The Spring of 2003 was monumental for myself and a group of junior high boys.
Steele, MO never has been accused of offering much excitement. So, the junior high baseball team being undefeated was the talk of the town. With little to do – my group of friends devoted ourselves to sports. We played baseball year around. Several of us went on to play college ball, one even got drafted and played in the minor leagues for a couple of years.
I was an 8th grader. I played second base. And, I was on the fringe of not being a starter. There was an underclassman that was starting every other game. Lucky for me, his batting abilities weren’t much better than mine. It was my glove that kept me in the starting rotation.
I can’t recall many details about the game. I know we were later into the season and being undefeated was on all of our radar’s. I recall that the game was in later innings and the score was very close. What happened next, I can recollect without a problem. 14 years later and I remember what happened, what I said, and the feeling’s I felt. As you read the story, it probably won’t seem like much to you – but it was a very significant moment in my life.
Late in the game with a close score, I hovered into the fielding position. I made sure I wasn’t flat footed so I could move fast. My right foot placed a little in front of my left. My glove down. I was ready for whatever came my way. And, come my way, it did. The batter hit a routine ground ball that should have been just that – ROUTINE. I should have fielded it smoothly and thrown the guy out.
Should have. But, I didn’t.
I got scared. Nervous. Anxious. Something…
I pulled my glove up too soon. The ball rolled right between my legs. The inning was prolonged. We were closer to losing the game. My teammates morale sunk. Jeremy, the short stop that went on to be drafted, looked at me in shock.
I fought back tears of anger and embarrassment. Then I said these words, “I’m out. I’m out. Coach is going to take me out.”
Why wouldn’t he? I had made a terrible error. It was routine. There was no bad hop. It wasn’t hit deep into the hole. I just missed it. Without a doubt, I knew he was going to bench me. Honestly, I was prepared for him to pull me out in the middle of the inning. I was a less than average hitter – my glove was the only thing I had to offer, and I had just failed at that. I didn’t deserve to be left in the game.
We ended the inning. I ran to the dugout, still fighting back tears. I pouted at the end of the bench – certain that I would be sitting there for the rest of the game.
To this day, I’m not sure why Coach Chris Moore left me in the game. In all honesty, he probably doesn’t even remember this game. But I do. On the verge of turning 28, with many milestones in life over the last 14 years – I still remember the day coach left me in the game.
I’ve never been a very secure person. I’ve never viewed myself with much esteem. So, I’ve never expected or anticipated anyone else to, either. That day – the day Coach Moore left me in the game – was monumental, because he believed in me.
He didn’t have to. I had blown my opportunity. There were other players that were more qualified.
The reason it stands out so staunchly in my mind – is because that spring day wasn’t the last time I should have been “taken out of the game.” I’ve made much larger mistakes than missing a ground ball over the last 14 years. If I view life as a baseball game – then I’d have to see God as my coach.
Too many times, He should have removed me from the game. I’ve blown my chances. I’ve made errors. I’ve failed at what little I had to offer. There are far more qualified players on the team. But, Coach keeps leaving me in the game. He hasn’t lost faith in me. He believes in me.
“…what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” Psalm 8:4 (NIV)
You’re probably like me. Perchance you have asked God why He hasn’t given up on you. After all, we’ve given Him plenty of reasons to. I want to encourage you – Coach is leaving you in the game. He believes in you. He is mindful of you. He cares for you.
God doesn’t disqualify you. Don’t disqualify yourself.
To commemorate that season – we did what everyone does to remember a special moment. We made a t-shirt. I lugged that old t-shirt around for over a decade. Recently, my wife had a “memory quilt” made for me. She took old t-shirts and had them sewed together. Significant memories in my life – mission trips, sporting events, conferences. And, that fourteen-year-old shirt commemorating a bunch of junior high kids who went undefeated.
For me – every time I see that shirt – I remember winning every game. I remember the bus rides where we sang “Remix to Ignition” and some old-school Nelly. I remember the camaraderie. Most of all – I remember when coach left me in.
Pastor Chad Fisher serves as a Staff Pastor at Cape First Church. He is a professor at Cape First School of Ministry. He also leads the Remix Young Adults campus and serves at their House of Hope Campus. He has been on staff at Cape First for one year. However, he has been in full time ministry for a decade and served as Senior Pastor of a growing church in the Bootheel of Missouri for five years prior to joining Cape First. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Christian Ministries with an emphasis in Pastoral Ministries from Williams Baptist College. He also holds a Masters of Organizational Leadership from Evangel University. Currently, he is finishing his Doctorate in Pastoral Ministries from Trinity Seminary in Evansville, IN. Chad has also been ordained with the Assemblies of God since 2011. He has served on the Church Planting and Church Revitalization board for the Southern Missouri District of the Assemblies of God since 2013. Chad is the author of one book, “Dancing with Destiny.” It’s a book that challenges us to pursue our destiny at all cost. Pastor Chad is married to the love of his life, Monica. They have one daughter, Kyndal June, and are expecting their second daughter in the fall of 2017.