Welcome to the Big Leagues! It’s more than a book about baseball.

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Know your life matters, not because of what you have done or what you possess. It matters, because God says it does.

Welcome to the Big Leagues—Every Man’s Journey to Significance, The Darrel Chaney Story, shows a utility player’s struggle–on one of the best baseball teams to ever take the field–with ambushes, setbacks, minimum wage one year contracts and changes beyond his control. But he makes his Top-10 list, encounters the Eternal and realizes he has his place on the team and in history. Through it all, he discovered his God given significance and found it was not only the best way to play in the Big Leagues; it was the way to live a Big League life.

Many men are changed by the world, but the man who knows his significance is a man who will change the world. He is in the Big Leagues.

Join the Your Life Matters movement.

Know your life matters.  Tell someone their life matters. Treat everyone like their life matters.

Be ready when the game comes to you. Part 6

Get in the gameYour time will come.

From page 154 of Welcome to the Big Leagues–Every Man’s Journey to Significance

“Darrel, I want you to be ready when the game comes to you.”

“Yes sir! I’ll be ready,” Darrel said as he reached his hand out and gave Sparky an I-mean-business handshake.

It was not the time for words, but for action. Sparky could see Darrel was a revived man with a new vision for the game. He returned the hand-shake, then went back to his desk as Darrel headed out the door and down the hall to the locker room.

Purpose has an amazing affect on a man’s motivation. Knowing that being a utility player was his purpose and that he was a strategic part of the team which enabled every position to be its strongest, Darrel got ready for every game.

He was always one to work out, but his workouts became more intense. Before and after games, he would wear the rubber warm-up shirt so his two or three mile jogs would have maximum sweat and results. Workouts in the weight room increased his strength, but did not bulk him up or decrease his mobility. His humor and enthusiasm returned and so did the Reds’ winning ways. Not that it was all about Darrel, but the second half of the season was a lot better than the first. They ended up winning the division with 99 wins.

As it happened, the game did come to Darrel; sliding into third base that day, Davey Concepcion broke his ankle and was out for the rest of the season.

Read Proverbs 3:5, 6

Be ready when the game comes to you! Part 5

together

God makes everybody with a purpose.  There is a place on his team for you.  You are made with a design and there are things you can do that nobody else can.  That means the team needs you!

Page 153, 4 From Welcome to the Big Leagues–Every Man’s Journey to Significance (below)

“No, sit down and listen to me. Here is your purpose. If Pete gets sick, I will need you to play third. If Davey gets injured, you go into shortstop. If Joe needs a rest, you are the guy I go to. Do you understand? I need you. If I need a bunt, you are one of the best bunters on the team. If I have to pinch-run, you are one of the fastest and smartest runners we have. If we are going to be competitive, we need you to be the best utility player in the majors.”

On that team, Darrel was the only guy who played for Sparky in the Minor Leagues with the AA Asheville Tourists. It didn’t hurt that they had a history together. Darrel had confidence in Sparky’s knowledge of the game and his assessment of his team’s individual skills and potential. Sparky knew Darrel’s skills and the intangibles—his love for the game, intensity, positive attitude, teachability and dependability.

Darrel was getting it and Sparky could see the enthusiasm returning. His body language changed from sitting compliant with his hands on his lap and his head hanging, to sitting alert, leaning forward, and looking straight into Sparky’s eyes with hardly a blink. What Sparky was about to say would be some of the most motivational words Darrel would hear in his entire baseball career.

thebodyofChrist[1]

Be ready when the game comes to you! Part 4

Don’t be afraid to ask the question.  But be prepared to hear an answer you might not like.  “The truth will set you free.”ohno[1]

Below from pages 152, 3 of                                                                                                                                                                Welcome to the Big Leagues–Every Man’s Journey to Significance

“Can we talk a minute?”

“Sure, Darrel. Come on in. Close the door. Have a seat.” He motioned to a seat at the conference table, then moved over there to sit down across from Darrel. Even while Sparky was moving his chair to sit down, he began, “I’m glad you came in. I’ve noticed your attitude has been off a little, lately, and it is affecting the guys on the bench. I don’t want it to affect the team.”

