What can we learn from church softball?

My church softball season ended recently. Sadly, after a promising season, our tournament play ended with a dud. I am guessing that between the past two churches I have attended, I have played 16 seasons of church league softball. Only two of those seasons ended with a championship.

Over the years of playing church softball, I have learned some lessons and observed some very interesting phenomena. Here are a few:

A few seasons ago, a Unitarian “church” joined our league. It was interesting to see them refuse to pray with us after a game. They said, “most of us are atheists.” Then, when we had to ask for a game to be canceled due to two families on our softball team being evacuated due to the wildfires near Colorado Springs, the coach of the Unitarian team said, “We don’t pray, but we’ll think positive thoughts for you.” Then, in our next game, the Unitarian coach proceeded to inform us that the wildfires only hit politically conservative areas of Colorado Springs due to karma for them not believing in global warming. What happened to the positive thoughts?

I was once almost thrown out of a game when I very respectfully and calmly informed the umpire (provided by the other team) that he had made an incorrect call (which he had). My team laughed, as I would likely be voted “least likely to be thrown out of a game” if there was such a title.

I once, due to an epic brain malfunction, thought I was the third base coach instead of a base runner on third base. A runner scored out of order, ending the inning, and costing us at least two runs. We eventually lost the game by two runs.

We used to have a nickname for a team in our league: “the evil empire.” This was not due to them being unfriendly, but rather due to us losing to them 13 of the last 15 times we played them. They were actually quite nice (most of the time).

There is a Mennonite team in our church softball league that is very good. I say they should be required to use wooden bats out of respect for their heritage. They’d still probably beat us, though.

It is amazing how church league softball players will argue over such insignificant things. In view of eternity, church softball itself is quite insignificant. But, arguing for 5 minutes over whether the infield fly rule should be called seems to be a particular waste of time.

Throwing bats/gloves, even cussing, seem especially out of place. Thankfully, such displays of childishness are rare. But, they should be absent altogether.

We once had a player die from a pulmonary embolism the night before the championship game. His father, who also played on our team, wanted to play the game rather than postponing it, so we honored his preference. We were extremely flat and disengaged, and proceeded to lose the game. No one cared. Death has a way of reminding you of what is truly important in life.

In our church softball league, players are not, generally speaking, hyper-competitive. I struggle with how competitive to be. I, of course, want to win, but I try to keep a proper perspective. In sports, I think Christians should strive to excel, but should do so with a humble spirit and friendly demeanor. I entirely admit, though, that this is a difficult balance to achieve.

I don’t know how many more seasons I will play church league softball. The only softball-related goal I have not yet achieved is hitting an out of the park home run. Maybe I will “retire” when/if my last remaining goal is achieved. Maybe I will “retire” once I no longer enjoy playing. Whatever the case, if there is a lesson we should all learn from church softball, and any other church league sport, perhaps it is that, as Christians, winning a game is absolutely not worth causing even one person to stumble spiritually. If my attitude in church softball pushes one person away from Christ, I will never play church softball again (Romans 14:13; 1 Corinthians 8:13).

S. Michael Houdmann

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What can we learn from church softball?