We Interrupt This Family for Baseball Season

By Jim Wallis 05-30-2013
Jim Wallis with the Tigers Little League team. Photo courtesy Jim Wallis

Jim Wallis with the Tigers Little League team. Photo courtesy Jim Wallis

On Memorial Day weekend, our family of four participated in six baseball games! Having just returned from a six-week book tour, it was such a refreshing change from discussing our nation’s politics, which is all the media wants to talk about and is more and more well, disgusting.  

A sign outside our home’s front door says, “This family has been interrupted by the baseball season.” Both of our boys play, I coach, and my wife Joy Carroll is the Little League Baseball Commissioner — cool job for a Church of England priest!

On Saturday, we played in the Northwest Little League All Star game, which I got to coach with my son Jack on one of the teams. Our team came out on top, and Joy made 100 hotdogs for a celebration after the game. Our last victory cheer was “1, 2, 3, HOTDOGS!” The picture here shows the enthusiasm of the 9- and 10-year-olds I get to coach every single week. It’s what keeps me grounded in real life — amid the politics of this dysfunctional capital city — and it’s what gives me joy. Coaching baseball has also kept me deeply connected to my two sons, as I write about in my new book.

We had just helped save an immigration reform bill in the Senate Judiciary Committee — advocating for 11 million undocumented people who Jesus calls the “strangers” against the special interest politics of both left and right — when I entered the field for our Little League Tigers game on Friday night. It was just what I needed.

Here is a great baseball story that explains why I love Little League Baseball.

Our Tigers is the strongest team in our league — our opponent, the Phillies, one of the weaker. But one of their players was on our team last year, and he played his heart out against his old friends. Danny was their starting pitcher and shut us down for the first three innings with amazing throws. We got three runs in the fourth inning, but that’s all we got until the top of the sixth when we had to hold the Phillies to win the game. We were missing our two veteran pitchers that night, so two of our younger ones had to step up. They did, but we walked two of the Phillies in the top of this last sixth inning. Then Danny stepped up and powered a line shot into the left-center gap, which scored two runs and landed him on third with a stand-up triple. But we finished the game by getting three outs, and poor Danny was sadly stranded at third base — you could see the emotional disappointment on the young boy’s face.

We always have a post-game team meeting to discuss what we learned, since baseball teaches us the “lessons of life!” I was surprised when I didn’t hear these kids say things like “We’re still undefeated!” or “That’s 10-0!” Instead, they were concerned about Danny. “He played so hard and almost beat us by himself,” they said. “And it was so sad to see him stranded at third base at the end of the game.”

I always give out “game balls” for player’s performance on game day. Two of the kids who got a game ball said,” I think we should give Danny our game balls.” So they walked over to Danny and gave him their game balls, and told him how much our team respected how well he had played against us. It made Danny feel a lot better — and made me remember why I love this game and these kids. No politics, but respect and sportsmanship — something almost entirely lacking in Washington, D.C.

My new book, On God’s Side, has lots of these types of stories about coaching baseball, parenting, respect, and civility (sportsmanship in politics). During my last week in Michigan, I did an interview with David Crumm, who went beyond the current state of politics to cover the breadth of these stories. He just sent me his interview and the blog series  on the common good it sparked, with a note to me saying “Coverage is unfolding of your book, Jim, including C.S. Lewis and Little League!”

broader conversation about the common good is starting. I hope you read the book, go beyond politics, remember our call to civility, and GO TO A LITTLE LEAGUE BASEBALL GAME!

Jim Wallis is CEO of Sojourners. His book, On God's Side: What Religion Forgets and Politics Hasn’t Learned About Serving the Common Good, is now available. Watch the Story of the Common Good HERE. Follow Jim on Twitter @JimWallis.

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