Christianity is a Major League Sport

Moonlight Graham’s wish? To have one at bat in the majors. To wink at the pitcher while he’s in his windup, making him think he know something the pitcher didn’t.

The Christian’s wish? To just once, live the way God intends.

The dream of any young boy is to play ball in the majors. Yet, it’s a dream few ever realize.

Only 1 out of 10 players drafted will ever see the big leagues while only 1 out of 100 will be able to turn baseball into a career.

And because of these percentages, one of the rarest of feats is to go from being an amateur to a major leaguer without ever stepping foot in the minors. Since Major League Baseball instituted the amateur player draft in 1965, only 18 players have ever jumped straight from the draft to the bigs.

18. Let that number sink in. 18.

To give perspective, Clemson has produced 38 major leaguers in that same time frame.

And of those 18 players to go straight to the majors, 15 of them ended up back in the minors at some point in their career. And for most of them it was extended time, just like every other ball player.

Result – in the last 47 years, only three players have played in the majors without any kind of foray through the minors. Three.

Playing in the majors means paying your dues. There is no shortcut. There is no secret.

And no one is special. Not Aaron or Pujols or Gwynn. Or Maddux or Smoltz or Halladay.

And the same is true for Christianity. Just because we become a Christian doesn’t mean we are automatically prepared to be the man God calls us to be.

We still need to go through growth and maturity. We still need to learn more about the faith and about ourselves. We need to grow up in our faith and into our bodies. Just like major leaguers.

There are many days I wish I could be were I need to be. There are many days I wish the snap of a finger or the saying of a prayer would get me there. That I could skip the refinement process and just be full version of who I’m supposed to be.

But that’s not the case. Nor will it ever be.

The disciples needed time with Jesus to learn. And they still screwed it up.

Paul himself spent three years in the minors, getting ready for the calling God had for him (Galatians 1). And even after the three years, there were still doubters.

Peter urges us to grow up in our spiritual faith. (1 Peter 2:2) Paul urges us to not become weary (Galatians 6:9), but to press on to win the prize (Philippians 2:12-14)

So in times when I wish there wasn’t a process or times when I wish I were ready, I’m humbled by the fact that even the pillars of Christianity (Galatians 2) needed practice and preparation.

I’m humbled by the fact that no one is good (Romans 3) and we all must work out our salvation (Philippians 2).

So, if even the best of ball players needs a few years in the minors, who am I to think I can get their overnight.

And what fun would that be anyway?

P.S. – Jesus would’ve been the first to go straight to the majors because he can hit a major league curveball

List of Players who went directly from amateur baseball to the major leagues (18 total):

  • 2010 – Mike Leake – Starting Pitcher, Cincinnati Reds (College)
    Currently in majors, was optioned to AAA in 2011 for two games

  • 2000 – Xavier Nady – Outfielder, San Diego Padres (College)
    Played 1 game then sent to minors. Promoted back to majors in 2003

  • 1995 – Ariel Prieto – Starting Pitcher, Oakland Athletics (Cuba/Puerto Rico)
    Pitched in 70 total games over 6 years, finishing 15-24 with 4.85 ERA
    Spent portions of nine seasons in minors at end of career

  • 1994 – Chan Ho Park – Relief Pitcher, Los Angeles Dodgers (South Korea)
    Pitched two games, then sent to AA. Promoted to majors again in 1995
    All-Star selection

  • 1994 – Darren Driefort – Starting Pitcher, Los Angeles Dodgers (College)
    Went 0-5 first season & 48-60 for his career & retired early due to health issues
    Spent portions of three years in minors

  • 1989 – John Olerud – First Base, Toronto Blue Jays (College)
    Recorded over 2,200 hits, 250 homeruns, 1,200 RBI, and batted .295
    2-Time All-Star Selection
    AL Batting Champ

