Last night, I presented the pre-game devotional for our undefeated WCS boys' basketball team which is undefeated and will be climbing, I predict, into the national rankings. My lesson was based on the following story from 11-8-05.
Baseball wasn't big at Georgia Christian School, located in the hamlet of Dasher, when I arrived. I'd been hired to take over the program and teach history classes. Our boys' basketball team was successful, on the verge of the second longest winning streak in high school history. There would be 125 straight victories so that team garnered most of the attention. There were drawbacks to my job. The kids hadn't won in recent years so there was no culture of excellence. The uniforms looked like pale blue pajamas. There was no batting cage and we practiced on the school's softball field. Games were played five miles away. On top of that, our young men were inexperienced. In our second game my first season, we beat the defending state champions on their field, the biggest upset I've ever been involved in. It was our only win.
We had one thing going for us- a core of kids who played no other sports and were baseball nuts. After that first year, they began practicing on their own when I was tied up with basketball. A parent asked what we needed to become competitive. My reply was we desperately needed a batting cage and pitching machine so the kids could hit year round. Next thing I knew, the equipment was purchased, set up, and functional. That core of young men began hitting non-stop. It paid off- we were much better in year two. Right before school the following August, GCS parents M.C. McLeod and Buster Christie told me their dream to build a baseball field in the middle of campus! Never doubt the dreams of visionaries. Within a month, we had a beautiful diamond- our own Yankee Stadium! I can't tell you how proud I was of that facility, christened ALUMNI FIELD. Living on campus, I used to walk the base paths and through the outfield at night. I've never built a house but this was my baby. Solomon had his temple- I had my baseball field.
All that brings us to Chuck DeWeese. Chuck was one of that group of kids who were baseball fanatics and key to raising the interest level for the sport. He came from a wonderful family and his sisters both played basketball for me. It was his senior year. Scouting report on Chuck:Position: 3rd base
Speed: NON-EXISTENTNow, Chuck possessed good hands defensively and one of the sweetest left-handed strokes in my memory bank but he was one of the slowest kids I ever coached. Let me give him some praise. Unlike many players, Chuck knew his limitations. He was more than aware of his quickness level. Also unlike many I have coached, he went to work to do something about it. Many youngsters concentrate on what they are good at to the detriment of fixing their weaknesses. Not Chuck- he had a plan to give himself a chance.
We sowed rye grass on our infield during the winter. It fills in until the normal stand of grass wakes from dormancy and gives you a bright tint when everything else is still brown. Chuck's dad managed an International Harvester store so Chuck knew about grass and making it grow. He had unlimited access to fertilizer. He took possession of the third base area. Slow with an average arm is a bad combination at the Hot Corner. Thick grass slows the ball and allows you to play shallower, compensating for slow/average arm. Chuck made sure his domain received a VERY HIGH concentration of seed and a VERY HIGH concentration of fertilizer. He was like a greens keeper at Augusta. Every time I turned around, he was watering his kingdom- before school, lunch time, etc. As a result, the grass around third base was so thick, it would stop a cannon ball. Saying we had to use a chain saw to cut it would only be a slight exaggeration. It was rain forest, jungle quality turf. It paid off- Chuck had a terrific senior year and for the first time, the Georgia Christian Generals qualified for the state tournament. I can't say the only reason we had a great year was the gardening expertise of Chuck DeWeese, but I can also tell you, it made a difference. In sports, a difference is all you ask for.
In the Bible, we are told how to protect ourselves from things that can hurt us. Paul tells us in Ephesians 6:13 to put on the full armor of God. We're not helpless- there is hope! BUT, no one puts the armor on for us; it's our responsibility. The grass was Chuck's armor. He didn't moan about his shortcomings or leave it up to others to take care of his deficiencies. Paul concluded that verse by saying. "after you have done everything, to stand." Chuck did everything he could. The Lord gives us options. Like Chuck, we must take advantage of them.
Chuck tracked me down last spring and talked about making a visit to Houston. He caught me up on his life as a happily married husband/father who is active in his congregation and his Alma Mater. Guess what he has framed on the wall of his office? A panoramic view of his old baseball stomping grounds, under the caption "Field of Dreams." I'd love to see it- it really was a field of my dreams, too. Back then, I had an agreement with the school that should I die, I could be buried behind the center field fence- dead center, if you don't mind the baseball pun. Dean McLeod even made a tombstone that resided there for years, inscribed with STEVE HAWLEY-R.I.P. The tombstone long since disappeared but not the memories. I spent some of the happiest years of my life on that two acre plot. I moved to Tennessee while still in the land of the living but retained for years a desire to be be laid to rest in the sandy soil of South Georgia. Have you ever seen movies when people are down to their last breath and they have a dying wish? I knew how I wanted to leave this world. On my death bed, thinking of my peaceful grave site, I had my last request ready to go: Chuck, will you take care of the grass for me?
Applicable quote of the day:
"Baseball was made for kids and grown-ups only screw it up."
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