(Rance is in the long-sleeves on the left. The other three are sports campers getting hydrated after a highly-competitive game of 2-base.)
I was paid to play catch.
Rance (Day #32) asked if I’d be willing to come and tell stories of baseball and faith at his church’s sports camp.
“It’s for elementary-aged kids, 3rd through 5th grades. I promise you’ll get in at least one game of catch.”
It’s been a little while since I’ve tailored my stories for elementary-aged hearers. I packed my backpack full of gloves — the old Wilson and the new, the one for lefties and the George Brett glove. The first parking lot I pulled in to was completely empty, so I exited and drove to the opposite side of the church where Rance was already in the field with a half dozen ballplayers.
For effect, I put on the old glove and got the desired reaction.
“Can you really catch with that?”
“How old is that?”
“That looks like the kind of glove Walter Johnson used!”
I was welcomed in to the game of relay throws and 2-base and demonstrated that this glove can catch both grounders and pop-ups. A couple of the kids even tried it on and asked me to throw the ball softly.
After 15 minutes, we went inside the church and I told my story of how playing catch is a creative way of fulfilling the Great Commission. The kids applauded and high-fived which was quite generous. As Rance went back outside to set up for the second baseball session, Pastor Laura stopped me.
Pastor Laura has been at King’s Way United Methodist for a couple of years and is passionate about sports ministries. Before moving to Springfield, Pastor Laura used to serve on staff in Kansas City.
And then she told me the story of how she and her church played a role in helping Willie Mays Aikens re-connect with his lost AL championship ring from 1980. I was stunned. You can read the KC Star version of the story here.
I ran back outside and caught up with Rance and a group of 5th graders. I was partnered with Hunter to warm up our arms and Rance shared the story about the time he interviewed Alex Bregman, the MVP from yesterday’s All-Star Game.
“A couple years ago, Bregman was playing in the Texas League All-Star Game, about to get a call up to AAA. And I watched him warm up just like you guys are doing now, every throw made with intentional effort. No slacking off.”
More relay throw practice.
Another game of 2-base.
I had earned my pay:
An ice cold Dr Pepper.