August 15, 2010
An Umpire, a Pitcher and an Example
One of my summer jobs throughout my time in the seminary and prior to my ordination as a Deacon was that of a baseball umpire. Some individuals humorously state that the job prepared me to be a Bishop—-lots of “close calls” with not everyone agreeing with you!We have learned more about the world of the umpire in the widely broadcast story of a mistaken call that recently cost a pitcher the thrill of hurling a “perfect game.” On June 2, with one out to go in the bottom of the ninth inning, a ground ball was hit. The Detroit Tigers’ pitcher, Armando Galarraga, covered first base. The runner was clearly out. However, the umpire, Jim Joyce, ruled the runner safe. Due to the error, Armando Galarraga will not be listed in the record books as one of the elite number of pitchers who ever threw a perfect game.
While this was an unfortunate development in sports, the responses of the umpire and pitcher have provided valuable lessons regarding the manner in which to handle adversity. After the call was made and knowing its consequences, the pitcher simply smiled and continued the game without any display of anger. After the game and upon seeing the videotape, the umpire humbly acknowledged the mistake. In fact, he asked to meet with the pitcher in the clubhouse to convey his heartfelt apology. The pitcher reminded the umpire that no one is “perfect.” The next game day, the umpire and pitcher met on the field and displayed sportsmanship, class, respect and professionalism. Their examples speak loudly – to every baseball player, coach, umpire and fan – of the necessary perspective we must maintain.
We can also apply the examples of the pitcher and the umpire to our spiritual lives. While it is sometimes difficult to admit, we must realize that none of us is “perfect.” We make mistakes and bad judgments. We sin and we fail. In order to grow in our spiritual lives, we must not waste time or energy making “excuses.” To be truly reconciled, we must acknowledge our sins, express our sorrow and seek forgiveness. The Good News is that Our Lord Jesus embraces us in His infinite mercy and love. How blessed we are to experience these gifts most especially in the Sacraments of Eucharist and Penance.
Likewise, we may also have to admit that we have failed others. We discover true freedom simply by stating our mistake and offering a sincere apology to anyone we have offended by our words or deeds. In turn, we must not expect anyone to be “perfect.” We should always be willing and ready to accept the apology others may have to offer us so that together we can begin anew.
The umpire stated that he had been in the profession for twenty-plus years and all that time no one knew him. Now because of that one mistake, he is the most recognizable umpire in the sport. Since that time, coaches and managers have taken the time to offer praise and encouragement for his good work throughout the years. In our own lives, we can easily focus on what we have done wrong and on our limitations or that one bad decision. However, growth in our spiritual lives demands that we daily give thanks for the many ways God uses us as His instruments and works in and through us. Celebrate what you have accomplished with God’s grace and never forget the miraculous ways the Lord has used you and continues to use you as His instrument each and every day. In the same way, lift up and encourage those who may be unable to see God’s blessings in their midst, especially those who may be overwhelmed with recent failure or hardship.
The call that deprived a pitcher of a perfect game reminds us that the world of sports can often teach some valuable lessons in life and in our spiritual journey. We should pray daily for the grace to keep our priorities in order to demonstrate sportsmanship on and off the field, to reflect class and respect in our dealings with others, to acknowledge our failures, to apologize when necessary, to forgive those who have injured us, to celebrate our accomplishments and to support those in our midst who are in most need of encouragement.
By the way, I remember some significant mistakes I made as an umpire and I acknowledge that I am still far from perfect. Thus, how can I not help but take this opportunity to ask you to continue to support your Bishop, especially in those “close calls” that have to be made!
HAT TIP: Seminarian Philip Gerard Johnson at 8/15/2010