How do you get in the game when you are sitting on the bench?
There is a way!
Last week I heard Darrel tell the story again and he never told it better. As many times as I’ve heard it, I got something new as I listened to Darrel–ANTICIPATION. When the manager needs to put the utility player in the game, he needs to be ready mentally and physically–knowing what’s going on and warmed up. Even before the manager makes the call, he knows it is coming. Darrel got ready to get in the game because he believed the game would come to him. It always does.
The story was on my mind all week and it helped me a lot. The were challenges and rough spots that tempted me with discouragement, but it was a great week. Good things happened. A bunch of times I felt like I was in the right place and the right time and was on top of my game. I was looking for God to give me opportunities. He always does.
This story might become a classic! It gets a standing ovation nearly every time Darrel tells the story. Every time I hear it, tell it or read, I am motivated with anticipation. So each day this week you will get to read a section of the 7th inning and put yourself in Darrel’s story and apply the words of Sparky Anderson, be ready when the game comes to you.
First, the hard part–time on the bench. (Next, pp. 148, 9 of Welcome to the Big Leagues–Every Man’s Journey to Significance)
“Cindy began to expect the worst.
“He is going to be in a bad mood again tonight. He only pinch-hit once for the pitcher in the eighth inning and he popped out. 0 for 1. He won’t like that!” She could sense his frustration.
Darrel thought he needed to do something more. “Pinch-hit here, play a couple of defensive innings there . . . I’m better than that. I’ve got power, a glove and an arm. I’ve got to play more to get my average up. I’m gonna talk to Sparky and get some attention.”
The frustration was part of being a Big Leaguer but for the last four months, it was forming into a crisis.
It started in Spring training when Davey Concepcion was starting to play all the time. Darrel wondered what was going on.
Platooning worked well the previous season. For Darrel, it wasn’t as good as playing all the time but it was the next best thing. Davey would bat against lefties, Darrel would bat against righties. Darrel knew he would play a lot because the Reds were going to be facing a lot of right-handed pitchers.
The Reds finished the previous season with 95 wins, beat the Pirates in the National League Championship Series and went all the way to the Seventh Game of the World Series. Darrel played in all of the NLCS games as well as in four of the World Series games. Down 3 – 2 in the bottom of the ninth, the decisive game of the World Series, Sparky sent Darrel in the game to pinch-hit and get something started. He did not get a hit, but he got hit–in the knee. Take your base. The excitement was high and Darrel had the chance to be a hero and score the tying run. Unfortunately, he never crossed home. The A’s won the Seventh Game of the World Series, 3 to 2, but Darrel gained the knowledge of what it feels like to be on base for the final out of a World Series.
Entering Spring Training, Darrel’s first concern was to make the team. His next priority was getting to play and playing well. The more he played, the better he played. With the team finishing the 1972 season in the Series and Darrel hitting a respectable .250 average, compared to Davey’s .209, he, at least, deserved a shot at the starting position. His chances were pretty good. At least, that’s what he thought.
But change was brewing and people were beginning to notice.
“Chicago—The message came across loud and clear. It was the Opening Day of Spring Training, the start of the new year for the Cincinnati Reds.
Darrel Chaney was sitting by his locker as Davey Concepcion reported to camp–sitting and waiting. Concepcion came bouncing through the door and manager, Sparky Anderson, came over to greet him.
And what a greeting it was! Anderson threw his arms around the young Venezuelan in a gesture of affection. The scene was a warm one . . . .warm to everyone, but Chaney.
Chaney, you see, was supposed to battle Concepcion for the shortstop job on the Reds, the job vacated by Woody Woodward with his retirement. It was supposed to be a fair battle with each man starting equally.
But the scene in the locker room was the tip-off. Concepcion was ahead on points–Anderson was a Concepcion man. Chaney knew he’d have to do a whole lot to win the job.” (Bob Hertzel, Cincinnati Enquirer)
With a World Series appearance the year before, the Reds were a major sports story at this time. Dozens of newspaper columns were following the drama of the shortstop competition.
Davey ended up playing every game and, the more he played, the better he got. His place as the Reds’ #1 shortstop was looking more and more certain. And as Bob Hertzel wrote, Sparky Anderson liked him. It turned out to be for good reason. While Davey previously had performance challenges and some major attitude swings, he was a great defensive shortstop and his bat was improving. Sparky recognized the talent. It was almost as though he knew Davey was going to hit .287 with 8 home runs, 3 triples and 18 doubles, in 1973.
When a player like Darrel is one of the best his whole life and is competitive enough to make it to the Big Leagues, he does not want to sit on the bench nor does he expect to. When the team won and Darrel was riding the pine, there was the nagging feeling that “they” won, not “we” won. The guys who were playing all the time didn’t think this way nor did they treat Darrel like an outsider, but he did not feel like he was helping the team.
However interesting the story was from the outside, inside Darrel’s mind a battle was brewing over his future in baseball. What good is a player who never gets in the game? How long will I last if everyone who comes up from the minors takes away my position? Where is my place? Is this as far as I’m going? Is the dream over?
There will be more tomorrow.
Read I Corinthians 12:2 Your life, experiences and place on the team matters!