By Mac McPhail Contributing columnist
May 25, 2014
It seems like my second home this past month has been at the ballpark. I’m either there watching the grandkids play, or I’m umpiring for one of the other recreation department leagues.
I’ve noticed there’s an exhortation that you will hear often at about every game by just about every coach, especially at the younger player levels. The coach will yell it out to his players who are out on the field playing defense before the pitcher throws the baseball. It is, “Get ready!” And the reason they yell for them to get ready is because often the young ballplayers are not. They may be looking at a flock of birds passing overhead, or some bug crawling around on the ground nearby. They may be looking over at the stands to see who showed up for the game, or talking to another player on the field. Or they may be just daydreaming. Whatever they are doing, they are not paying attention to the game. And they are not ready if the ball should be hit their way. So the coach will scream, “Get ready!” so the ballplayer will hopefully get into defensive position in case the ball does happen to come their way.
Why is the young ballplayer not prepared for that ground ball, line drive or pop up? Well, getting ready means getting into proper position, and that takes effort. You also need to get into that correct fielding position before every pitch, and that takes discipline. Also, there are things going on around that can pull their attention away from the game. Then a hit ground ball rolls by them into the outfield. Or a lazy fly ball, which should have been easily caught, lands harmlessly in front of the now distraught outfielder. He knows he could have probably made the play, but it’s too late now.
There are reasons why those young athletes are not prepared when the ball is hit toward them. Of course, the main reason the young ballplayers need to be reminded so often to get ready is that they are just that, young ballplayers. But failure to be ready is not just a characteristic of those youngsters. We adults often, too, fail to get ready.
Oswald Chambers in his classic devotional book, “My Utmost for His Highest,” states the obvious, “A ready person never needs to get ready.” We know that. But often in our lives, we are unprepared when events take place and we end up “dropping the ball.” Why? Maybe, in some ways, we are like those young ballplayers.
Getting in the right position, getting ready, takes effort. Effort we may not want to make, or see the importance of. Being prepared takes discipline. The ballplayer needs to be in proper fielding position before every pitch. That’s every pitch, because they never know when a ball is going to be hit their way. For us, discipline, in whatever area that can be important to us, usually involves effort on a regular basis.
Finally, just like the young ballplayers can be distracted by the crowd in the stands or a bird flying overhead, we can be distracted from preparing for the things that we may end up facing. I plan on finishing college, but things keep getting in the way. I missed out on that job because I didn’t have a degree. I was going to start a personal devotional last night, but I got caught up watching a TV show. Today, at work, a situation came up where some spiritual guidance from that devotional might could have helped solved the problem.
While umpiring, I’ve noticed that as the ballplayers get older and have more experience playing baseball, the less the coaches have to remind them to get in ready position on defense. I suppose one of the reasons why could be because of a few errors made due to being out of position. They learned from an error which, at worse, maybe cost their team a game. Hopefully, we adults learn the value of being prepared. But it may be at a much greater cost. And it may be too late.
The opportunity of a lifetime only lasts the lifetime of the opportunity. While umpiring girls softball last night, I saw a young lady playing third base miss a catch on a fly ball. But in baseball, sometimes you get a second chance. Later in the same inning, she made a good catch on another popup. But, as adults, most of our opportunities have a limited shelf life. And they may not come again. Will you be ready for that opportunity? And how long will be that lifetime? How about your lifetime? There’s a voice saying, “Get ready!” It’s Jesus saying, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.” (Revelation 3:20)