My feelings exactly

sad faceI have been offline a lot over the past week as I have been traveling.  I’ll get back to normal next week.

However, I got up this morning and read about the Major League Baseball All Star game last night.  I didn’t get to see it last night, though I normally watch some of it, especially the pre-game and the story lines surrounding some of the player selections.

I love the great game.  It has meant much to me…in my relationship to my father and then the joy of passing on the love of the game to my boys.

If you are not a fan of the game, the rest of this post may mean nothing to you.  But if you know anything about baseball history, this article will make you both sad and angry.  Maybe not as much as me, but you’re probably not a native San Diego son…

Just a month ago the sports world stopped in its tracks and paid tribute to a great man who left us far too soon. San Diego Padres Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn lost a courageous battle with cancer on June 16 at the age of 54, and almost exactly a month later, Major League Baseball failed to honor his memory at its midsummer classic. In fact, Gwynn’s name was never even mentioned on the broadcast.

Think about that for a minute. Tony Gwynn is universally regarded as one of the best hitters in baseball history. The league and Fox had a month to figure out some way to honor him at the biggest baseball event of the summer and came up with nothing. In a pregame ceremony we got Idina Menzel signing a Bob Dylan song (because why wouldn’t you have that before a baseball game?) and a tribute to 30 teachers. But zero mention of one of the best, most respected and most beloved baseball players to ever walk the Earth.

 When Ted Williams died just before the 2002 All-Star Game, Major League Baseball responded by naming the game’s MVP Award after him. Couldn’t they have done something for Gwynn with a month to prepare? What about naming the National League batting title or the Silver Slugger for a right fielder after him? After all, he won eight (yes, eight) National League batting titles and seven Silver Slugger Awards.

No, instead baseball whitewashed his name from the event.

While we can all agree that Tuesday was Derek Jeter’s night and it was nice seeing him honored, the Fox broadcast mentioned Jeter’s name 100 times. That would have been fine, except Gwynn’s was never spoken. That’s absolutely ridiculous. The game was on for three-and-a-half hours, and nothing!

Jeter has had an amazing, Hall of Fame career, and has made an unbelievable 14 All-Star Game appearances and that fact was mentioned over and over again as a mark of a truly great player. Gwynn made 15.

They couldn’t have taken a minute to even do a quick video piece on Gwynn or discuss how much he is and will be missed? Or what about showing some of his classic All-Star Game highlights, like when he scored the game-winning run in 1994 in one of the most memorable moments in the history of the All-Star Game? George Steinbrenner died the day of the All-Star Game in 2010 and baseball put together a moment of silence for him. And tons of people hated Steinbrenner.

What really happened on Tuesday night is that Fox and Major League Baseball further proved the long-held belief that if you don’t play in a major market, they don’t really care about you. And that’s sad, because some kid watching the All-Star Game Tuesday night who was born after Gwynn retired might have seen a tribute and asked his dad about the great No. 19, what he did, who he was and what he stood for. The fact that a moment like that may never happen is a shame, because everyone should know about Tony Gwynn and what kind of player, person and ambassador for the game he was.

Aside from being one of the best hitters of all-time – certainly the best of his generation and even the best since World War II – Tony Gwynn was everything we hope our star athletes are like. He was kind, smart, funny and loved his fans as much as they loved him. He was dedicated to the community and on top of all that, he played the game with a smile and looked like he was genuinely having fun doing it.

The thing about the late, great Mr. Gwynn is that he would probably laugh off all the outrage people are currently spewing about him being snubbed. He’d flash that wonderful smile, give that chuckle we all knew so well and shake his head. But I’m not as forgiving as Tony and I certainly won’t laugh it off or forget about it.

You can read the whole article here.

Of baseball, God, and guns

CamouflageLast year, I saved my allowance so I had enough money to purchase MLB At Bat.  For the non-baseball enthusiast, At Bat is a subscription service to watch live major league baseball  on my iPhone, iPad and mirroring on my home television screen.  It was amazing to have it last year.  It’s the only way I can regularly watch the San Diego Padres.  They need me, you know.

However, I’m a sad boy this year.  My allowance “savings” is going to pay for a ticket.  I failed to get my car inspected on time.  Can you spell stoopid?

The past three days, the Cubs have been playing the Padres in San Diego and the local Chicago station has been airing the games.  It’s been fun to catch a little of the action.

