It’s past time for a little light relief in this space. A number of things happened outside of the life of the Church in recent days to set me thinking about the topic contained in the title to this blog entry.
First, there was the announcement that my favorite baseball player had been traded by my favorite baseball team – BEN ZOBRIST. That news was a bitter pill and hard to swallow. Like most RAYS fans, we hated saying good-bye to David Price two-thirds of the way through last season and it was really hard to realize that the team’s future would not include Andrew Friedman who I always thought was a “genius” and Joe Madden who I have long held was the best manager in baseball. But I took comfort that this year we would still have “Gentle Ben” and “Longo”. Especially the former.
I loved watching Ben Zobrist play baseball. But I loved even more Ben Zobrist watching with pride and love as his wife Julianna would occasionally sing the National Anthem before a Rays game. It was clear to me that he loved her more than he loved baseball as he shot her a sign of that love at the end of the song. I sat in the waiting room of my doctor who was also Ben’s family doctor when one day he and she brought the children to the office. It was clear to me then that he loved his children even more than he loved baseball. And it has always been clear to me that Ben Zobrist loved God more than he loved baseball as he was ever ready to appear at a local Church to show the kids that real men could indeed love God and have faith.
Then I read their book, Double Play, co-authored by both which told the story of their meeting, their falling in love, their challenges living with the vagaries of professional sports. To me Ben Zobrist is not just a great baseball player but a great example for kids and adults. Toward the end of last season, a friend of mine whose father, a retired Florida judge, asked if I might secure an autographed baseball since his Dad attended the same Protestant Church in Eureka, Illinois where Ben’s Dad is pastor. I asked our common doctor and he approached Ben who gladly did it with a lovely inscription – more than just an autograph.
Madden gave him the nickname “Zorilla” but for me he will always be a great witness to love for and faith in Christ, a great husband and father, and a steady student of the fine art of baseball in all its manifestations. I personally will greatly miss him. I wish him well always and hope and pray that I will be found worthy to meet him again in heaven.
Having lived in Columbus, Ohio from 1957 until 1972, and also having attended the Ohio State University, the Buckeyes kept me up later last night than usual and I rejoiced at their convincing victory. Urban Meyer is a serious Catholic as well as a fine leader of men and football coach. I was happy for him and for his team.
I don’t have a dog in the NFL hunt though I am developing a great appreciation for Aaron Rodgers. I think I am going to need someone in the pro-ranks to root for as it appears that Peyton Manning may soon be fading from the scene. I will switch my quarterback allegiance, however, in a nanosecond if the Bucs draft Marcus Mariota, a truly gifted athlete for whom narcissism is simply a Greek root and humility is genuine and deeply appreciated.
Here I have mentioned men of discipline, character and faith. We need more of them – in life, in the Church, and in professional sports. By the way, a special prize to anyone who can tell me in the comment section the context of the title to this blog!