I love October baseball. The crispness in the air and the rare cold-weather-baseball as teams battle it out in dramatic fashion. The roar of the crowd at the crack of the bat as a hitter lifts a ball toward the fence. It’s unlike anything in sports. It’s fun to imagine being on the field playing while millions watch.
My dad pitched for the Orioles from ’76 to ’87. One of the benefits of your dad playing major league baseball is the stories. He says one of his greatest memories was his first playoff game against the Angels in Anaheim.
My mom and dad both grew up in Los Angeles. They met in high school where my dad played baseball. My dad was signed by the Yankees out of high school and moved to the east coast. Several years later he married my mom and my dad ended up with the Orioles. In 1979 the Orioles played the Angels in the American League Champion Series. My dad was going back to his hometown to pitch in the biggest game of his life to date.
As he walked out of the visiting dugout and down the sideline to warm up he remembers seeing almost every person he had grown up with cheering him on. A “Good luck Scott!” from his childhood friends, “Come on Scotty!” from his high school coach, a “Go get em son” from his dad. My dad remembers being an emotional mess as he started to warm up.
My dad won the game and the series that day with a 6-hit complete game shutout. He wasn’t bad. It was a great day.
Hebrews 11 recounts many of the heroes of the faith and the ways they had walked by faith and been used in extraordinary ways by God. Then in Hebrews 12 the author addresses his readers by saying,
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith…“
To perform a song as tens of thousands sing along or to catch a winning touchdown as the crowd erupts must be incredible. I can only imagine how fast your heart beats and the rush of adrenaline you feel in those moments.
However, to be cheered on, encouraged and prayed for by the greatest heroes of the faith, by angels and our Lord himself is beyond comparison. What we often fail to realize is if we have faith in Jesus we have this great crowd behind us everyday! When we’re discouraged we hear “stay faithful friend,” from Moses who lead the difficult Israelites for 40 years through the desert. When we’re tempted to be consumed with the pleasures of this world we hear “love the Lord with all your heart!” from King David who knows the pain of trading the love of God for fleeting pleasures. When we’re overwhelmed a “keep your eyes on Jesus, he’ll never let you sink,” from Peter who walked on water with the Lord. When we are crushed with guilt from sin we hear “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ!” from Paul who used every breath down to his last to proclaim the good news. An “In Christ Alone!” from Martin Luther. A “to live is Christ and to die is gain” from Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The list goes on and on. And this is to say nothing of the thousands of martyrs through the centuries. If their shouts of encouragement and inspiration were audible they would be so loud it would shake the ground we walk on.
Most encouraging of all we have a God who rescued us with his own life. It’s the applause of this Lord that is alone worthy of living for. He “indeed is interceding for us.” Perhaps most encouraging of all the words of encouragement my dad heard that day in Anaheim was “Go get ’em son.” God who placed the stars in place, cares for us. He calls us sons and daughters.
My dad many times felt the thrill of performing before a roaring crowd and these are fun stories to hear. Yet, I’m thankful that it’s not for the crowds in stadiums my dad ultimately lives and neither should we. The largest screaming stadium falls faint in comparison to the deafening roar of the cloud of witnesses and our heavenly father cheering us on each and every day. Though this isn’t our home, we do have significant home field advantage.