Today is the first day of summer. For me, this evokes memories of baseball. Growing up as I did in the 1950s I remember watching the Game of the Week featuring commentators Dizzy Dean and Pee Wee Reese on lazy summer Saturdays. I would spread out the baseball cards for the participating players as I followed the action on TV.
As a boy, I loved attending games at iconic Engel Stadium in Chattanooga, the home of the Chattanooga Lookouts. The Lookouts were the minor league affiliate of the Washington Senators before that team became the Minnesota Twins in 1961. I got to see some pretty famous players before they became famous: future major league stars like Bob Allison, Jim Kaat and one of the greatest home run hitters of all time, Harmon Killebrew.
At that time the Lookouts played in the AA Southern Association with the New Orleans Pelicans, Atlanta Crackers, Birmingham Barons, Little Rock Travelers, Mobile Bears, Nashville Vols, and Memphis Chicks. Most of the teams traveled by train or bus in those years and life in the minors was not easy.
Players were willing to put up with cheap hotels, brown bag lunches and long bus rides in the hope of being sent “up” to the major leagues. Once in a while, a player would show up in a Lookouts uniform after being sent “down” from the parent club. I remember getting one of them, Ernie Oravetz, to autograph a baseball card which pictured him in the uniform of the Senators.
I still love going to the ballpark. OKC’s Bricktown Ballpark is a field of dreams. It’s fun seeing our Oklahoma City Dodgers going all out to prove themselves worthy of a call up to the big leagues. One of our players, Will Smith, spent time with the LA Dodgers earlier this season. He is certain to be called back up if he keeps hitting home runs at his current pace.
I like to follow the fortunes of former Oklahoma City stars who are now doing well in the majors. Cody Bellinger is near the top of the major leagues in batting average and home runs. Corey Seager is a candidate for the National League all-star team at shortstop. Alex Vertugo is a fixture in right field for the Dodgers. I enjoyed watching all of them here in OKC.
Some of the players are getting older, in baseball years. Even though they are in their late twenties and thirties, they haven’t given up hope of being promoted to the majors. To borrow words from the beloved baseball poem by Ernest L. Thayer, Casey at the Bat, “The rest clung to that hope which springs eternal in the human breast.”
This reminds me of biblical truth. I don’t want to trivialize it by comparing it to baseball, but if there’s anything the Lord Jesus offers us, it is hope. The hope of a better future, both now and in eternity, the gift of God through faith in Jesus Christ. Every earthly hope is a faint reminder of the ultimate “hope of eternal life” (Titus 1:2) when we are “sent up” to be with the Lord. And we don’t have to earn it with a good performance. This eternal and good hope is a gift of God’s free grace.