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Baseball delivers strong personal and family values

Baseball delivers strong personal and family values, especially the need for a strong sense of faith when cheering for the Chicago Cubs. Photo © Fenoglio family archives.

Photo © Fenoglio family archives

Baseball delivers strong personal and family values, especially the need for a strong sense of faith when cheering for the Chicago Cubs.

You can learn a lot through baseball.

I don’t mean the easy stuff, like wrapping a rubber band around your well-oiled glove with a ball inside and placing it under your mattress all night to break it in; or never putting your favorite Mickey Mantle baseball card in the spokes of your Schwinn. Save that noisy and destructive place for a Bobby Richardson or a Clete Boyer.

I mean the hard stuff – the life values that many people spend their whole lives trying to understand. If they had only played baseball, they would have quickly learned how to…

Live from your heart
I love baseball, but I was never very good at it. I could field just fine and I had a quick step on the bases, but I was inconsistent at the plate and injured my throwing arm in high school.

Still, I loved being on the team with our daily practices, batting practice and fielding drills. I often came off the bench when our coach needed a pinch runner, a late-inning outfielder or even a warm-up catcher. Though I wasn’t a starting player, as long as I could play this sport I loved and sometimes helped the team win, my heart was happy.

Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller once said, “Every day is a new opportunity. You can build on yesterday’s successes or put its failures behind and start over again. That’s the way life is, with a new game every day, and that’s the way baseball is.”

Respect others
Today’s professional baseball players are a wonderful variety of races and nationalities: Caucasians, African-Americans, Latin Americans, Asians and other ethnic groups.

This kaleidoscope of colors used to be plain vanilla. For decades, the racist segregation of American society that divided blacks into separate but certainly not equal conditions extended into baseball as well.

Then in 1945, the courageous Branch Rickey, general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, signed Jackie Robinson to a professional baseball contract and the color barrier slowly disappeared from baseball. As Rickey says in “The Jackie Robinson Story,” “The box score doesn’t tell how big you are, what church you attend, what color you are, or how your father voted in the last election. It just tells what kind of baseball player you were on that particular day.”

Serve others
Even though he was on another team, I always admired Roberto Clemente, a two-time World Series champion and Hall of Fame outfielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates. A native of Puerto Rico, Clemente was a fierce competitor with a powerful bat and an even more powerful arm.

More importantly, Clemente used his salary and time to support others. During the off-seasons, he organized fundraising campaigns that delivered food, clothing and sometimes baseball equipment to those in need in Latin American and Caribbean countries. On December 31, 1972, he died in a plane crash while delivering aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.

Major League Baseball (MLB) honored his memory by creating the Roberto Clemente Award, given annually to the MLB player who “best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team,” as voted on by baseball fans and the media.

Very few of us can throw a “frozen rope” from right field to third base to tag out a runner, but we all can support our local charities and organizations. The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) has many programs that seek to make a difference in this world. Check them out at www.umcor.org.

For one glorious T-ball season, all three of my children played on the same team. Photo © Fenoglio family archives.

For one glorious T-ball season, all three of my children played on the same team. Photo © Fenoglio family archives.

I never realized how much time and effort my parents put into my baseball games until I spent the same time at my own children’s ballgames. Driving to practices and games, playing catch or going to the batting cages, cheering them on from the stands or the third base coach’s box – all this time spent with my children and baseball brought us closer together.

Love your family
Baseball always drew us Fenoglios together as a family. I have fond memories of birthdays spent at Wrigley Field, neighborhood sandlot games until dusk, my parents sitting in lawn chairs watching my games, talking to my grandfathers about their favorite teams or trying to stump my dad with trivia questions from the back of baseball cards.

I have fond memories of a bedtime discussion with Kristin about the intricacies of the Infield Fly Rule, Connor’s carefree outfield cartwheels in between batters, and Tommy’s pitches to strike out the last two batters and beat the previously undefeated Indians. These childhood memories are forever woven into my being, intertwined with the 108 double stitches of waxed red thread found in a baseball.

Live your faith
I am a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan, like my father and his father (shown above) as well. I grew up cheering for the Cubs even though they have never won a championship in my lifetime. In fact, there is no one alive today who personally witnessed the last Chicago Cubs World Series victory in 1908.

And yet, our family continues to cheer for the Cubs. In the Bible we read “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11). I believe that being a Cubs fan is helping me to keep a faithful, optimistic look on life.

Now after the surprising end to the 2015 season when the Cubs made it to the National League Championship Series, the prospects for a successful 2016 look very bright. In fact, the Cubs are the favorites to win this year’s World Series.

I won’t let myself hope for that extraordinary outcome, not just yet, but I will look forward to watching the next Cubs’ game on TV.

As the late, great Ernie Banks (“Mr. Cub) used to say, “Let’s play two!”

CF

*Christopher Fenoglio is Managing Editor for UMC.org at United Methodist Communications
He may be reached at cfenoglio@umcom.org, 615-312-3734.