- - Tuesday, March 26, 2024

The Major League Baseball season technically began last week in Seoul, South Korea with a two-game series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres. The traditional start with a full slate of games, though, kicks off this Thursday – and those of us who love and appreciate the game are delighted to see its return.

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Of course, I realize that not everyone loves baseball. In fact, I’m sure some of you don’t even care for it, preferring other sports – or no sport at all. But baseball is more than just a sport. It’s even more than just a game.

My childhood is full of some tough memories. Memories of a broken home, broken promises and dreams that just didn’t come true. But it wasn’t all bad, and thanks to baseball, I have one particular memory that stands out in vivid, wonderful color.

The date was Saturday June 23, 1973. You could look it up. I had just stepped off a Greyhound bus in San Gabriel, California. I was there for a highly anticipated weekend visit with my father. I had just come from my foster family.

“Do you want to go get a Dodger Dog?” my dad asked me, just seconds after saying hello. I was incredulous. Was he serious?

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He was, but we had to hurry. Another bus was leaving for Chavez Ravine, the site of Dodger Stadium and that afternoon’s doubleheader (!) with the Cincinnati Reds.

As things turned out, we missed the bus because my sister took too long to get ready! We ran for it, and even watched it pull away from the curb. I was heartbroken. We’d never make it given how infrequently the buses were running. Seeing the look on my face, my dad hailed a taxi, and for no small sum – a cost he really couldn’t afford.

So off we went, and what a day it was! I came back with a ball autographed by Johnny Bench, Steve Garvey, Joe Morgan and Pete Rose.

Yes, the same Steve Garvey currently running for the Senate in California.

Best of all, though, I came back with a rare, golden memory with my dad. I felt like a kid again. A normal kid.

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My father would die only a few years later, broke, alone and homeless. But for one shining afternoon under a warm Southern California sun, a childhood dream of mine came true: I was with my dad at a Major League ballgame! Baseball brought us together, even as the sins of a broken world ultimately pulled us apart.

Don’t tell me that baseball is just a sport. Baseball can bring and keep families together, even help draw them back through strain and strife. “Baseball is a ballet without music,” said the late Tigers announcer, Ernie Harwell. It’s “Drama without words.”

Not only on the field – but also in the stands.

I’ve also always seen baseball as a great metaphor for life and even parenting.

The season starts in the spring, a time of new life and seemingly limitless opportunity. It’s a long time between opening day and the first Sunday in October (162 games!), and even the best team will lose a couple of games per week. It takes weeks and even months for most squads to find their groove. By the Fourth of July, as tradition goes, whatever teams are in first will likely stay there, but that’s not necessarily the case. Teams and individual players run hot and cold, and one stray ball can end a season and tank a team’s momentum.

This pattern might sound familiar to parents, who naturally dream and hold out the highest of hopes for their sons and daughters. Like baseball, life is a game of inches, and even the best families don’t “win” every day. The parenting season is long, often slow and sometimes very routine, but often unpredictable, too. You win some, you lose some. Sometimes you get rained out, and plans don’t quite come together as planned. Sometimes you blow it, other times the umpire does. And every now and again, when you least expect it, something happens, and the pace quickens and it’s the bottom of the ninth and everything is on the line.

How will it turn out? Like the game of baseball – we just don’t know. But we pray, do our best, enjoy the journey – and give thanks for the days, weeks, months, and years in the sun.

Jim Daly is president of Focus on the Family and host of its daily radio broadcast, heard by more than 6 million listeners a week on nearly 2,000 radio stations across the U.S.  He also hosts the podcast ReFocus with Jim Daly.

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