Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Pastor Hank Strikes Out

Pastor Hank is up to bat again. I'm going to talk about "The Cougars," Kanner Lake's Little League Baseball Team. I am the team's coach, bus driver and all-around-encourager. I got involved with the Little League about ten years ago when Jake Tremaine asked me to help out with the umpiring stuff. Guess he thought that my job qualified me to call balls and strikes. I was pretty intimidated when I started. Having two daughters, I had never really participated in the Little League.

This new umpiring gig had a bit of a rocky start. George Cooper helped to make my first afternoon behind home plate quite a memorable one. Seems that George didn't like the way I was calling balls and strikes when his Cougars (he was the coach back then) were up to bat. The Cougars were playing the Hillside Lions and were behind by one run in the sixth inning (Little League's last inning) when George's son Albert came up to bat with two outs on the scoreboard and the bases loaded with our hometown Cougars. Albert's first and second swings connected with the ball but went into foul territory. Tension was rising.

The game was on the line.

I felt the pressure as the next ball came toward home plate. Ball one. The pitch was in the dirt. The next pitch came and Albert didn't swing. It looked good to me. "Strike three!" I yelled.

The Cougars had lost.

Well, the game might have been over for me but not for George. I first caught on to this the next day as I stood greeting members of my church after my Sunday sermon. George walked by extending his hand for a handshake but not making eye contact as he did. I blew it off and thought that George was just stewing a bit after his team's loss. Over the next week I ran into George a few times around town and he still acted cold towards me. On Friday I saw him and tried a bit of chitchat. George wasn't biting. So I barreled ahead and started to talk about the game and the Cougar's loss.

Seems that George wasn't upset about the loss. He was upset about a comment that I made in passing: "I don’t know why everyone is so upset. It's only a game.'" George went on to tell me that "his boys" had been training hard all week for the game with the Lions. The game was important to them. I felt bad about how my words discouraged these young boys and trivialized their week of hard work. I apologized to George and got a chance to talk to the team at their practice the next week. After apologizing I took the opportunity to talk to the team about how words can hurt people even when you don't want them to hurt.

I learned something that week about the Little League and about myself. The good book is right on when it says (in James 3:5--the Message translation) that "A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything--or destroy it! It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire."

Guess I started my own fire that week, and I needed to put it out.

Posted by ~ Bailey Truitt @ 7:00 AM
Oh Pastor Hank, that is so well said. We just don't know the power of our words sometimes. I'm so glad that you and George got that all worked out.
Posted by Anonymous angie b : 8:45 AM
I've never been one for reading the Bible much, but I certainly see the wisdom in the verse you quoted. A good reminder to us all to watch our tongues.
Posted by Anonymous elizabeth monty : 8:52 AM
Ooh, boy, yes, kids take their games seriously. Sometimes the parents take 'em even more seriously. I've seen moms and dads yelling at umpires like you wouldn't believe. Just be glad, Hank, you weren't on the receiving end of one of those parents.
Posted by Anonymous fred wiley : 11:09 AM
Fred, that's because some of those umpires didn't have a clue what they were doing--especially when they were calling an out on my son.
Posted by Anonymous r.j. hager : 11:31 AM
Hi, Chief Edwards here. (I've been lurking on your blog, Bailey.) Tim used to play Little League. Those were the days. I tried not to miss any games, although that was tough with my rotating schedule at the time.
Posted by Anonymous Vince Edwards : 11:33 AM
Yup, Vince, and we loved to watch your boy play. The whole town misses him. Always will.
Posted by Anonymous burt laroy : 2:37 PM
Funny how no women comment on posts about baseball! I know what you mean about respecting what's important to others. I learned years ago to quit telling my wife, "It's only hair," when she got upset about a haircut or had a bad hair day. She could shave her head and I'd love her, but for some reason, she just isn't happy unless she thinks her hair looks good!
Posted by Anonymous Anonymous : 7:17 PM
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