Derek Jeter: Baseball At Its’ Best?

Derek Jeter

From July, 2014

Derek Sanderson Jeter just played in his last All Star Game and is playing in his 20th and final season with the only team he’s ever known. At the All Star Game he went 2 for 2 and was the darling of the dance. The incomparable heart beat of the Bronx Bombers, Jeter is the poster child of the pinstripe prima donnas, and the captain of the team that captivates us all. Jeter’s team, the New Yankees, is the team that we love to hate, and Jeter is a player that we will hate to lose.

Jeter is the heart and soul and the modern “Pride” of the Yankees. He’s won five World Series rings, and lost 2. And the two he lost he hated to lose. And hating to lose, more so than loving to win, is his enduring legacy. His stats are stellar, but stats are only one thing; his persona, on the other hand, is something else altogether. He has what we call “presence.” He fills the room, or the field, for that matter. You know he’s there even without a sound from his mouth or a word from his lips. He‘s a star, a superstar for that matter, and yet his legacy will be in his significance, not his stardom.

Jeter gives us the lesson of longevity, the discipline of durability, and the aura of authenticity. In recent memory, few other baseball players have made such a big deal or lasted such a long time or meant as much to such a broad body of baseball fans as Jeter. The short list may contain Cal Ripken Jr., who played 21 seasons with the Baltimore Orioles. That’s it. That’s the list.

So don’t strive to be successful. Strive to be significant. A dear pastor friend told his congregation that “It is better to be significant than to be successful,” and “It is better to make a difference than to make a dollar.” And here’s one more “it is better:” the Bible says that “It is better for a man to hear the rebuke of the wise than to hear the song of fools” (Ecclesiastes 7:5, RSV). I imagine that Jeter has accepted the rebuke of the wise and rejected the song of many fools in his long, storied career.

So let’s learn the lessons and discern the didactics of Derek Jeter. He is one of the last of those players that I grew up with who truly love the game. In turn, the game has loved him right back, and rewarded him with significance to boot.

Springtime and Baseball

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Baseball brings spring; or is it that spring brings baseball? Or do both come at the same time? Whatever the case, now that the trees are blooming and the grass is greening and the birds are chirping their little hearts out, it’s now springtime; it’s time for spring and it’s time for baseball and it’s time for hope. With childlike faith, it’s time to spring from hope and it’s time to gain hope from spring.

Baseball comes with spring. And, like Baseball or no, it’s coming in April is one sure sign that spring has sprung. So shake off the weariness of winter and put on the spritz of spring. Shake off the winter blues and welcome the spirited good news. The good news is that God will not leave us in the winter of our discontent; God will not leave us to wane with the winds of winter; God’s will is not that we wallow and wander and are left to the whims of wintry weather. This frigid and freezing, frosty and frightening time of our lives is called by the ancients, “the dark night of the soul.”

Baseball and spring come because we all crave a release from being confined by the darkness of winter and being consigned to the weariness of the weather. The despair of our hearts and the darkness of our souls leave us longing for a “spring” to come. Our doubts need to be soothed and our fears need to be calmed. For all of us that long to emerge from the darkness of our winters, here is some pain medicine: let’s spring from hope and gain hope from spring.

Alexander Pope said that “hope springs eternal.” It must. The great God of the Universe that so many people doubt and don’t believe in was wise enough to give us the season of spring. And not just one or two or a scattered few, but many, manifold springs; one every year. And with spring comes hope, and from hope we can spring.

Baseball is like spring and spring is like baseball; baseball and spring bring hope. Every spring, every team (mostly the Yankees and the Red Sox!) begin the season with the hope of winning the World Series. So like baseball or no, hold onto the hope that this sport brings. Hold on to the hope that you too will emerge from the dark night of your soul with joy and say, “the time of the singing of the birds has come.”

Spring brings light and life for all of us who have high hopes and deep fears. Spring is for all of us who have doubts about how “things” are going to turn out. Spring is for all those who stretch for and hold on to future hope, but also have a strong penchant for present help. We believe in pie in the sky by and by, but also hope to eat some of that pie before we die. We struggle with what the theologians call “the already and the not yet.” We believe that things will change for the better but wrestle with if and when that change will come.

So take courage my soul, and let us journey on. “Take me out to the ball game, take me out with the crowd. Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack, for we don’t care if we never get back.” Hope says “root, root, root, for the home team.  If they don’t win it’s a shame, for its one, two, three strikes you’re out,” if you don’t hold on to hope at the old ball game of life. So spring from hope, and gain hope from spring, for it’s time to “Play ball!”

 

Hope springs eternal in the human breast;

Man never is, but always to be blessed:

The soul, uneasy and confined from home,

Rests and expatiates in a life to come.

 

– Alexander Pope, An Essay on Man