Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Baseball and Religion

Baseball and Religion
In life, we are taught that, there are somethings that do not mix, oil and water, cats and dogs. In baseball, just as in life, there are things we were told don’t mix, weights and baseball and baseball and religion. Of course these two myths are based on nothing more than the ignorance of a misinformed culture.
As far as weights are concerned, I was one that believed that weights were bad for my profession. It was my understanding, again out of ignorance, that lifting weights would only be harmful for my career. I was afraid of losing flexibility and range of motion which would eventually cause me to lose the skills, speed and throwing, I depended on to excel in my sport. Of course, I was wrong.
On the other hand, religion, which I believe in, was looked upon in a different light. It was not thought of as causing or promoting any physical restriction. Baseball people, who fronded on religion as being part of a player life, believed that religion served no useful or rational purpose. The impression was that it had a damaging affect on players in regards to the way they approached and played the game. Players, managers, coaches and fans seem to be attracted to players that displayed aggressive, confrontational behavior. The thoughts were that religion caused players to be less aggressive, too passive. Managers, coaches and fellow players felt that these players, who express their religious beliefs, did not display the aggression and anger that should have accompanied feeling of disappointment of failure. The term Jesus freak was used as a negative description of a person’s calm demeanor when they were known to be active Christians. For these reasons, players were once reluctant to confirm their religious beliefs.
In the past, although I think this is no longer the case, some viewed religion as crouch for its believers to avoid accountability. A place to shift the responsibility of his career and actions. Out of ignorance, religion and its practitioners have endured the stigma of being passive, emotionless and even weak athletes.
However, in recent years, more sport figures are willing even elated to publicly confirm and display their religious beliefs. I am a Christian; in fact, I am studying to become a minister. It was my faith that helped me survived the hardships of the minor leagues. It is my faith that enables me to endure the disappointments associated with the baseball profession. It is my faith that helped me to overcome the temptations attached to fame and success as a major league baseball player. It is my faith, my religious beliefs that give me the strength to remain focus on my life and career. Christianity, just as other religions, is a way of life, accepting who you are while respecting others and allowing oneself to be strong and confident. I may be mistaking but isn’t that what every team would like to see from its players?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Jackie Robinson Day

April  15th 2011
On April 15th, Major League Baseball honored the accomplishments of Jackie Robinson. Every Major League Baseball Player wore number 42 in his honor. Many well produced documentaries were heard and seen throughout the country, all doing justice to a great man. I’m not a professional writer and I’m certainly not an authority on Mr. Robinson’s life. I may not be able to fully explain what Jackie Robinson must have felt or experienced or even what his accomplishments mean to me. However, I do have an understanding. An understanding validated from my own experiences of segregation, back entrances to doctors, restaurants even refused services and housing. As some of us have shared in a fraction of what Jackie endured, we now enjoy the fruits of his labor.
During this celebration, we acknowledge and worship the significance of this event in baseball history that changed the face of sports and influenced the attitudes of change in America. The signing of Jackie Robinson, an African American, to contract to play professional baseball in the Major League was a surprisingly bold move. This was significant because Jackie would be the first African American to play in a league that was reserved for white players at that point in history. The signing of Jackie represented the beginning of an end to an era that tolerated injustice, social and cultural bigotry. He also represented the beginning of a new era where diversity and equality is not a gift, compromise or sacrifice but a right given to all men embedded in the foundation of this country. Although the signing of Jackie did not mean the end of what was wrong with baseball or society, it did represent the willingness of people to acknowledge a great injustice and a desire for change.
Acknowledging that playing in the Major Leagues is a great honor, we celebrate and salute Mr. Robinson for his sacrifice, patients, wisdom, courage and strength. It was his bold and courageous efforts that enabled people of color to participate in the great American pastime, baseball. Let’s not be misguided in thinking that the signing of Jackie Robinson was solely to give African Americans an equal opportunity to play in the Major Leagues. They were other economic, political and social benefits that motivated such a bold move which was nothing more than an experiment at the time, an experiment requiring a special person such as Jackie Robinson to be successful, to accomplish the vision. This experiment proved to be more than showing the ability of a Black man to compete in a hustle environment. It would change the face of sports and lead to the restructuring of a protected culture.
The signing of Jackie Robinson revealed that opportunity brings change and change is not always welcomed but necessary. Change brings suffering, compromise and tolerance. America is the land of opportunity when opportunity is given.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Living up to Expectations