“Well, Sparky, I’m a little frustrated because I want to get some more playing time.”

With Sparky and Darrel both sitting across from each other at the conference table, Sparky led the conversation.

“I’m glad you want in the game, so let’s go, position by position, around the field and see where I can put you. Okay?”

At first, this seemed like a good idea to Darrel. “Alright. Let’s see.”

“I know you are an infielder, but you could play the outfield if we needed you to, so let’s start there. Let’s see how right field looks first. Okay?”

“Sure.”

“Ken Griffey (the senior) is there and is having a great season. He has power, speed, and makes a great lead-off hitter. He might even be Rookie of the Year (he did have a great year, but Gary Matthews took Rookie of the Year honors). We probably should not make any changes there. Agreed?”

“Right.”

“Cesar Geronimo is in center field. He is a gold glove winner with a good arm, power and a go get ‘em attitude. Don’t you think we should leave him there?”

“Sure.”

“You might actually be able to play left field defense better than George Foster, but he does alright, don’t you think?”

“Yeah, I guess so.”

VLUU L200  / Samsung L200“But George is our best power-hitter. He might hit 50 home runs this year. That is not your strength, is it?”

“No, not really.”

“On the infield, we have Tony Perez on first base. He’s going to be in the Hall of Fame some day. Should I take him off of first base?”

“No way.”

“You can turn a double play from either side of second, so I know you can play second. But Joe Morgan is there and he’s another guy that has Hall of Fame potential. So doesn’t he deserve to be there?”

Darrel was feeling ashamed for asking. This was turning out bad. Even as they were going around the horn, Sparky, not a man of words or gentleness, spoke strong and convincingly but not condescendingly or carelessly insensitive to the frustrated and confused 24-year-old Chaney. Darrel answered, “Joe’s the best guy for second.”

“I know you wanted short but Davey has done a darn good job at short. He’s been selected to the All-Star team and his bat is coming around with power and a better average. So, what am I supposed to do here?”

“I guess Davey is in the right place for now.”

“Pete Rose is at third. You know Pete. Nobody is ever gonna beat him out of a position.”

“Right.”

“And last, behind the plate is Johnny Bench. Guess what. He’s gonna be in the Hall of Fame.”

“I get your point, Sparky. Thanks for your time, “Darrel said as he began to slide his chair back from the table. He stood up with a sigh and a heart heavier than when he came in. It was obvious that he was not going to beat any of that superstar team out of a position.

Read  John 8:32

Be ready when the game comes to you. Part 3.

The previous posts reveal the difficulty of sitting on the bench.Baseball in flight

Now is the time for action and Darrel needed answers.  He was good enough to make it to the Big Leagues.  It is time to be courageous and ask the hard questions.  There are risks with questions.  You might not qet the answer you want or worse,  you might even get in trouble for asking.   Darrel took his chances.

(From pp 151, 2 in Welcome to the Big Leagues–Every Man’s Journey to Significance

“Cindy, the only way I’m gonna get in the game is if somebody breaks a leg,” he complained on a hot July morning. “I’m going to talk to Sparky and see if I can get some more playing time.”

The All-Star Game was July 24th. Sparky Anderson, the Red’s manager was the manager for the National League team and five Reds were All-Stars. It was not a good first-half of the season for Cincinnati. June 30th they were eleven games off the lead. Before the All-Star break, it seemed like a good time to talk to Sparky. He had said, “My door is always open,” so Darrel thought he might as well give it a try. It couldn’t hurt, could it?

What if Sparky decided Darrel was only whining and ought to count his blessings just for being on the team? If he didn’t think Darrel was any good, he could just release him to get him “out of his hair.” On the other hand, if that was his plan, it might be better to know it and try to get traded or start looking for a job with the city of Hammond.