The San Diego Padres certainly don’t have the storied baseball and cultural histories and traditions of the New York Yankees, the Boston Red Sox, the San Francisco Giants or (as hard as this is for me to admit) the hated Los Angeles Dollars.  Not even close.  But they do have one of the greatest and most profound traditions in all of major league sports:  Military Sunday.

I have always had a wrestling match in my soul, when it comes to war.  For most of my adult life, my theology has been quietly shaped by Anabaptist, Wesleyan and Mennonite understanding of the scriptures, even though I was raised in mild, traditional, fundamentalist evangelicalism (meaning we played “nice” with all the other churches that claimed to be Christian, though we knew they were all theologically wrong).

For those who know me, you know I’ve never been at home with the God-Guns-Guts-Glory crowd (though some of my best friends in the world hang there).  My lifelong study of the Sermon on the Mount has led me down a different path.  My conviction that Jesus is the complete and perfect representation of all that God is and everything that we are to be, has always landed me somewhat to the left of my more conservative friends in both lifestyle and ethics.

As hard as I try to see and comprehend the other side, my best attempts to answer What Would Jesus Do?” always leave me comfortably with the turn-the-other-cheek tribe.  

But here’s where the wrestling match surfaces.  I was raised in San Diegoa fiercely loyal and unashamed military town.  I grew up with a deep respect for the men and women who defend our country.   Their love of country and commitment to values like duty, integrity, selfless service, and personal courage helped shape me when I was young and continue to move me to gratitude to this day.

That’s why I love what the San Diego Padres do EVERY Sunday home game.  In honor of the military, the Padres wear specially designed camouflage  uniforms for these games.  They are the coolest uni’s in pro ball!  Often, the stands are full of servicemen in their uniforms.  There is always a Fourth Inning Stretch where a rendition of the Marine or Navy hymn is sung and the servicemen are cheered.  The season is full of other special days and events for the city to say “thanks”.

I can confidently say the Padres will never have baseball storylines that rival the more famous (and fatter payroll) teams.  But they will always have the greatest tradition of all.

Are you ready?

baseballsit’s no secret.  i’m a baseball guy.

but this season’s a beat down.  not only have my beloved padres fallen flat and out of the race long before labor day…but i’m having to watch the los angeles dollars live up to their own hype.  this is misery.

my misery is soothed, though, by the confidence being shown by all my texas ranger fan friends and their resurgent support of the home team.  it’s nice to know that even if the dollars make it to the series, it will be a mere formality.  the rangers have it in the bag.  right, homies?  tell me the beer-leaguers have got the pennant sown up.  i need this to be true.

now, with the death of baseball season, i can make an early emotional entrance to the next season.  are you ready for some football?

i love this time of year.   the chargers are tied for first place in the division.  the aztecs are undefeated.  i finally have a team in the big-12-but-we-only-have-10 conference i like to root for.  go horned frogs.  i still hate the bcs.  i’m already pulling for a boise state vs. western kentucky championship game.

i also can’t stand the SEC.  arrogant bullies.  all of them.  i sorta used to kinda liked TAMU, but moving to the SEC sealed their fate in my mind.  too bad.  i’ve always been fond of the color maroon.

and i’ve never liked the biggest bully of the them all, alabama.   i pull for them to lose against anybody they play.  they simply win too much.  and enjoy it too much.   but something changed in me today.  this is quite possibly the greatest fan t-shirt of all time.  it’s greatness wiped away my bad feelings toward the school.  i want this shirt.   bullies rule.

but why is there something strangely attractive about kicking people when they’re down and reveling in the misfortune of others…while you hoist the crystal football yet another time?  does anybody really believe the other 124 FBS schools are playing for anything other than second place?  this shirt has changed everything.

Roll-Tide-Shirt

…and make sure you go to the blog site to see the picture, if you can’t view in the email.  it will be worth it.

Nobody cares but me…

you can file this under the “nobody cares but me” category.  and make no mistake…i care and you don’t.

at the beginning of the season, the padres were horrible.  they had a brand new team…only two position starters returning from 2011.   eleven pitchers have gone to the disabled list.   their long-time bullpen coach died of pancreatic cancer in june.  the average age of the starting lineup is 25.  four rookies.

i expected a rough start.  it was.

but since the first of june,  things have changed.  i’m no idiot…the whole season is what counts.  but when you’re a padre fan, you learn to look for the little things.  but this is more than a little.  it’s huge to me.  check out the records since june 1:

  • yankees     36-23
  • rangers      34-26
  • angels         33-27
  • padres        32-28
  • dodgers      27-33

i’m not saying the friars are in the same class as these teams, but the gap is narrowing.  only a 2-game difference with the rangers…and only one game behind the angels.  and it’s always a great day when the padres are ahead of the doggers.  for anything.

oh yeah.  the sale of the padres was completed this week.  maybe some multi-year contracts are coming.

maybe the return of the padres will be sooner than i thought.