  While preparing this message, I could not help thinking of my dad and how perfect I thought he was. He was loving, considerate, funny, hardworking, honest, smart, faithful and a good athlete. I often thought to myself that if I could somehow manage to be half the person he was, I would have done well to honor him. I wanted so much to be like dad and there is no doubt in my mind that he wanted his children to take on some of his characteristics, to be more like him. He was smart and realistic enough to know that no two people, but in our case, no 12 people, can or will be the same. However, because of a little thing called genetics, some traits are inherited and others would have to be learned. The truth of the matter is that most parents enjoy the thought of seeing themselves in their children.
    Most responsible parents, when they decide to have children, get together and plan. They begin to imagine what the child will look like, what they will do and teach them.
All of us who have children have images of what we would like for them: the kind of person, career, etc. We want our children to be more like us because we feel we have experienced enough to give them a leg up on life. We will give them every opportunity to fulfill the image that we have of them as children and adults.
    Just think how proud you will feel when you hear someone say that he or she is just like his or her dad or mom. They walk like him, talk like him, look like him, treat people like him, and act like him.
    In other words, you would be honored for children to say that they want to be like their parents. From the time of birth, we begin to dedicate ourselves to preparing our children to be what we imagine them to be. We are willing to give them every chance in the world to live up to our image of them. When they fall we are there to pick they up, when they fail we are there to help them regroup. When they disobey, we are there to give them another chance. Parenting is not easy but it is a task that we have been blessed with and gladly accept. It is our responsibility to nurture and guide our children so they may eventually become the persons we expect them to be. This is when the true joy of parenthood is felt and achieved.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Overcoming Limitations and Cultural Restrictions

Overcoming Limitations and Cultural Restrictions.
After giving it some serious thought, it became clear that writing this article is something I really want to do. I came to realize that I have always been one who questioned the usual and unusual occurrences of people lives as well as my own. I was and still is a wonderer, a nomad not physically but mentally, never really accepting things as they are.
Recently, I decided that I wanted to do something as bold as write a book. This is not all that odd, since I’ve always had this fascination for writing small articles about most anything. The only problem is that my thoughts seemed so erratic that putting them in some legible order was very difficult.  This is an attempt to record, in a readable fashion, my wondering thoughts.
How did I get to this point in life in spite of all the restrictions and limitations confronting people like myself in the early 70’s? The social and cultural limitations were enough to cause most people to call it quits. Yet! Here I am with a family, two college degrees and a career in professional sports. Don’t misunderstand me as having a sad childhood, just noting that it was a struggle.
I was black, poor and grew up in a culture that rejected growth. Education was stressed only to maintain an already decaying community. New ideals were not welcomed which limited new opportunities. The powers were content with the way thing were. I suppose that in many cultures there is a fear of losing control among the more influential people.
There wasn’t much diversity when it came to career choices. The two overwhelming choices were farming and the military. Both are honest and respectable jobs but does not rank high on my, when I grow up list. As a matter of fact, the talk was,” when I graduate, I’m going into the army”, which at the time was an easy choice over being a farmer’s helper.
Small communities are great in terms of having a close relationship with family and neighbors. The down side is that everyone thinks alike. Whatever limited thinking and imagination is constantly reinforced.
Small communities are great for raising a family; however, you sometimes have to weigh this against what I consider as under minding the ideology that America is the land of opportunity. Opportunity is a byproduct of creative thinking, diversity and change.
Most small towns, at least the one I grew up in, adopted a status quo culture. Culture is important because it give a set of social rules which everyone is expected to live by. However, “The sky is the limit”, “Be all you can be”, were only figures of speech, nothing more.
My community gave true meaning to the term; “One Horse Town”, one school, one police, one traffic light, one culture, and one way of doing things regardless of race or religion.
Communities, whether large or small that adopts a status quo culture is destined to fail. Cultures that fail to promote its’ youth and new ideals prohibits the people from rising above the social and cultural limitations. This was my environment.  Somehow I made it.
There is always hope.