Surprise, AZ: This week my dad and I escape for a few days of vacation and baseball. From the earliest days of my life I remember going to baseball games with my dad. He loves baseball, and his dad loved baseball. Baseball has always held a special place in the hearts of Lowrie men.
As a young boy I vividly remember going to a minor league baseball game up in the mountains of East Tennessee with my dad and my granddad. I am confident the level of play fell far short of the Major leagues but for a small boy it was an amazing moment in time. Sitting like a man with my dad and granddad. Taking in all the sights and sounds of the ballpark.
This week my dad and I have made a pilgrimage to Phoenix to participate in the ritual spring–spring training baseball. Baseball fills the air in Phoenix this time of year as baseball fans descend on the city to see the favorite teams ready themselves for the upcoming baseball marathon that leads to heartbreak for all teams but one. (Of course I speak of heart break since I am a Ranger fan with a heart broken two times over by consecutive losses in the World Series, but hope springs eternal in Arizona even for Cub fans!)
Job one of our trip revolves around seeing the Texas Rangers–the team we have followed since the days of their arrival in Arlington from Washington with names like Ted Williams and Frank Howard. For years the Rangers have taken on the mantle of the lovable Cubs and have been “loveable losers” who melt in the heat of the hot Texas summer, but these days the Rangers stand tall among their peers with superstars in their roster like Josh Hamilton, Michael Young, Kinsler, Andrus, Cruz, Napoli, Feliz, and Holland to name a few. Not to mention Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan oversees the whole operation bring true Texas grit to the team from top to bottom. These are fun days to proudly wear a Ranger cap with the big T boldly on the front.
Josh Hamilton stands out as one of my personal favorite Rangers. His story of redemption, grace and fighting back inspires me. Even though he stands out as a superstar his personal struggles bring him down into the world we all live in–the world of costly mistakes, compulsive bad habits, controlling sins, and broken humanity. By the grace of the cross, God has restored Hamilton’s life and future. Hamilton openly declares his faith in the Jesus and confesses to one and all that Jesus helped him put his life back together and got him back in center field for His glory. Much like Tebow from the world of football, Hamilton has been a visible witness to the glory of God.
From the stands there are those who doubt his faith and persistence. They wonder if he is for real and expect him to stumble and fall in the future. I wonder what it means about us that we want to bring down our heroes? Recently Hamilton did stumble and fall when he gave into the old dragons within and spent a night drinking and carousing like in days of old. Immediate he recognized his mistake, confessed his sin to those to whom he was accountable and got up off the ground to fight another day his battle with his humanity. When Hamilton slipped and suspect many were not surprised and may have even felt a sense of satisfaction that they were right, but I was sad and whispered a prayer for him. I guess you could say many are “on the fence” about Hamilton.
On Monday as Hamilton entered the ballpark for a spring training outing, boys young and old alike lined the fence calling out for autographs. As the Ranger stars passed by they smiled and waved and went on about their business, that is all but one. Josh Hamilton made his way to the fence with a big smile and walked down the line signing balls, caps, programs and bats for young and old alike for some ten minutes while his teammates prepared for the contest. I must admit I was impressed. On this sunny cool Arizona afternoon the crowd was small, the media was chasing after Yu Darvish, who was to pitch that day, and while practically no one was watching Hamilton created wonderful memories for his fans by a simple action of kindness. I must admit I am not “on the fence” about Hamilton. I believe he is the real deal–a man with his own internal dragons–a man of flesh and blood and passions–a man touched by the grace of God–a man like you and me.
Never forget your heroes are human and flawed, and all your heroes need grace just like you do!