Baseball, Acts, and a Special Friend

Eric Pickett, a Leader at South City Church in Little Rock and a growing number of leaders training in the Central Arkansas Initiative, shares his experience.

I haven’t done any type of school work in a long time and to say the ACTS Leadership Course was at first a little overwhelming to me may be a bit of an understatement. That is okay because something happened in the midst of all of the reading and writing.

When I was 7 I started playing baseball. I loved baseball before then but back in the mid to late 80’s you couldn’t start playing organized baseball until you were 7.  For the next 8 years or so my life was mostly consumed by baseball. I played mostly shortstop or second base and was a decent player. I thought I knew the game. I thought I knew about what to do in every situation. I thought I knew baseball.

Fast forward to my sophomore year of high school. My brother had just graduated from the same school and over his time there had improved as a baseball player greatly. He barely made the team and over his 3 years turned in to a good player. That ended up being very good for me. The coach, Mike Johnson, told me that the only reason I made the team was because my brother improved so much and hopefully I would too. Things didn’t start well. I couldn’t keep up. How could this happen? I knew everything about baseball. Coach Johnson became frustrated with my lack of ability and lack of improvement so he asked me a question that literally changed my life: “Have you ever played catcher before?”  I hadn’t and he told me that starting tomorrow I was a catcher. Yikes!

Playing catcher changed the way I saw baseball.  A game I thought I knew so well was turned completely around…literally.  As a middle infielder, and every other position, I faced the batter but now I faced the field, I faced my teammates. If you change positions on the baseball field your view of the batter changes but you are still looking at the batter just from a different angle. For me, changing to catcher gave me a completely different outlook of the game of baseball.  It was crazy.  A whole new way to see the game was opened up to me.  I started noticing so many things I had never noticed before about the game I thought I knew so well.  Positioning was something I hadn’t thought much about before. At 2B I was only concerned with my positioning but not really that concerned about the outfielders because my back was to them. But now, as a catcher, I can see everyone. I can see how Coach Johnson positioned every player specifically. I can see all of these new things. It didn’t stop there. Then he showed me the book.

Coach Johnson had a folder with papers in them. I am sure now this would all be done on an iPad or something but we had a manila folder with pieces of paper in it.  On these pieces of paper were pitch charts for every game in the last year or two. We called this folder the “chart book.”  A pitch chart is not like a score book, it is a record of every pitch thrown to the other team and what happened on that pitch. What type of pitch was it? Where was the pitch located? Were there runners on base? What did the hitter do to that pitch? Everything you need to know to devise the best plan to get the hitters on the other team out. I went from a middle infielder who knew what to do if it pertained to me to a catcher who was integral in the positioning of all of my teammates and in the devising of the plan to get every hitter out. What a difference. Baseball had changed.

The ACTS class has had a similar effect. I thought I was doing well as a Christ follower. I knew what to do as it pertained to me. I knew how to handle situations or conversations if they were brought my way.  Sure, I had read Acts multiple times but it was different now.  After the second or third week in the class, much like baseball did, the book of Acts completely opened up to me. It became clear that Acts was the pitch chart book. It gives me all of the information that I need for positioning myself and my teammates to put us in the best place for achieving the goal of the team. That goal here is not getting the other team out, it is advancing the gospel. I used to think that the planning and positioning was up to the coach or the pastor but I now know that the responsibility is on me.  There is no reason that, just because I don’t have a Bible degree or a fancy calf skin leather preaching Bible, I can’t be integral in the positioning of all of my teammates and in the devising of the plan to get the gospel to the ends of the Earth.

I said earlier that when Coach Johnson asked me if I had ever caught before changed my life. I went on to catch in college at Central Baptist College in Conway.  There I made a friend who invited me to her wedding.  At her wedding in 2007 I met the woman who would be my wife and by her love and example she showed me what a true follower of Christ was like.  In doing so it proved to me that I was not a true follower and in 2008 I committed my life to following Jesus and was saved from my sin.

I am thankful for the leadership at our church and how they are challenging us and showing us that the work is there for all of us. For most we probably aren’t being called to leave our own country with a plan to “get the other team out” but I can promise we are being called to leave our own front yards.