All I Really Need to Know, I Learned Playing Baseball

David Allen Ball Park, Enid, Oklahoma
Message delivered to players and coaches of the Junior College World Series at a Fellowship of Christian Athletes Breakfast in Enid, Oklahoma 5-27-16.

In Robert’s Fulgum’s best-seller, All I Really Need to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten, Fulgum says: “All I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten.”

Share everything. Play fair. Don’t hit people. Put things back where you found them. Clean up your own mess. Don’t take things that aren’t yours. Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody. Wash your hands before you eat.  Flush. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you. Live a balanced life—learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work everyday some. Take a nap every afternoon.  When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.

I believe every person who has every played baseball could say the same thing; that is, all you really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be, you learned playing baseball. Since we are talking baseball, here are a list of nine things:

  1. Pray Before Every Game

But don’t pray for God to protect you from injury. And please don’t pray for God to help you win the game. Instead, thank God that you are physically able to play the game. Thank God that you are healthy enough to run, and slide and swing to risk injury. And then ask God to forgive you for seeing people in wheelchairs and feel no remorse. Each morning when you wake up to the gift of a new day, pray that God may help you not to take it all for granted or to act as if you somehow deserve it or have in someway earned it.

  1. Back Each Other Up

This is perhaps one of the first things that you learned about playing this game: the importance of leaving your position to back a brother up. What a better world it would be if we all practiced this simple principle and had each other’s backs.

  1. Step Outside the Box

In baseball, you step outside the box to take a deep breath, kick the mud off your cleats, and relax. But you also step outside the box to refocus.

Let me see how focused you are this morning.

You are driving along on a Oklahoma Highway on very stormy night You pass by a bus stop, and you see three people waiting for the bus:

  1. An elderly woman who will die if she is not rushed immediately to the hospital.
  2. An old friend who once saved your life.
  3. The perfect woman you have been dreaming about your entire life.

Which one would you choose to pick up, knowing that there could only be one passenger in your car?

Why wouldn’t you give your car keys to your old friend who is good at saving lives and let him take the elderly woman to the hospital? Then stay behind and wait for the bus with the woman of your dreams!

Sometimes we gain more in life when we step outside the box and refocus (from (

  1. Don’t Be Embarrassed to Spit or Scratch or Make Other Necessary Adjustments

There is only one requirement to become a Christian. And that is to confess that you are not perfect, you’ve got some problems and you need some help. The trouble with the church today is that we have too many people in it who simply do not meet this basic requirement. They think they are better than others, more holy, more righteous. So much so that they are very quick to judge others who are not like them. So go ahead, spit and scratch, be human, be real, let people know you have problems and you need some help.

  1. Watch for the Signals

What happens if you fail to look down at your third base coach? What happens if you look down at the coach, but ignore his signals? It’s not good.

Frederick Buechner, one of my favorite preachers and writers, has written:

If you really keep your eye peeled to it and your ears open, if you really pay attention to it, even in the most limited situations, God through life itself has something to teach you.

In other words, every day God is giving us signals.

He continues:

Taking your children to school, and kissing your wife goodbye.  Eating lunch with a friend.  Trying to do a decent day’s work. Hearing the rain patter against the window. There is no event so commonplace that God is not present within it, always hiddenly, always leaving room to recognize him or not to recognize him, but all the more fascinatingly because of that, all the more compellingly and hauntingly.

 6.  Keep Your Head in the Game

It was the great Yogi Berra who once said: “Baseball is 90% mental, and the other half is physical.”

If you understand Yogi’s wisdom, you know that what you focus on and think about before and during the game can make or break your performance.

Without the mental toughness to handle pressure, to bounce back after making an error, striking out, falling behind, or suffering an injury, without the ability to focus on what’s important and to block out everything else, you will never win at anything.

The writer to the Hebrews puts it this way: “Let us lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus….”

Each day, before I encounter someone, my neighbor, a co-worker or a stranger, before I face any obstacle or make any decision, I try to get my head together. And as a Christian, I do that keeping my mind on the words and works of Jesus: “Love everybody, including your enemies.” “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” “Feed the hungry.” “Do not judge.” “Forgive those who have wronged you.” “Remember, I am with you always, even until the end of the age.”

  1. Be Willing to Sacrifice

Many a game have been won with a well executed bunt or a sacrifice fly. This principle is the very heart of the of the Christian faith. This coming weekend, Americans will pause to remember those who have sacrificed their lives defending their country and freedom around the world. Jesus once said: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Jesus says that if we are not willing to sacrifice in this life for the sake of others, we will certainly lose our lives. 

  1. Someone Is Depending on You to Get Them Home

Although they might be able to steal home, it is much easier to score if someone has an RBI.

American Journalist George Will once wrote:

Baseball is a sport that thrives on personal accountability. Every day, fans, sports executives and ball players alike can check the box scores to determine how well certain players performed in the previous game. Whether a player struck out three times or went 5-for-5 with a pair of home runs, the information is easy to access and provides people with the numbers necessary to formulate their own assessments about a particular player or team.

Imagine what type of country we would be if everyday America’s doctors and teachers, lawyers and preachers, firefighters and police officers, every business owner and every worker, says Will, had to “read in the morning’s newspaper a box score measuring the caliber of their previous day’s work.”

  1. Play the Game, Not the Clock

One thing that is unique to baseball is that it is played without a clock.

Just as we have no idea how long a baseball game might last, none of us know how many years we have on this earth. Therefore, life is not so much about how long we live, as it is how we live.

In his Pulitzer-Prize-Winning musical, Rent, author Jonathan Larson wrote the following words:

Five-hundred, twenty-five thousand, six hundred minutes

Five-hundred, twenty-five thousand, six hundred moments so dear,

Five-hundred twenty-five thousand, six hundred minutes

How do you measure—measure a year?

In daylights—in sunsets

In midnights—in cups of coffee

In inches—in miles

In laughter—in strife.

In five-hundred, twenty-five thousand, six hundred minutes

How do you measure a year of life?

How about love?  How about love?

How about love? Measure in love.

Seasons of love.  Seasons of love.

When it is all said and done, none of us can control the number of days we will have on this earth. No one knows how many minutes or even how many innings will be played. We can, however, control the love that we offer to others. And in the end, others will truly know what kind of life we lived.

Yes, the truth is, all you really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be, you learned playing baseball.

4 thoughts on “All I Really Need to Know, I Learned Playing Baseball

  1. Randy Foil

    Jarrett, that is outstanding!
    As one who loves baseball you’ve hit a homerrun here.
    I’ve used Fulgum’s book for years teaching job readiness classes and participants response has been great.
    As we say down the bayou, #rallypossum, GEAUX Tigers!
    Good words

    1. Thank you Randy! I love Fulgum. One of my favorite Fulgum quotes is “writers [and preachers] sometimes need to make up necessary facts” to make a point! One day, I need someone to explain this possum thing!

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