Who here is a baseball fan? Why talk about Baseball? Well, it’s only fair after all, we did talk about football before the Super Bowl.
Baseball aficionados will tell you that it is more than a sport, it’s a state of mind. And because we are spiritual, everything is spiritual, so Baseball is a spiritual thing.
But this is not just a sport. Opening Day is a holiday for many, a tradition that dates back to the day when father and son, mother and daughter, would share the thrill of the first pitch and a new season of hopes and dreams.
And if you happen to be a Phillies fan like me, mostly hopes and dreams,—– fond reminiscences of winning seasons and pennant races!
The history of baseball in the United States can be traced to the 19th century, when amateurs played a baseball-like game by their own informal rules using home-made equipment. The popularity of the sport inspired the semipro national baseball clubs in the 1860s. Several attempts were made to organize the game, which eventually happened, under the New York rules of play, as opposed to the Boston rules, or any other set of rules from independent leagues.
And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the formation of the All-American Girls league during World War 2, immortalized in the film A League of Their Own.
So now we have baseball as we know it today, even with instant replay, which I’m not sure I agree with!
Let’s look at our â€˜national past-time. Many sport writers pay homage to the game with such titles as: Why Time Begins on Opening Day and How Life Imitates the World Series, both by Thomas Boswell; or Philip Lowry’s Green Cathedrals.
And no less a personage than Herbert Hoover pontificated that “next to religion, baseball has furnished a greater impact on American life than any other institution.”
Â Many relate to the game as they would to a religion. If you recall the 1988 film “Bull Durham,” the character played by Susan Sarandon goes so far in the opening scene as to decode a religion of baseball as the camera pans over candles and “icons.” Not a religion in itself, of course, the sport does incorporate four components that are also part of all the major religious faiths of the world: Creed, Code, Ceremony, and Community. How does baseball measure up to these four necessary components of the religious enterprise? Creed Baseball transcends time and space. It is not played against a clock, but creates its own time frame; its base lines stretch out, seemingly to infinity. Roger Angell wrote, “Since baseball time is measured only in outs, all you have to do … is keep hitting, keep the rally alive, and you have defeated time. You remain young forever.” Baseball is about finality, the attainment of a place and goal designated “home.” Comedian George Carlin encapsulated such a theme with this comment: “In football the object is to march into enemy territory and cross his goal. In baseball, the object is to go home.” Code of Conduct Baseball, even though it is obsessed with records and statistics, makes allowances for, even anticipates, human weakness and fallibility. As a New York City graffiti artist once wrote: “Babe Ruth struck out 1,330 times,” yet he is known for his home runs. Or former commissioner Fay Vincent said: “What other game includes errors as one of the line items? We know people are going to make errors. No other sport acknowledges that.” Makes me think about our word which is missing the mark, a mistake, an error perhaps?
Ceremony Baseball is full with something akin to what some religious folks would define as “sacramentals,” such as trading cards, caps, jerseys and autographs, all “relics” of the game. Baseball has its own high holy-days (Opening Day, All-Star Game, World Series) and its shrines (Cooperstown, and some of those archetypal “green cathedrals” like Wrigley Field or Fenway Park) that bring a glaze to true fans’ eyes. Baseball games have incorporated into themselves an entire series of sub-rituals, from park ground rules down to the celebrity opening pitch and seventh-inning stretch (not just take me out to the ball game but also Sweet Caroline in Boston).
Community Baseball fosters loyalty, not only to a team, but to a city or metropolitan region. Each position on the field has its own “priest” in attendance with his own particular craft. My favorite position is second base & I cried when Chase Utley, second baseman for the Phillies, was traded. Baseball is saturated with narrative, anecdote and history as means of fostering identity and a community of continuity and memory. It holds up leaders of the past, both saints and sinners, as models and cautions to each new generation. Despite the fact that it took so long to include blacks(1947), baseball has functioned as an integrating factor in American life. Those at the bottom rung of the socioeconomic ladder have often made their own mark and a place of pride for their people through the game: e.g., Irish in the late 19th century; Hispanics in the last generation.
And sitting in any stadium or ball park, you will see a variety of people’s enjoying the game, a color-less fandom.
Baseball runs according to seasonal time, its four bases perhaps corresponding to the four seasons of the year. The playing season starts from spring training to world series, somehow imitating agricultural cycles of the earth: planting, growth and harvest. At least, hopefully, harvest a pennant.
Time seems less a tyrant during the baseball season. We can forget about it for a while knowing that the game continues until the last out.
