Posted tagged ‘baseball’

Mr. T and Gatorade

January 28, 2016

by Dr. Steven J. Callis

            Before Mr. T was a television star, and before Gatorade was the popular drink of choice among athletes, I experienced both.  Known to me as Mr. Turentine, this simple, kind old man loved kids.  When we talked about him, he was “Mr. Turpentine;” when we talked to him, he was Mr. T.

            A member of our large church when I was young, Mt. T was faithful in his attendance to services and church activities.  He enjoyed standing out in the foyer talking to people and sneaking candy from his pocket into the hands of young children.  His best suit was old and hung droopily on his medium build frame.

            He lived alone, owned no car, and was an eccentric individual.  He did not hold official positions in the church, though I recall him helping with custodial duties sometimes.  He was not one to be called upon for answers to faith or theology.  But he loved Jesus, and he loved children.

            Our church had a high school age baseball team in the summertime.  Most church leagues played softball, so our team was registered in a community recreational league.  Games were played at various locations across the city.  I loved baseball growing up and was good enough to be in the starting lineup during those elementary years.  But this was big-boy baseball.  I was a small 9th grader seeing my first ‘real’ curve ball, and one bop in the head proved my fear to be warranted!

            I did not get to play much, being among the younger boys, and being a ‘chicken.’  However, I did get on base a couple of times when the opposing pitcher could not hit my small strike zone. 

            We did have one faithful cheerleader who never missed a game.  His name was Mr. T.  No matter where we played, Mr. T found the bus route that would get him to our games, and he always brought a jug of Kool-Aid for us to drink.  At first I thought he used funny tasting water.  One of the older guys said that it was simply not sweetened.  He reasoned that Mr. T could not afford sugar, so he added salt instead!

            That was then.  We tried to be kind and not hurt his feelings, but it tasted awful, especially when we were expecting a sweet treat!

            Looking at it now, I don’t think Mr. T’s potion was a result of his eccentric ways or his lack of funds.  I genuinely believe he knew the effect sugar would have on athletes needing to replenish energy and lost fluids from perspiration.  I think he was providing us his own version of Gatorade, a sports drink that was not yet a staple across America in dugouts and on sidelines.

            In our large church Mr. T was well known and loved, but had no close circle of friends, no favorite people to sit with during fellowship meals, and was never an ‘up front’ person to be publicly noticed.  But he loved Jesus and he loved people, and he found a permanent place in my heart and memory. 

            By now he has long since reached his eternal home where he enjoys fellowship with Jesus forever.  I wonder if he ever knew what a blessing he was to others, and I wonder how long it took others like me to realize that fact, as well.



October 3, 2014

Dr. Steven Callis

Eight organizations are fielding a team in the playoffs, while 22 teams are home thinking of what might have been. Yes, it is post-season Major League Baseball.  Fans will pay anywhere from $30 to $450 to get through the gate for one of these games, and seats for a world series game start at around $400, if tickets can be found.

There is little doubt that the atmosphere of such an event is an awesome experience in itself.  The noise, the hype, the aromas, the fans, and the extremely small chance of catching a foul ball or home run ball for a souvenir.

My uncle took me to my very first MLB game when I was a young child.  He caught a foul ball from the bat of a Baltimore Orioles player and gave it to my brothers and me.  I was not old enough to realize how special – and rare – that was.  My guess is that it became an everyday backyard game ball, because it certainly is not mounted under glass on my shelf.

Something extraordinary happened in 1921 that changed, and enhanced, baseball fever.  For the first time in history, the World Series, featuring a “subway battle” between the New York Giants and the New York Yankees, was broadcast on radio under the voice of the famous Grantland Rice.  Then a 9-game series, the Giants defeated the Yankees 5 games to 3 games.

That event opened the door for students, decades later, to sneak “transistor” radios and earphones into the classroom at school to hear the broadcast.  Teachers easily detected their shenanigans, some of whom confiscated the radios, and others who graciously turned a blind eye (and asked for an occasional update!).

Nearly a century later, the stadium atmosphere still is exciting, but there is something to be said for relaxing in a recliner at home with a refrigerator full of concessions and the advantage of the rewind button on the remote and the ability to watch every game – even all of the playoff games – without missing a pitch.

I once attended a game at Turner Field where our seats were so far away from the infield that I literally could not see the baseball leave the pitcher’s hand or the hitter’s bat. I determined that day to either spend the money on decent seat location or stay home. However, especially if your ticket seats you close to the action, there really is nothing like being there.

