“People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.” — Rogers Hornsby
Baseball marketing genius Bill Veeck once said there was one sure way to know that it is spring. “The true harbinger of spring, is not crocuses or swallows returning to Capistrano, but the sound of a bat on a ball.” Maybe one of the most endearing charms of baseball is that it begins in the spring. The teams show up in Florida and Arizona while much of the nation grows weary of gray and gloom. As the weeks of spring training go by the trees back home start to come to life and buds peek out of the once frozen turf. Spring training is the first hope of summer.
Today I get to live a little boys dream and go watch spring training baseball. Sure it is my job. But it is still magic. There is much to learn in my spiritual journey from this boy’s game. I watch athlete’s of incredible ability go over simple fundamentals. Again and again and again. And I wonder why I think I am too mature in my faith to daily renew the fundamentals of who I am in Christ. To review each day that I am a new creation because of Jesus. Remembering again that I am righteous not because of anything I can ever do but entirely because of Jesus. I need to review those fundamentals. Again and again and again.
The other thing I love about Spring Training is the hope of a fresh start this season. Poet Alexander Pope wrote a poem in 1733 to Chicago Cubs fans (okay…and maybe to my beloved Texas Rangers fans as well) and noted that “hope springs eternal in the human breast.” Every team’s records from last year no longer matter. Every team has at least some hope as they enter the new season. What used to be true about a team doesn’t matter. Only what happens from opening day to the final pitch matters. Spring training means all things baseball are a new creation.
I am grateful that in my spiritual journey God has given me a chance for “spring training” renewal because of His grace. I have had some bad seasons during my career as a follower of Jesus. Some pretty ugly slumps. Because of His grace I am learning that everyday is a gift with the promise of renewal. Today as I absorb the hope of spring training I realize that every day with Jesus can be like this special time in baseball. I can be transformed and new. In fact, I have been transformed. I am a new creation. Past losses (sins) have been redeemed and forgiven. There can be freshness in the journey and real joy and freedom. I can realize that I am a child of God and be grateful that I can call Him Father. I can believe that hope for the future is real. I can understand that I must (by His grace and the power of the Spirit) be a better teammate. I should not expect my team to be perfect. I am pretty sure they will boot some easy chances and strikeout in some key situations. But I will trust God to help me love them and encourage them because we are on the same team known simply as the Body of Christ. Paul gave us a good reason for hope in his letter to the Roman Church. It also fits into the discipline required to survive the marathon of a baseball season.
And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. (Romans 5, NLT)
The magic of a fresh start happens once a year in baseball. It can happen every day for a follower of Jesus.