With baseball season in full swing, I’m a happy man. New Englanders are crazy for the sport, and each spring the fever sets in and we all go ape for the Red Sox. I’ve been an enthusiast since I can remember, and baseball is particularly nostalgic for me as it’s a pastime I shared with my dad.
My father worked long hours, but never denied me a throw-around in the yard after work, and he never missed a Little League event. It didn’t occur to me at the time, but baseball season must have been exhausting. Despite all of the positive baseball experiences I shared with my father, including nightly springtime games of catch, several teams coached, and countless trips to Fenway (including Game 3 of the ’86 World Series) there is one moment that sticks out in my mind as an unfortunate one: the night I accused him of being a bad father.
Like most Little Leagues, my town had an annual All-Star game made up of the premier players. The coaches of each team picked their top 2 players, and that time had come. I had batted leadoff all season, had a solid batting average, and was an excellent first baseman. Considering my strong statistics and the reality that my Dad was the coach, I figured I was a shoe-in for the All-Star squad. Unfortunately, I had neglected to consider one obstacle: Chester Lee.
Chester was also a solid baseball player. He also had a strong batting average and superb fielding skills. In fact, his abilities were arguably superior to mine. The day of the All-Star announcement came, and I anticipated Dad’s list of players he selected for the All-Star game. As we all expected, his first choice was David Warter, who just may have batted .900 that year! Then his second choice was announced. He did not announce my name. He announced Chester ’s. I was not pleased.
I didn’t speak to my father the entire drive home, and for the rest of the evening. Finally, I burst into his room and berated him for betraying his own son. He calmly looked me in the eye and said, “Do you think you are a better ball player than Chester ?” I knew I wasn’t, but my ten-year-old mind couldn’t get past it. I argued that my status as his son should have trumped the obvious. He disagreed. I scolded him again for his lack of loyalty. Instead of punishing me, he simply turned and went into the other room, I suspect, to cry. And Dad didn’t cry. Ever. He was tough. Army and NFL tough (he had short careers in both).
I later understood that this was a lesson in goodness. As a God-fearing man, Dad was certainly concerned with making the fair decision, but he was also concerned about teaching his son about the importance of this Fruit of the Spirit. This was an integral part of his decision to be my coach in the first place. Had he spoiled his own son he would have cheated Chester out of an opportunity he deserved and earned. He would have set a poor example, which went against his beliefs as a follower of Christ, as well as the ethics of being a coach. He did what he knew was best for me.
Our heavenly Father also desires goodness from His followers. We need to trust that He knows what is best for us as individuals, and that giving us what isn’t good for us is detrimental to our service and relationship with Him. It interferes with our goodness and Christian example to others. We need to trust that God has our growth at heart, and we need to be thankful for each teaching moment He provides.
“The Fruit of the Spirit is…goodness.” (Galations 5:22)