Sunday, May 28, 2017

Silent Spring

(Photo from Sports Illustrated)
As a coach, the primary concern has to be the well-being of your players. One of the hazards of high school and college athletics is the travel involved. Below is the heartbreaking story of a college baseball squad, from March 20, 2007.

It was the nightmare school administrators and athletic directors dread. Early in March, the Bluffton (Ohio) University baseball team headed south to escape weather conditions in the north. The Beavers had seven games scheduled in Florida during spring break in preparation for what they hoped would be a banner season. Passing through Atlanta at 5:30 AM, their driver apparently mistook an exit ramp for a lane and the charter bus plunged onto I-75 below. Seven were killed, five players as well as the driver and his wife. Bluffton, associated with the Mennonite church, is a NCAA Division III program with no athletic scholarships. Through a baby sitting fund raiser and a fifty inning marathon game, the young men had financed the baseball odyssey which never saw its first pitch. The memorial services are over and the campus of 1,200 students is recovering. Today, the athletic director announced that after consulting with team members and the families of the deceased players, the season will begin in ten days against Mount St. Joseph. It won't be the same. Six players are too injured to play and the head coach, James Grandey, has just been released from the hospital and is not yet able to resume his duties. But, there will be baseball at Bluffton, with one significant alteration. The Beavers will take the field wearing black jerseys, in honor of their fallen teammates.

I've been there. As a small college baseball player, I took that same spring break excursion, with the destination being Oklahoma instead of the more exotic Florida. At that level, you are in it for the love of the game and the experience. I've been there as a coach, too. Our basketball teams and cheerleaders at Friendship Christian School took a week long bus trip to Denver, a thousand miles one way, to play two games and make memories. We scraped the money together. Fish fries, yard sales- we did it all. You know, in the excitement of the planning, the thought of danger never crossed my mind. It would now. I am sure the administration of Bluffton struggled with the decision of reinstating the season but I think they made the right choice. Those kids were doing what they loved up to the end. A small college community like Bluffton is a family and I know they are hurting. In 1st Corinthians 12:26, Paul addressed the church, using the analogy of the body: "If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it." 

The families have suffered, the team has suffered, the college has suffered. The pain is shared but so too is the rejoicing. In Romans, Paul commanded the giving of honor where it is due. He wasn't speaking of the Bluffton Beavers but his admonition is appropriate. I can define honoring those players in two simple words: "Play ball!"

Applicable quote of the day:
"Awards mean alot but they don't say it all. The people mean more to me in baseball than the statistics."
Ernie Banks (Chicago Cubs)

God bless,
Luke 18:1
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