Of baseball, family, honesty, and money

let’s get this straight right from the beginning.   i love me some josh hamilton.

for those of you living outside the great state,  you don’t get to see the highlights and live reporting of the best player in baseball day in and day out.   there are simply no words to adequately describe the physical greatness of his ball playing ability.

the fact that nobody was particularly surprised by his four-homerun,  18-total base game the other night just goes to show.   his performance placed him in perhaps the most elite club in all of baseball…a club that doesn’t include babe ruth,  hank aaron,  barry bonds,  griffey junior,  a-rod,  mickey mantle,  or ted williams,  just to name a few.

and aside from baseball,  his journey of sobriety and submission to christ…though an easy target for the media and cynics…is a story full of hope and grace that will be told and retold long after he goes home.   and one that inspires me personally.   i think he is the real deal.

so it’s with some uneasiness i choose to pick up a stone today.

the biggest story in the dallas sports scene these days is whether the rangers will take a risk and offer hamilton a long-term,  high-dollar contract sometime this season…the year his current contract with the team expires.   it’s a money issue.   it’s a potential promotional nightmare.   it could be a massive organizational risk if the club handcuffs themselves to 6-year,  $150 million contract…at least what he will command on the free agent market…and makes them unable to sign elvis,  nellie,  and matt harrison the next year.   and who knows what will follow after that?

and what if his body continues to break down?   what if his injury-prone legs keep failing more and more?   what if his substance demons come back?   what if…?   the business side of sports just sucks,  doesn’t it?

but that’s not my issue today.

in an interview with PTI yesterday,  josh was asked…for about the bizillioneth time…about the pursuit of the new contract and whether he would remain with the rangers.   there were two things he said that have stuck with me.   here’s my paraphrase:

“i’d love to be back with the rangers,  but we’ll just have to wait and see.   it’s all about taking care of my family.   i want to do what’s best for them and be able to provide for their future.”

i’m sorry,  but linking the word provision to the $150 million contract negotiation is insulting.   josh,  don’t spin this to try and get our sympathy or to justify saying goodbye to us because your poor kids needed you to make the tough decision.   come on.

just speak the truth.   it’s okay to say you wanted to go where there was more money or play for a better coach or a get a longer contract or live in better weather or have a chance to play for the yankees or you want to learn to surf  (yes,  he would look awesome in a padres uni!) or you want to live near your in-laws.

just don’t play the i’m-doing-this-for-the-kids…pull-at-your-heart-string card with me.   i’m not buying.   it’s disingenuous.   it smacks of elitism.   it shows a total disrespect for hard-working people who truly struggle to provide for their kids.   and who pay your salary.

i’m pretty sure whether you get the guarantee of a hefty $180 million…or a mere pedestrian$100 million, or so  (which would be an insult to your status as the greatest,  but still a number your kids could figure out how to get by with)… provision is not,  nor will it ever be,  the issue.

the second comment was this:

“i just want the lord’s will to be done in my life.   i want to go where god wants me to go.   i’m sure he’ll lead me to the right place.”

look.   i could go on and on about this one.   i’ve written about it numerous times.   really,  josh,  how are you going to know which team god wants you to sign with?   i presume,  at some point,  you’re going to look at all your options…pro and con each of the opportunities…consult your wife and closest counsel…check the standings,  rosters,  and guaranteed contracts of said players…fast for a week…talk to your pastor…and read the book of job…and hope for some inner peace.

and then you’re going to make the wisest and best informed decision you can.

i don’t doubt that god can and does lead us to decisions.   i just don’t think we’ll ever know for sure because there’s really no way to quantify that decision until after the fact.   and then what do we do?   look for success and assume that was where he wanted us to go?   look for struggle or failure and conclude we boo-booed on the interpretation?   consider the struggle as god’s design for pounding out our character?   what?

and the world watches as we do our god-speak and they walk away more confused.   and then they ask this question:

“do you really want us to believe that there is a god up there…or out there…orchestrating and negotiating the details of a mega-million contract for a baseball player,  when there appear to be whole lot more pressing things going on in the world that are worthy of his attention?”

i’m just saying maybe we would be a lot better off if josh…and others who are so privileged to play this great game and make an amazing salary doing it…would simply say:

“i’m going to sign with team that makes me the best offer and gives me the best opportunity to live the life i want to live.”

simple.   honest.   straightforward.   full of integrity.

rrrr….

