I realize superstitions are in contrast to religion, but I have seen some very religious individuals apply them, dare I say it, religiously; Grown men jumping across the baseline as they go on and off the field, or expressing their ingenuity showing off their unique rally cap approach. I would even go as far to say many of the superstitions have an odor about them [e.g. using sweat-aged batting gloves way beyond their life expectancy, not washing socks or even the whole uniform]. Open their bat bags with caution.
Setting superstitions aside, most are willing to admit they seek guidance during key situations throughout a baseball game; the customary prayer under their breath when our son is at the plate or each play in the field. Ted Dekker said, “Prayer may just be the most powerful tool mankind has.” I assure you I am not judging, but they do seem to intensify at two strikes or when the tying or winning run is at third.
In a good way, players participate just as much. It is not uncommon to witness a player stepping into the batter’s box kissing his crossed thumb and index finger in an acceptance of what they perceive as their own cross. Humbly, validating Mahatma Gandhi’s statement, “[Prayer] is daily admission of one’s weakness.”
I certainly am not, nor do I have the right to compare superstition to prayer. I do however believe baseball provides a religious experience through our own visual and/or auditory revelations with the only common thread between the two is our fear of the unknown. Which is why I believe so many athletes give thanks pointing to the sky after something good happens.
Now I do believe when you get on the train called baseball and you fulfill your commitment; it will truly help find your way in life. For Jimmy Guilford, the train ride took him 15 hours away from his home to a school he had never seen. Yet, his sojourn at Belhaven provided him the opportunity to play in a Regional, a College World Series, and laid the groundwork to find his way in life.
Jimmy, at an early age, recognized his ability to play baseball was a God given talent. A talent he worked very hard at and truly believed was going to land him an opportunity to play professional baseball. However, as the NCAA commercial stated, “There are over 400,000 student athletes and just about all of [them] will end up going pro in something other than sports.” The same was true for Jimmy!
Jimmy did not go pro, but his college degree opened the door to Matt Balis, Head Strength and Conditioning Coach at Mississippi State, where Jimmy was offered an internship and eventual full time Grad Assistant; An opportunity which led him to Bill Buckley, Mississippi State Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) Director. It was there Jimmy realized he needed to do more than making MLB and NFL first round draft picks bigger, faster, stronger, he needed to find away to, “[help] build athletes spiritually.”
When I first met Jimmy I knew he was special, but no mystery here, anyone who meets him immediately senses the same thing. I find most players spend most of their time finding something to complain about [e.g. coach, summer coach, why they are having so much trouble hitting], not Jimmy! Jimmy let me know over and over again how important his parents and grandparents were in his life.
I have mentioned it before; I truly believe I get as much from the athletes as they get from me in the short time we work on hitting and/or pitching. Truth be told, I believe I get more. Well, Jimmy is no exception. Every time we met, I remember driving away asking myself, “am I the supportive parent Jimmy refers to, the one where my sons would talk about me the same way?”
Today Jimmy is on Bill Buckley’s FCA staff serving both the MSU campus and the surrounding high schools. Thank you Jimmy!
“If the only prayer you said was thank you; that would be enough.” Meister Eckhart
Until next Blog,