Inside Riverfront Stadium, the players’ entrance was off the parking lot in the lower level. Just inside the entrance a large and comfortable lobby was available for players’ wives. The players would go through that lobby, then through a door which opened into a hallway which went into the locker room–official personnel only. The Manager’s office was on the left side of that hallway. The office was furnished with a desk, a conference table, an adequate amount of furniture with a few chairs and shelves, and his own shower and bathroom. He had a blackboard and a large bulletin board, utilized for planning and keeping his players focused.

Darrel did not have an appointment on Sunday, July 22nd, the last game before the All-Star break. Darrel was not in the line-up that day either. So, he mustered his courage and took the opportunity to speak to Sparky in his office.

The door was partially open and, showing appropriate respect, Darrel knocked. Sparky was sitting at his desk doing some paper work, probably working on his line-up or comparing his bull-pen to the Expos hitters. He was in his baseball uniform, Darrel was in his warm-ups. Sparky looked up from behind his desk.

Read Matthew 7:7-12.  Your life matters.  Don’t be afraid to ask.

Be ready when the game comes to you. Part 2.

Sitting on the bench is painful. It is not part of a man’s plan. His game is thrown off. Doubt sets in. A guy can get messed-up in his mind and soul.

Maybe more than the every-day player, or at least in different ways, the utility player needs to focus on his heart, soul and mind in addition to his baseball skills. The inner battles are just as important as the on the field competition. Heart mind and soul training result in opportunities to get in the game when the game comes to you.

Florida Marlins v Washington Nationals

(Pages 149-151, Welcome to the Big Leagues–Every Man’s Journey to Significance)

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?

Watching baseball on TV gives a very simplistic view of a ballplayer’s life. The spectator may get a small idea of the nerves which produce butterflies in a clutch-hitting situation. A competitive baseball player does not want to strike out, especially when the game is on the line. Carrying the desires of the whole team, the fans in the stands, and the fans at home on their living room couches, make the next 93 mph fastball the opportunity to be a hero or a goat. Baseball players live for that kind of tension. If they made it to the Big Leagues, they want to be in the game when it is all on the line so they can win it for everybody who cares.

But the intrigue that goes on with teammates, coaches, the manager, the front office decisions, the press, the fans, and the effects on the family and conversations at home–these are elements of the game which most fans don’t know about nor pay attention to. To the player, it all converges inside his mind and his emotions. At times it reveals character flaws and he self-destructs under the weight of it all. Other times his inner strength connects with his physical strength to face these adversaries with a sense of destiny and purpose.

By 1969, Darrel had made it to the Big Leagues, but arguably too quickly. Sure, he wanted to be there, but a shaky start hurt his confidence and his chances. “Then all of a sudden, he found himself cast in a utility role and there was seemingly no way out. ‘I was only 21 years old and getting the mark of a utility man. I didn’t want that tag then and I don’t want it now, at 24. I don’t want it until I’m 34’ he said.” (Bob Hertzel, Cincinnati Enquirer).

But that is what Darrel had become. Davey Concepcion was the Reds’ everyday shortstop.

For the first half of the ’73 season, on game day, Darrel would come to the ballpark, work out, warm up, take batting practice and then sit on the bench. There were streaks when he went for weeks without seeing any playing time. He would do anything to help, even catching in the bull-pen when the pitchers were warming up. A pinch-hit opportunity or subbing for a few innings was a chance to get in the game, but it was rare and probably would be followed by two, three or four days, maybe even a week or two without playing time.

It seemed that the shortstop drama was over for the Reds but for Darrel, the decision which put him on the bench as a utility player, without the chance to earn a starting position, was taking its toll. Darrel’s nickname was “Norton” because he sort of looked like Ed Norton on the hit TV comedy show, “The Honeymooners”. Like his look-alike, Darrel had the ability to make guys laugh. His clowning was contagious and kept the clubhouse fun and the dugout entertained. But one has to be happy to be a good clown and Darrel was not happy. Darrel’s frustration was evident, even on the bench.

Read Colossians 3:23 It keeps the focus in the right place.

