much my daddy loved the game of baseball and his players. He still does.
At the age of 83, my dad sometimes has trouble remembering yesterday afternoon, but he can recall each of his players by name and recount each game they played with complete clarity.
It makes me cry when he shares aloud the wisdom he gathered from his coaching days, such as: never assuming a boy is not carrying a man’s load in his heart; how sharing what you have, despite personal lack, multiplies your blessings and your bounty; how an encouraging word at the right time lasts a lifetime, as does the sting of an unwarranted rebuke.
Daddy’s voice rings with joy when he reminisces about his players who were barely 10 years younger than him. In his mind’s eye, he sees strong, healthy young men; I see daddy and his players with white hair and stooped shoulders.
Even the irony in that dichotomy is a biblical lesson. For in the end, what matters most is how we treat others. The heart of a man is where his worth is found. And if the love of Christ fills our hearts, then we are already winners.
I still see my daddy’s heart and the heart of his Father reflected through the lens of a baseball diamond and a basketball court. I probably always will.
Ironically, I have never seen my husband play baseball. A motorcycle wreck, as did his need to work after school, helped end his high school baseball career. Again, those are both lessons to be heeded and learned. Life is short and the choices we make, both foolish and wise, shape who we become.
Ask my sons what they admire about their dad, and both will say his work ethic impacted them most. Whatever their dad does, he does with drive, determination, and his family’s well being in mind. Even as a teenager, he earned his own way and helped his parents in the process. He has always worked hard.
If I had been able to watch my husband play baseball, I imagine I would have seen glimpses of our two sons out on that field. As catchers, at arguably the busiest position on the field, both boys played with the tenacity of their daddy. That bulldog tenacity never let them give up and concede until the last batter was up and the final out was called.
I have seen both boys, six years apart in age, come back from huge deficits to win in games deemed hopeless from the start. When our oldest son suffered a massive brain injury in a car wreck, I witnessed him hopelessly start from scratch. I can’t help but think that the same determination our son practiced on a baseball field served him well when, like a newborn baby, he had to learn to sit, stand, walk, and talk all over again.
With the conviction our son had tested in the wonderful game called baseball, God helped him work hard and overcome. Isn’t that what faith really is? Believing that God is able and forging ahead to do what He calls us to do and face what He calls us to face – even when we can’t initially see the victory?
Now, faith does not necessarily start on a baseball field. Off the field, well before all those games and well before that car wreck, it was our jobs as parents to teach and train our sons through God’s Word. But I honestly think God used those baseball fields as a place for our boys to walk out and test the faith we were teaching and modeling at home.
And that proving ground, those baseball fields, prepared our boys for the real trials of life. And let me tell you, they have had their share of crazy, unexpected curveballs.
Haven’t we all?
Our youngest son faced the curveball of cancer this year. And like he did on every baseball field he ever played on, from T-ball to college, our son faced it head on with the strength and grace that comes from Christ alone.
Like all those times he had suited up to catch the nine or more innings of a tough game on a muggy, hot and humid Mississippi baseball diamond, it was tough, really tough. But, through the verses he carried in his heart and wrote inside his baseball hat all those years, our son knew that God would carry him to and through whatever came flying across the plate.
So, yeah, baseball is just a game. If baseball ceased to exist today, mankind would not consequently also cease to exist. The world would keep right on revolving. I get that.
But I also get that, as Christians, we see the handiwork of our Creator in every sphere of life, even ones involving that little spherical object called a baseball.
Not only do I tend to see God in every experience of life, I try to learn from those experiences as well. And I definitely have learned a few precious lessons from the game of baseball and from players like Ty Koehn, my dad, my husband, and my sons.