Everyone knows that baseball is a game of failure. In fact, one game a player can hit 4-4 and the following day go hitless with an abysmal 0-5 performance. Ted Williams, arguably the best hitter in Major League Baseball history, stated “Baseball is the only field of endeavor where a man can succeed three times out of ten and be considered a good performer.”

There’s something about the failure of baseball that makes it beautiful. Do you remember the great movie A League Of Their Own (1992)? It depicts The Women’s Baseball Association during World War II. The movie includes a scene with the baseball coach Jimmy Dugan (played by Tom Hanks) and his best ball player Dottie Hinson (played by Geena Davis).

Dottie, after becoming the most talented, respected, and renowned player in the league, decides to retire because the game had become too hard and difficult. Coach Dugan, who had his entire perspective on baseball and life changed as a result of Dottie’s remarkable example, stated to her “It (baseball) is supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.”

In fact, Coach Dugan was simply reminding her of what she had been teaching him the entire time – that failures and difficulties are often good to experience. She taught Coach Dugan a lesson that he had missed as a former player and troublemaker. She taught him the most important lesson which baseball can offer a ball player – failure must become your friend.

Cy Young, the winningest pitcher in Major League Baseball history, recorded 511 wins in his career. He holds one other statistic though: the most losses (315). He is both the greatest and worst pitcher in MLB history. It’s no surprise that the winningest pitcher in history also has the most losses. Baseball is a game of failure.

All the great baseball players fail quite often. Take Babe Ruth as an example – he hit 714 home runs and became the face of the game of baseball. He also struck out 1,330 times. Now, consider Babe Ruth’s famous quote: “Never allow the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.” Failure became Babe Ruth’s friend – he learned to embrace it.

Now, how does this most important lesson in baseball relate to faith?

Archabbot Boniface Wimmer founded the St. Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. There is a popular quote attributed to him which strikes at the heart of faith (and one could say baseball too).

Archabbot Wimmer stated, “Man’s adversity is God’s opportunity.” Our adversity comes from “The Fall” which refers to Adam and Eve’s sin in the garden and the effects of original sin. Now, God’s opportunity is most clearly seen in the peculiar doctrine of the Christian faith – The Incarnation.

God became man – he entered into our flesh, our human experience. This includes our pain, suffering, confusion, setbacks, fears, worries, anxieties, and stresses. God then took on our sins – including all the disorderliness, chaos, and separation which sin brings. St. Paul then adds that God humbled himself and obediently accepted “even death, death on a cross” to destroy its grip from the inside out (Phillipians 2:8). Christ enters into the depths of our brokenness, falleness, weakness, and sinfulness.

In other words, man’s adversity becomes the precise opportunity through which God brings salvation through Jesus Christ. Wimmer was right – man’s adversity really is God’s opportunity.

Baseball reflects a similar lesson. Cy Young lost 315 times and these adversities fueled him to respond by winning 511 times. Babe Ruth struck out 1,330 times which motivated him to hit 714 home runs. These baseball greats understood how adversity could be turned into opportunity. Failure became their friend.

I encourage you to take a moment and think back to a great setback, fear, or failure that you once experienced.

How has that adversity in your life become God’s opportunity?

Like Coach Dugan, are you able to confidently say “the hard is what makes it great”?

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Ben Daghir is a transitional deacon for the Diocese of Erie from St. Marys, Pa. He played pitcher for the Elk Catholic Crusaders in 2010-2011 and coached SM Little League for 4 years. Ben was a pitcher for the 2009 St. Marys Senior League State Championship team. He currently studies at St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore. His favorite team is the Pittsburgh Pirates and favorite baseball players are former pitchers Tim Lincecum and Sandy Koufax.

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