But let’s look at the numbers ;what is the significance of the 9s? The ninety feet between bases, 9 innings, 9 players? The number nine, in metaphysics means every level of being in heaven and earth and beyond. It’s a number of harmony and patience; fitting for the game.
Then there is sixty-and-a-half feet between the pitching rubber and the plate, six is a perception of duality, the picture and the batter.
Baseball is timeless and space-less. In football and basketball, and almost all other sports, there is a starting time and an ending time. Even overtime is limited. Not so with baseball. There is a starting time, but the game isn’t over until the last out is recorded. It ain’t over until it’s over. We have a vision of eternity while we watch game.
And the time passes by measuring outs, not ticks of the clock. Oh, that we could measure our day in increments other than minutes and hours.
The batter even progresses counterclockwise, flaunting his freedom from the tyranny of the clock. Because of its freedom from time, baseball always leaves time for redemption. Until the final out, the final strike, no deficit is insurmountable. There’s always hope.
It reminds me of our gift from our Creator We can always start over as long as we are in the moment.
A football field has sidelines and end-zones. Limits. Basketball too. And baseball has a touch of that with the infield dimensions. But the outfield really is unlimited. There are no fixed measures for the placement of the outfield walls. Infinity again. A mere fly ball in one stadium could be a home run in another.
We are infinite. So, just because something happened one way yesterday, today we have a different view of the playing field. Shoot for the fences! Keep in a positive frame of mind.
And isn’t it interesting that this is the only sport that the defensive team has the ball, not the offensive team. What are the metaphysics of that? Maybe ego is the defensive team and we get to drive whatever we can at it to take dominion over our playing field?
As a metaphor for life, the dynamics of baseball must adjust as each batter steps into the batter’s box. Everyone is a different expression of our Creator.
Based upon the skills of the batter, the defensive team adjusts their positions and pitching style to give them the best opportunity to win. The micro battle about to play out.
The batter stands at home plate, defiantly poised before all that endless openness, hoping to reach each base safely and return home. That’s the gist of the game, each batter leaves home, and then strives to return home again, safely.
We do that each time we step into Unity’s home. And we can reach home safely each time we connect with our inner Christ.
We can look at our Spiritual Journey in the same way as a baseball player, different ahaas relating to the bases as we move forward to our next level of understanding, home again and ready to look for our next hit, our next aha.
Such is our daily life too. We practice our Principles and do our denials and affirmations, only sometimes, we have a forced error and must return to practice again. Or, like a batter, we think we know what to expect from the pitcher, yet ego sends a curve ball when we thought fast ball and we strike out. We head back to the dugout, to Unity, to our teachers; for help from the batting â€˜coach. The coaches suggestion: No expectations. Always be ready for what comes by going with the flow. Be practiced up, or prayed up.
We adjust to life’s hits and errors, sometimes changing our strategy along the way for the best possible outcome, using the guidance from our number 1 coach, God.
This game reminds us, too, that there is no such thing as perfection on this realm. We all know that a hitter who succeeds in only one-third of their at-bats is considered remarkable. And yet, we condemn ourselves for a mistake 20 years ago!
The long, 162-game season, allows for hope and dreams to come and go and possibly, come again. And if not, then spring training comes around, and the cycle resumes.
The same with our lives, we always get to start again if we so desire. And mostly, our lives are long enough to make adjustments as to the direction we wish to hit the ball. Itâ€™s our choice.
Baseballâ€™s teaches us that to return home we must rely on our communities, live according to seasonal time, and attend to local limits.
Baseball may seem like a fairly individualistic game. The duel between pitcher and batter calls forth individual feats of cunning and prowess. Yet, neither pitcher nor batter can succeed on their own, except for the rare instance of a home run.
In all sports there are rules, limits and physical boundaries. But only in baseball is a player rewarded for exceeding them — by hitting one ”out of the park.” It is the combination of power and defiance by metaphysically ”breaking the rules” in a sanctioned manner that grips the imagination. A miracle!
I think our personal spiritual â€˜homerunâ€™ is finding that place where we fit, where we feel we have found â€˜homeâ€™ and we just know we are on the right path for ourselves. To me, that was finding Unity, that might be the same for you.
Life is a spiritual journey. You play it one day at a time. One moment at a time. Each day brings you a new experience. If you truly believe, youâ€™ll be led, the Higher Power, like the baseball Gods, is in charge. We are simply servants open to be led. Enjoy each day. Give it your best. Remember, you are a gift created by God. As Yogi says, â€œIt ainâ€™t over â€˜till itâ€™s over.â€