by Ken Rolheiser
Home plate baseball wisdom

“You’re probably all wondering why I’m wearing home plate around my neck,” he said, his voice growing irascible. “I may be old, but I’m not crazy. The reason I stand before you today is to share with you baseball people what I’ve learned in my life, what I’ve learned about home plate in my seventy-eight years.” (John Scolinos).

Scolinos continued, “How wide is home plate in the little leagues?” “Seventeen inches.” In the major leagues? College baseball? High school baseball? And always the same answer: “Seventeen inches.”

“What do they do with a big-league pitcher who can’t throw the ball over seventeen inches?” Pause. “They send him to Pocatello!” he hollered, drawing raucous laughter. “They don’t say, ‘That’s okay, Jimmy. If you can’t hit a seventeen-inch target? We’ll make it eighteen inches or nineteen inches.’ ”

Scolinos expanded the metaphor to include our homes, schools, churches, and governments. We don’t expand the home plate to let everyone pass. We have standards. We need to hold others accountable to what we know to be right. 

If we fail to hold ourselves to what is right, if we are unwilling to provide a consequence when they do not meet the standard; and if our schools, churches and governments fail to hold themselves accountable, there will be dark days ahead, Scolinos said.

Watch the daily news. Watch a convicted felon trying to run for President of the United States. Where are we going? Yogi Berra might sum it up: The future ain’t what it used to be. We love Yogi for his often humorous, unintentional wisdom. If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.

As I continue this column I am reminded of a word of caution from Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol: “Now, being prepared for almost anything, he was not by any means prepared for nothing.” There is something worthwhile about life in the baseball metaphor. 

The Christian lives in hope. Our journey begins at home plate. We do not always achieve a home run. In fact, most batters will strike out and fail to get to first most of the time. Courage will enable us to continue pursuing our goal of swinging for the fence.

Morally we need to be uncompromising. Standing up for what is right means playing hardball at times. A straightforward and effective approach may be the line drive that will get us there.

Life throws us curve balls when we least expect it. Maybe at times a change-up is needed, a change in strategy or approach. No one throws a perfect game. Be prepared for failure and regrouping. Spend more time in the bullpen practising and getting ready.

Before we reach the bottom of the nineth, make preparations. Life may call for a sacrifice bunt, a self-less act for a greater cause. Overlook your foul ball attempts. Straighten your aim and resolve. But don’t forget to relax and enjoy the game. Play catch sometimes. Life is the greatest game!

Baseball is even referenced in the Bible. Genesis tells us it all started “In the big inning”. Later the Samaritan woman took her pitcher to the well. While it may even be assumed that Noah took a couple of bats on the Ark.

“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12).

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