…and yes.   josh has more homeruns than the entire padre’s roster combined.

A thought on parenting

i love watching kid’s sports.   i have such amazing memories of my time as a dad that i got to watch my own boys play.   there’s probably not a day that goes by that i don’t wish i could go back and live it all over again.

and for all the losses and near misses and injuries and times that i thought my sons were not treated fairly  (just like ever other dad feels at one time or another) and tears and disappointments…i would take the experience again.   just as it was.   exactly the same.   it was that good.

tonight,  i got to watch chris umpire for a few innings…and then i stopped off and watched corey coach a few innings.   it just happened to work out that way.   a very cool little gift.   i also got to watch a bunch of parents…and some of it wasn’t pretty.

…and i was reminded,  at both games,  of an ugly reality.

it hurts me deeply to know that there are many kids that have to overcome the mess their parents make in their (the kids) lives.   i watch as kids act in certain ways and it is obvious it is in response to what they have experienced at home.

i see kids with no confidence…fear of failure…or bad attitudes.   i see kids who hunger for attention…who act out…or have discipline problems.   i see kids who crumble in the face of criticism.   i see kids who have the hallow eyes of being preoccupied with something else.   i see kids that are sad,  disinterested,  or angry.

i see young athletes that have already learned to be quitters.   i see young athletes who already have no resolve to stare adversity in the face.   i see young athletes that don’t know how to keep fighting when all appears to be lost.   i see young athletes who know nothing of endurance,  commitment,  tenacity,  follow through,  loyalty,  or selflessness.

they are clueless about what it means to take one for the team.

and i hold parents responsible.

parents need to realize that parenting isn’t a game.   it’s life and death.   every day is important.   every word is important.   every look is important.   we are the shapers of our own kid’s hearts and psyches.   nobody else will do this for us.  

our words can build up or tear down.   our presence can inspire or deflate.   our decisions can build confidence or undermine security.   our choices can encourage trust and loyalty or rob their joy and emotional well-being.

parents…you really only get one shot at this.

do it well.

_______________________________________________________

okay all you losers…

today is the day you weigh in and start your weight loss plan.   happy losing.

for the record,  the guys are going to have to work extra hard.   team madre has twelve women and team padre has only five guys.   so here’s my challenge:

we need more guys!

both teams can add members at any time,  but the guys can’t be dropping too far behind this early.   so if you know of a guy who needs to drop a few…and could benefit by a little competition and accountability in the weight-loss area,  send them my way.

soon.

Excellence

There was a valuable lesson to be learned from the Ranger’s victory last night.

Excellence isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

It was unbelievable. The game was between the two best baseball teams on the planet…on the biggest stage on the planet… for the greatest championship on the planet. And what did we get? One of the worst examples of great baseball ever put on display.

There were mental mistakes and poor judgments and absolute head-scratchers. Horrible pitching and crazy strike outs and foolish base running. The Cardinal’s coach (who is one of the greatest ever) was guilty of some of the lamest decision-making of all time…and Ron Washington, who could be my favorite manager in the history of baseball…explained that he was “just hoping to get lucky” with one of his coaching pearls!

And it was still one of the most wildly entertaining and amazing baseball games I have ever watched…full of incredible skill and focus and mental toughness…by some of the most gifted and amazing athletes of our day.

Go figure.

That’s how baseball go.   (Thanks, Ron.)   And it’s a whole lot like life.  Sometimes we make horrible mistakes. Sometimes our plans get so screwed up, we can’t even find a way out. Our best efforts fall short. Way short. Our work yields no fruit or our dreams just fizzle.

Looking back over my life, I think I’ve wandered up close to excellent a couple of times…maybe enough to sniff it or watch somebody else take credit for it…but for the most part, I’ve camped out closer to pretty good most days.

I think we should always try to give our best, no matter what we are doing. It’s a matter of honor. It’s a matter of integrity. It’s a matter of worship. It’s a matter of gratitude.

But make no mistake. No matter how close you think you are getting to excellent, you are not coming anywhere close to the image and example of Jesus. Even though your performance may be praise-worthy, your heart still needs to be rescued. Daily.

And that’s right where you need to be.