As a kid, I loved baseball. As a kid growing up in South Jersey, I loved the Philadelphia Phillies. As a kid growing up in South Jersey who loved the Phillies, I loved Mike Schmidt. He was my hero and I watched him play every chance I got.
I remember being on a camping trip with a bunch of other boys and dads from our church. I was probably around 9 or 10 years old. I was playing with a friend near a shallow, slow-moving river where the occasional canoe would meander by. I recall a canoe and its paddlers paddling by when one of them–an lady probably in her 50s–called to me on the shore, “Hello!” “Hi!” I replied. She called out, “You look like a baseball player!”
She couldn’t have known it, but she had just gifted me with the greatest, most magnificent compliment a boy could receive. I was immediately dumbfounded and honestly don’t think I said anything else to the stranger in the canoe. My brain was spinning, trying to figure out how this women knew of my love for baseball and how its all I wanted to do, and how I dreamed of playing with my hero and idol, Michael Jack Schmidt in the major leagues someday. She must have just seen it in my eyes. I must’ve so powerfully oozed a love for baseball that she couldn’t help but see my future in it.
After she was gone around the next bend and out of sight, I stood there with mouth a-gape. Still reeling. Still reveling in those 6 glorious words, believing this woman was undoubtedly a prophetess, uttering the proclamation of my future glory on a major league diamond somewhere. Then I looked down at my left hand. And saw my baseball glove.
Oooooooooh. So THAT’S how she knew I loved baseball. That lady wasn’t a prophetess. She just had functioning eyeballs and the ability to spout the obvious to little kids onshore.
I won’t say that my dreams of baseball stardom were dashed that day, but they were severely dented. Maybe I wasn’t headed for the majors after all.
This morning on my commute to work I was listening to the radio when the song “Centerfield” came on. If you haven’t heard it, John Fogerty basically created the defining song about baseball.
“Put me in, coach! I’m ready to play…today. Put me in, coach! I’m ready to play…today.
Look at me, I can be….centerfield!”
As a youth pastor I sometimes think about who I am, where I am, and what I do. It doesn’t happen often, but every once in a while someone will dare to ask me if I’d ever consider taking a “lead” or “senior” pastor role. I think to many it equates to a call to the major leagues.
But I don’t think so…at all.
I love student ministry and while I’m very realistic about my plummeting “hipness” factor, I still love every single day that I get to pray for, serve, speak to, disciple, laugh with, counsel, help, support, walk with, listen to, and influence the next generation. I just love it. It’s not easy, it’s not pretty, it’s not lucrative, it’s not glamorous, it’s not simple, it’s not always fun…but I just somehow love it. Will I do this for another 21 years? Who knows. But for now, “Put me in, Coach!”
So whether you’re in full time ministry or mopping floors (there’s often overlap there), my prayer for you is that you wake up tomorrow with an insatiable desire to play centerfield. Wherever you find yourself.