Hitting Refresh on “Opening Day”

“There is no sports event like ‘Opening Day’ of baseball, the sense of beating back the forces of darkness and the National Football League.” George Vecsey, A Year in the Sun (1989)

The official countdown began last November 2nd after the Chicago Cubs outlasted the Cleveland Indians in a 10-inning contest to win the 2016 World Series. Now, 150 days later, fans of America’s “National Pastime” eagerly wait to hear these two magic words again, “Play Ball”!

Numerous notable achievements have occurred on baseball’s “Opening Day,” such as …

  • In 1940, Cleveland Indians pitcher Bob Feller threw a no-hitter to open 
the season against the Chicago White Sox … the only no-hitter in “Opening Day” history.
  • Ted Williams was a career .449 hitter over the course of 14 openers, with three home runs, 14 runs batted in, with at least one hit in each game.
  • In 14 season openers for the Washington Senators, Walter Johnson pitched a record nine shutouts.

Most baseball fans cite “Opening Day” as the “official” start of Spring, serving as a symbol of rebirth … a chance to forget the failures of last season … to start with a clean slate of 162 games yet to be played … 0 wins – 0 losses … and the promise of landing in the “Fall Classic” toward the end of this calendar year. The prolific baseball writer, Thomas Boswell, even wrote a book titled, Why Time 
Begins on Opening Day.

Since many Major League baseball teams typically play their home opener in the afternoon, countless baseball fans recognize “Opening Day” as an unofficial holiday … a good reason to call-in sick at work, or to skip school. The 2017 season is a bit confusing since three games will be played Sunday afternoon and evening, followed by a full schedule of games on Monday for the remaining 24 teams.

I must confess that on April 9th, 1993, I kept our then 12-year-old son out of school in order to welcome Major League baseball to the Rocky Mountains! The Colorado Rockies hosted the Montreal Expos at Mile High Stadium … Eric Young homered to lead off the bottom of the first inning, which brought the record-setting crowd of 80,227 to its feet … including us! Colorado won 11–4! My rationale? … never wanting school to get in the way of his education! … more on that in a future blog post.

But what does “Opening Day” have to do with disciple-building? This is, after all, a blog about “equipping & mobilizing men to follow Jesus.”

“Opening Day” provides many helpful reminders that apply to the Christian life as well. It’s like hitting a “refresh” button on our life of discipleship.

The promise of baseball’s “Opening Day” reminds us of the anticipation of “new life” that we experienced on that day when we said “Yes” to Jesus’ invitation to “Come … Follow.”

  • “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

The clean slate for living, provided by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, reminds us of what God does with our past failures.

  • “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:12)
  • “He will again have compassion on us; He will tread our iniquities under foot. Yes, You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.” (Micah 7:19)

Daily following the footsteps of Jesus doesn’t make us immune to temptation, nor will it guarantee we won’t occasionally “strike out,” miss the mark of the strike zone, or commit an error in judgment or behavior. But this is why the apostle John reminds us of this promise:

  • “If (and when) we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

Major League Baseball’s regular schedule of 162 games, followed by the playoffs and World Series, will last seven months … a long, sometimes arduous, season of sport. This also reminds us that following Jesus is not a one-time event, not a quick sprint, but more like a steady marathon. This is why the writer of the N.T. book of Hebrews urges us to …

  • “… lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith.” (12:1–2)

The Baseball Almanac records that Hall of Fame pitcher Early Wynn, who played for the Washington Senators, Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox, summed up the essence of “Opening Day” when he said, “An opener is not like any other game. There’s that little extra excitement, a faster beating of the heart. You have that anxiety to get off to a good start, for yourself and for the team. You know that when you win the first one, you can’t lose ’em all.”

How about you? What take-aways from baseball’s “Opening Day” can you apply to your life of following Jesus? Share them by leaving a comment.

Peace & Joy!

~ tr

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