  • 1989 – Jim Abbot – Starting Pitcher, California Angels (College)
    Few solid seasons (18-11, 2.89) & threw no-hitter
    Career record: 87-108, 4.25
    Spent last few years in minors trying to make it back

  • 1986 – Pete Incaviglia – Outfielder, Montreal Expos/Texas Rangers (College)
    Drafted by Expos, but refused to play in minors. Traded to Rangers who granted request
    Trade immdiately after draft necessitated MLB changing the rules to force players be under contract one season before being traded. Now known as Pete Incaviglia Rule
    Best season was rookie season when he hit 30 homeruns
    Career: over 1,000 hits, 200 homeruns, 650 RBI, and batted .246
    Spent portions of last 5 years in minors

  • 1978 – Mike Morgan – Starting Pitcher, Oakland Athletics (High School)
    Made 3 starts before being sent to AAA. Recalled following season
    Sent back down for three seasons

  • 1978 – Bob Horner – Third Base, Atlanta Braves (College)
    Never played in minors
    All-Star Selection, NL Rookie of the Year (over Ozzie Smith), & hit 4 homeruns in one game
    Career: over 1,000 hits, 200 homeruns, 675 RBI, and batted .276

  • 1978 – Tim Conroy – Pitcher, Oakland Athletics (High School)
    Pitched in two games before being sent to minors
    Recalled four years later
    Career record: 18-32, 4.71

  • 1978 – Brian Milner – Catcher, Toronto Blue Jays (High School)
    Played two games as a catcher, then sent to minors
    Never returned to majors

  • 1973 – Dave Winfield – Outfielder, San Diego Padres (College)
    12 Time All-Star, First Ballot Hall of Famer
    Career: 3,110 hits, 465 homeruns, 1,833 RBI, .283
    Only player on list with more than 2 all-star selections
    Only player on list in Hall of Fame
    Highest paid player at one time
    Won World Series with game-winning hit

  • 1973 – Dick Ruthven – Starting Pitcher, Philadelphia Phillies (College)
    Spent most of 1975 in minors
    Career record: 123-127, 4.14
    2-Time All-Star

  • 1973 – David Clyde – Starting Pitcher, Texas Rangers (High School)
    Originally agreed to make two major league starts, but pitched effectively enough to remain with the club
    Ended up spending portions of 4 years in the minors, totaling more games there than in the bigs
    Career record: 18-33, 4.63

  • 1973 – Eddie Bane – Pitcher, Minnesota Twins (College)
    Pitched in 44 total games in majors, spent six seasons in minors
    Career record: 7-13, 4.66

  • 1972 – Dave Roberts – Third Base, San Diego (College)
    Sent to minors early in second year
    Spent portions of 10 seasons in majors and five in minors
    Career: over 475 hits, 49 homeruns, 208 RBI, .239

  • 1971 – Pete Broberg – Starting Pitcher, Washington Senators (College)
    Maybe smartest player on list – Dartmouth
    Played two years in majors before being sent down
    Career record: 41-71, 4.56

  • 1971 – Burt Hooten – Starting Pitcher, Chicago Cubs (College)
    Played in three games before being sent down
    Returned following year and never went back to minors
    No-hitter, All-Star Selection, & NLCS MVP
    Career record: 151-136, 3.38
    Best pitcher of list

  • 1971 – Rob Ellis – Outfielder, Milwaukee Brewers (College)
    Played 36 games in majors before being sent down
    Returned three years later, but only played in 28 additional games
    Career: 38 hits, 0 homeruns, 10 RBI, .229

  • 1970 – Steve Dunning
    Played two seasons in majors before being sent to minors
    Played 7 total years in majors & 6 in minors
    Career: 23-41, 4.56
    Probably most famously known as the only pitcher to hit a grand slam (until 2008)

  • 1967 – Mike Adamson – Relief Pitcher, Baltimore Orioles (College)
    Pitched three games in majors before being sent down
    Pitched 11 total games in majors
    Career: 0-4, 7.46

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