My First Home Run

Yesterday on my way home for lunch I was listening to a sport’s radio station. During the conversation, one of the commentators mentioned Little League. At that point, my mind leapt back to my first year of Little League and my first home run. I have no idea why my mind took me there or how that works. I know that I hit other home runs; but, for whatever reason, this one is the one I remember.

I think I was around 10 years old and I was ‘drafted’ by the Wildcats, which mattered less to me than the red-trimmed uniform I got to wear to the games. As a 10 year old rookie, I rode the bench to start every game. Since the league had a rule that everyone had to play a specified number of innings, I usually entered the game somewhere after the 4th inning of a 7 inning game.

We were playing one of the better teams in the league, which meant any one of the other teams. Their pitcher was at the older end of the age scale (I’m sure he was starting to shave) and he was dominating us. By the time I made it into the game, the score was well out of reach—we were on the short end of a shut out.

It was the 5th inning and I was going to bat. I put the helmet on, which at this point of my ‘career’ came down to my eye brows. I picked up a bat, threw some sand on my hands, and smacked them together like every other Little Leaguer did. I stepped up to the plate and looked the pitcher in the eye. Now, I have to tell you that I saw the ball in his hand when he started, but I didn’t see the ball again until the catcher showed it to me! Things moved a whole lot faster once you were in the batter’s box.

The next few moments are still a bit of a blur—even after all these years of reflecting on them. After a couple of pitches, for some still unknown reason I swung the bat. At that point something startling happened—I heard the ‘crack’ of wood on leather. I had heard that sound before, but never when I swung. In a millisecond the ‘crack’ was replaced by cheering (from one side of the field) and yells (more like screams) to “Run! Run! Run!” I had no idea what had happened to the ball, but I ran. The coach at first was pointing to second base with one arm and whirly-birding with his other arm for me to keep running. I ran to second and noticed that the infielders were still watching the outfielder try to catch up with the ball. So I ran to third, where to my utter astonishment the coach was pointing to home and whirly-birding his arm for me to run home.

Once I crossed home plate, I was greeted by my team. I had single-handedly scored our first run. I had single-handedly ruined the shutout. I had hit my first home run—no errors!!! My Little League ‘career’ had started with a bang—life was good.

Now there was just one small glitch. You have to understand that this was a community league. It was hard to find umpires for the games. At times, fathers were ‘volunteered’ to umpire. Some of the fathers knew very little about the game. And this was one of those occasions. While I was glorying in the triumphal start of my Little League ‘career,’ the base umpire asked the second baseman if it was important that I hadn’t touched second base.

The second baseman promptly got the ball, touched the base, and the home plate umpire called me out. In a millisecond, my Little League ‘career’ went into total deflation!!

You see, there’s an inescapable principle built into creation, whether you are 10 or 62—“If anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules” (2 Tim. 2:5, NASB). It didn’t matter whether I missed one base or three bases, whether by an inch or by a yard (closer to the truth), I still had to touch all the bases—that’s the rule. It didn’t matter whether or not I knew the rules (I did)—it only mattered that I followed the rules, and I hadn’t. A hard way for a 10 year old to learn this biblical truth; but a necessary truth to learn at any age.

P.S. By the way, they walked me the next time up AND, later in my ‘career,’ I got to hit my first home run again (that time I touched all the bases)!!

About Charles McLain
I am Chair and Professor of Old Testament at Calvary Baptist Seminary in Lansdale, PA.

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