Husband & Wife Articles


 

A Timeless Game

Faith and family bonds are forged through baseball

By Rob Guinan

The summer when my family visited a number of minor league baseball stadiums, my wife, Sharon, and I were pleasantly surprised to see how many parents enjoyed spending a beautiful evening at the ballpark with their children. I had gained my appreciation for baseball from my father. He schooled me on the elements of the game: its players, statistics, strategy and rich traditions. I would imagine what it would be like to be a great pitcher, with grace, strength and balance.

My favorite pitcher of all-time is my father. He would pitch to me every night when he got home from work, often before he even took off his tie. Yet like most dads, he was more than just a pitcher for me. He could play almost any position on a moment's notice! Scout leader, EMT, college guidance counselor, high school tutor, travel agent, financial advisor and, most of all, moral and spiritual guide. 

Rob and Sharon Guinan.

It seems to me that baseball offers much in the moral and spiritual department. In theory, a baseball game could go on forever. Nine innings is only the standard. Other sports begin and end by the clock, the markings of mortal moments; baseball, however, features a folklore that has been known to travel way beyond the fences. Once I read a story about the longest home run ever hit. The ball flew over the left field wall and onto a truck. It ended up “landing” 1,000 miles away, where the driver completed his delivery. Baseball players also play on a perfect stone – a diamond in the center of the field – which is also the name for the stone specially chosen to symbolize the love between a husband and a wife. And God isn’t forgotten at the ballgame. Many fans still sing “God Bless America” at the seventh inning stretch – a tradition that some historians claim was begun by a religious De La Salle brother.

In Crossing the Threshold of Hope, St. John Paul II wrote about “rays of fatherhood.” It was through this incredibly gifted pope that I first was understand more fully the richness of father and child relationships, how they mirror the divine and are richly embroidered into a Catholic life. How this simple but elegant mystery is in fact one of the greatest mysteries of all reminds me of Malachi 4:6: “He will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers.”

When my father was in his final inning of life, I brought my baseball glove into his hospital room and we had a catch. Dad threw me light tosses from his bed. Fortunately, the nurse didn’t see us and we didn’t knock out any IV lines. We were careful. He was happy. Growing up I went to dozens of games with my dad. I enjoyed every one. But fast forward to today, what I remember most is not the great catch or the long home run, but the man who sat next to me in his hospital bed.

As the thoughts of a nation turn to this timeless pastime during the World Series season, it is good to reflect on what makes this sport so special. Baseball gives us one small glimpse into heaven, where we consider anew the wonder of John Paul II’s words. And while I will enjoy the World Series, what I long for even more is the forever-new springtime of eternal life. Because that’s when the new season begins and where April is never far off.

Rob Guinan is the author of Anne Among Us: First Fear … Then Miscarriage. A Catholic Father’s Diary (Quaker Lane Crossing). He worked as a staff writer for an international bank.