 

“Be ready when the game comes to you.” Part 1.

How do you get in the game when you are sitting on the bench?

There is a way!

Get-In-the-Game-Featured-Image[1]

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!

 

Happy Fathers Day

Dad 2This column is dedicated to the memory of my dad, Bob Hettinger.  He fought the fight for freedom in war and honor and devotion in all the battles and struggles of life in serving his God and family.  He was faithful to the very end and finished as my hero.  He fought the fight and won the prize.

The real battle is over the heart and soul of a man.

Across the ages conflict has raged and men and women have been drawn into battles to defend a cause and protect their territory.  Evil has opposed God in large and small ways.  The names of the warriors have changed and the battle fields are different, but when it is all boiled down, the struggle is for the heart and soul of a man.

Every scenario is filled with drama and emotional turmoil.  Effort and cost is present each time.  This is where the inner battle is won or lost–faith in God’s will and confidence the He will use you in His divine strategy to care for your family, bless our nation and further God’s kingdom of love and grace.

God knows you, gave you life to be alive today, made you with a specific design, invited you into His cause, works in and through you by His Spirit and promises a reward at the end of it all.

What you do matters because your life matters!

Why is Baseball so streaky? Why am I?

It is not DiMaggio’s’s 56 game hitting streak or Ted Williams 84 game of reaching base streak that puzzle me.  They are just amazing accomplishments by the best who were hot!What drives me crazy is how the Rockies can score a zillion runs with everybody hitting from top to bottom and then get shut out twice in a row.  Or how does a the last place Red Sox loose 10 in a row then beat the first place Braves twice in a row–so far.  They play in Fenway tonight.

Short streaks  they are, I know, so maybe inconsistency is the more appropriate label.  Why?  Maybe if I knew I would understand my own inconsistencies.

What do you think?  Who is the most consistent team you ever saw?  Who is the most consistent person in your life?  (I’m going for positive not a steady screw up.)

I want to win.  But sometimes I loose.  There are days when I finish my tasks and days when I spin my wheels.  Is there a reason?  How long of a winning streak can a person put together?

Remember the Cost

Tomb of Unknown Soldier

The 4th of July is for celebrating our independence.  Memorial Day is for remembering the cost.

Work that produces a good result, whether it is the satisfaction of a completed project or good pay that rewards the effort is the type of work that I like to do.

But sometimes, a cause is beyond measurable value.  Everything is given, even life itself, to the extent that the one who sacrificed for that cause does not receive the reward or enjoy the benefit but loses everything so others can obtain the prize.

Our moments of silence, before we continue with our Memorial Day celebrations, should be solemn.   The men and women who died for freedom and our country, their lives mattered.  They laid them down, so we can live like our lives matter.

May their supreme sacrifice never be forgotten and let us be inspired to live with dedication to the cause of freedom, faith and family, no matter how high the cost.

Read John 15:13  “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

Do you know what you believe?

BeliefMatrix[1]More from the Matheny Manifesto

“I need to let you know where I stand. I have no hidden agenda. I have no ulterior motive other than what I said about my goals. I also need all of you to know that my priorities in life will most likely be a part of how I coach, and the expectations I have for the boys. My Christian faith is the guide for my life and I have never been one for forcing my faith down someone’s throat, but I also believe it to be cowardly, and hypocritical to shy away from what I believe. You as parents need to know for yourselves and for your boys, that when the opportunity presents itself, I will be honest with what I believe. That may make some people uncomfortable, but I did that as a player, and I hope to continue it in any endeavor that I get into. I am just trying to get as many potential issues out in the open from the beginning.”

For training, discipline and leadership you need to know what you believe.  It will help you be a winner and will help you make winners.  I am thankful for Big League managers like Mike Matheny, Walt Weiss and Clint Hurdle who manage to win and who have a winning faith.

I’m not totally convinced on the “Belief Matrix” but it makes me think.  I am confident that there is enough evidence for me to have a Christian belief that I do not need to shy away from.

Read Joshua 24:14-16 

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