Recent films have declared that “Heaven is For Real” and “God’s Not Dead.” You can see it on the big screen or on DVD, and you can read about it in books, but there is nothing like actually being there. The Bible offers a word picture of heaven and details on how to get there when that time comes in your life.  Take a look for yourself.  This is one time when being there is the only way to really experience it.

What is the Main Thing for You?

May 6, 2013

What is the Main Thing for You?
By Steven J. Callis

     On a trip to Kentucky a few years ago, I found the opportunity to tour the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory. The 2-story high baseball bat at the entrance to the building was a sure sign that I was in for a treat. According to their website, the total weight of the bat is approximately 68,000 pounds. The hollow interior has a 30,000 gallon capacity. The bat is constructed of ASTM A36 carbon steel, 120 ft. long and 9 ft. diameter at the base; 3 ft. 6 in. diameter at the handle with a 6 ft. 6 in. diameter knob.
     After a brief introductory film, my group of about 20 persons was led on a guided tour through the factory where the bats are made. We saw ordinary people at their posts throughout the assembly area, performing their specific task in the process of creating a baseball bat. I laughed within myself as I realized these people do the same task day after day, a simple routine for them, and people like me pay to fascinatedly watch them run a piece of wood through a machine that has been carefully set to specific dimensions for that particular batch of bats.
     This company specializes in producing baseball bats. They have not branched out into hockey sticks or bolo paddles or canoe oars. Just baseball bats. Producing 5,000 bats daily in their peak season, and with 60% of major league players using the Louisville Slugger, they have found their niche. In recent years the company has branched out into making baseball gloves and gear, but the baseball bat continues to be their main focus.
     Interestingly, the company began as a woodworking shop, manufacturing primarily butter churns. About 12 years later, the founder’s son began making baseball bats for himself as a minor league player, and for some of his teammates. By 1923, the company was selling more bats than any other bat maker in the country.
     They put into practice a philosophy that would later be prescribed by Stephen Covey – the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. This company found their niche, then focused and perfected their craft. After manufacturing butter churns and bedposts and balusters, it was the baseball bat that proved to be their most marketable product.
     You and I can be good at several things, but discovering that one thing that seems to perfectly fit our abilities and resources and purpose is the consummate attainment. The main thing does not have to be the only thing, but we must not allow secondary pursuits to distract us from that which has become our driving force for direction in life. For most of us, that main thing involves leaving our mark of goodness on the lives of others and making a positive difference in our world – truly a worthy goal.

Love What you do

March 30, 2012

Love What You Do – by Steven Callis

I once attended a PGA golf tournament in Charlotte, NC.  Near the clubhouse was a walkway where all the players must travel to reach the golf course.  I stood there for about 45 minutes seeing players walk within 3-5 feet of me, and I wondered what was going through their minds as they were either beginning or ending their round of golf.

Several of the players acknowledged the fans as they passed, and a few of them acted as though they did not even see the crowd.  Fans would sometimes wish a player good luck or “Go get ’em, Phil.”  At one point a well-known golfer in his twelfth year on the Tour walked by and one of the fans said, “Have fun out there.”  Without stopping or missing a beat the player continued walking as he replied, “Can anybody really have fun playing golf?”

I realize many things could have been in his mind at that moment.  He may have been joking, or he may have been missing his family, frustrated by something that happened in the preliminaries, or not feeling well – I certainly do not judge him on that single comment, but it did cause me to think:  man, you get paid to play golf everyday on the world’s most beautiful courses!  The weekend golfer would jump at the opportunity to play free golf, especially on such high caliber golf courses.

Understandably, no matter what a person does for a living, it can sometimes feel like a burden, a routine, joyless, and unappreciated.  Professional golfers work very hard, and their work takes them away from home and family for 5-6 days every time they enter a tournament.  They spend more time practicing and training than they do playing the actual events.  Their paycheck or reward is based, in part, on how well they perform, but also on how their competition performs.  It is very hard work, but I believe they turned professional because they love the game.

Whatever one’s role in life, there likely will be days when the role seems more of a challenge and duty than a blessing and privilege.  Discipline gets us through those difficult days, but desire and a healthy perspective restore the joy and appreciation for the role we are called to play.  Despite those occasional days when it feels like an uphill battle, following my call and fulfilling my God-ordained purpose makes it possible for me to love what I do.

In the movie, The Rookie, Jim was recruited by a minor league baseball team, but was homesick, tired, and financially stretched at home.  Weary of the game he loved and feeling defeated by the process of moving up to the big leagues, he decided to quit baseball.  However, something happened that night to change his mind and perspective, and he entered the locker room the next day with a smile on his face, “You know what we get to do today, Brooks?  We get to play baseball!”