Some people say a lie is just a lie
But I say the cross is in the ballpark
Why deny the obvious child?
Paul Simon from "Obvious Child"
"The Cross is in the Ballpark" is an image that has germinated inside me over the years. When I first heard the song, I was playing night baseball a couple times a week on my hometown's "B" ball diamond. Right field had a short porch, but left field was deep and dark. There was a haunting Oak tree just beyond the chain link fence that would glisten as the dew started to fall. I used to imagine it as a cross looming tall over us as we played our boy games. Something constant and real keeping watch over us.
WP Kinsella (author of Shoesless Joe/Field of Dreams) wrote a lesser known book called "The Iowa Baseball Confederacy" It's both a very tangible, and very fantastical story Gideon Clarke who slips through a crack in time to experience a 2000 inning baseball game in 1908, between the Tinker to Evers to Chance Cubs and a group of locals forgotten by time. The game turns into a heartbeat. Life, God and destiny begin to be made known.
These days "The Cross in the Ballpark" (like good poetry should do) has come to life for me. These days I describe is as the obliteration of lines we've drawn between the sacred and the secular. See... because some people say that a lie is just a lie, but the cross is in the ballpark. It's everywhere. Why deny the obvious? Everything is sacred. And I LOVE it when people GET this.
Dirk Hayhurst is a pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays and is a friend of a friend. He's a bit of a baseball player oddity... in that he's a deeper thinker, a writer (the soon-to-be-released "Bullpen Gospels") and a very sharp dude. As a side note... his twittering is fantastic @TheGarfoose. He's been writing articles for a local Canton Ohio newspaper and a few weeks ago a great piece called "Prayers are answered in unusual ways". Here's a snippet.
This unpredictable nature of baseball is what leads the men who play it to create such fanciful routines, rituals and superstitions — including buckets of chicken, compulsive tooth brushing and the occasional wearing of women’s underwear. Do these things really impact the sport or are they done simply to soothe a player’s mind?
I pray. I’d like to think my invocations are more than superstition, but during times such as these, when I wander to the ballpark, when no amount of compulsive tooth brushing cleanses the disgust, when my supplication becomes frustration about the absence of a changeup, communing with the Almighty seems less than divine.
At the end of my most recent walk/performance evaluation with God, a sound of joy interrupted our talk, pulling my attention from the destination of the locker doors to the patch of four-base-agony I was on last night.
There, on field, were dozens of happy children.
Plastic bases marked miniature diamonds in left, right and center field, populated by parents pitching soft, foamy balls to the long, loopy swings of bat-sized kids. The players were special-needs children. Some played positions in wheelchairs, others from behind braces.
Still others stood, under the pull of autism or Down syndrome.
God and I watched the scene.
When a long swing struck a ball into play, the children let loose with shouts, chasing after the white bauble like freshly lit firecrackers. Once caught, they clamored at the opportunity to throw their prize. To whom or where seemed irrelevant. Just throwing it was fun enough.
I couldn’t help but wonder, what did that father and his daughter pray? Was it superstition or sincerity? Were they angry when they called on God? Did they grumble about a lack of fingers to fold while praying, how it wasn’t part of their plan, how they’re tired of meeting under such circumstances?
Or were they grateful to a God that makes hugs and home runs possible, even without arms?
In this case... the cross truly was in the physical Rogers Center ballpark. Dirk sensed it. The kids did too. You could have too if you were there and realized that the sacred is all around us if we'll open our eyes to see it. Reading the things that Dirk writes is refreshing because he GETS that baseball isn't the be all and end all of life. It's just a thing. The cross is in your office. It's in your backyard. It's in the streets. It's at the bar. It's in the parks. Everything, everywhere, every moment is an opportunity to bring a little bit more of heaven to earth. Jesus taught us to pray it... so that we'd see it... and then gave us the task of allowing it happen even more.