My husband Al and I enjoy Cleveland Indians baseball. Over the last few years, I’ve learned more about the rules and I have became a true fan as we enjoy attending games once or twice a month each season.
Interestingly, many of the virtues and habits that are necessary for professional baseball players to excel on the field are also important in helping us on the road to sainthood.
Patience. Baseball games are long — typically 3 hours or more. There can be rain delays, multiple coaching visits to the pitching mound, catcher-pitcher discussions and extra innings. Fans and players need patience. On the road to holiness, we may sometimes feel like there are a lot of extra innings when life, work and family needs reach a crescendo. St. Francis DeSales said, “Have patience with all things, but first of all with yourself.”
Perseverance. In a game where you strike out more often than you hit, you can’t give up. For example, players work on their ability to hit different types of pitches such as the curve, slider, sinker and cutter to improve their odds of hitting. Perseverance is key to the spiritual life as well. Even when it’s tough to pray, we do it. Even when we don’t feel God close, we trust, keep loving, serving and asking for God grace to assist us in our endeavors.
Humility. When a player makes an error on the field, it is recorded and announced as an Error — to the whole world. Even though they are the best at their sport, they make mistakes that impact the entire team— and they still have to get up play the game again the next day, nearly every day for six months. Humility is a great teacher. As St. Teresa of Avila said, “There is more value in a little study of humility and in a single act of it than in all the knowledge in the world.”
Wisdom. There are a lot of decisions that need to be made in a split second in a baseball game. Experience, skill, luck, training habits, and physical and intellectual gifts of the players contribute to the development of a player and his ability to make wise decisions whether at bat or in their fielding position. In the example of King Solomon, we can ask for wisdom. St. Augustine said, “Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.”
Trust. The success of a team is dependent on everyone doing their job well. Trusting in each other's skills, supporting and encouraging each other is important. When a pitcher is struggling, and the pitching coach walks out to the mound to check in, the infield players gather around the pitcher to show their trust in him. In our own lives, we have many ways to be encouraged and to trust on our spiritual journey when we build strong family bonds, holy friendships, frequent the Holy Eucharist, grow close to our Blessed Mother and share in the communion of saints.
Faith. I am always moved when a player goes up to the plate and makes the Sign of the Cross, kisses his Miraculous Medal or Cross and even occasionally bows his head in prayer (or in the photo, looks up to heaven!) Our gifts, no matter what they may be, are given to us by God to share with others. It gives me hope to see million dollar athletes honoring God in the public eye even if only for a few seconds … and even if it’s a prayer for a hit.