Christians could learn something from this KC Royal
Don HinklePathway Editor
March 16, 2004
Amid the disappointment produced by the plethora of recent government and judicial actions affirming homosexual “marriage” and the shock ignited by the buffoonery dressed up as shameless public relations “spin” coming out of Missouri Baptist College and The Missouri Baptist Foundation concerning a judge’s ruling (that does not end the legal case between the Missouri Baptist Convention and five of its renegade agencies), comes Anthony (Tony) Joseph Graffanino.
Sometimes a much-needed breath of fresh air can come from an unexpected place.
The other day I was reading a collection of Major League Baseball stories on the Internet when I happened to encounter an article published in The Kansas City Star. It was about the Royals’ off-season acquisition of Graffanino and what the versatile infielder will bring to this year’s team. Royals’ manager Tony Pena held nothing back while explaining why KC wanted Graffanino.
“He’s a professional who brings an intensity to everything he does,” Pena told The Star’s Bob Dutton. “He’s not a rah-rah guy. He’s a guy who goes out plays hard and you know what you’re going to get from him.
“He’s what I call a dirty player. He gets dirty.”
Being called “dirty” in the context in which Pena was speaking is the ultimate compliment for a baseball player. Being “dirty” means you are “sold-out.” Willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done – even if it means sacrificing your body.
“He’s a guy who will run through a wall for you,” Pena said. “He’s a guy who knows what it takes to win a ballgame.”
Now understand, Pena was not talking about someone who commands a gazillion-dollar contract like an Alex Rodriguez or Albert Pujols. Graffanino, 31, is a lifetime .258 hitter who has bounced around between four big-league teams over the past nine years. He is not particularly fast, stands barely six-feet tall and might weigh 190 if his back pockets are full of rocks. Two years ago he severely injured a knee, making some people doubt that he would ever play again.
Yet Graffanino had some lucrative offers after his contract with the Chicago White Sox expired at the end of the 2003 season. He did not have to come to Kansas City . He could have accepted a more financially lucrative offer from the Boston Red Sox, a team many baseball curmudgeons say has far more talent than the Royals and is a World Series contender.
But Graffanino turned them down. Why?
He told Dutton it was because the Royals play as a team and play with “passion.” Now there’s a word Christians are hearing a lot about these days. Oh, and there was another reason, too, which brings me to why Graffanino got my attention during a busy news week.
He understands what it means for someone to lay down their body as a living sacrifice — literally.
“I’m a Christian, and there are a ton of Christians on this team,” he said, referring to the Royals. “That definitely helps me feel a lot more comfortable. That gives me an instant connection with (first baseman) Mike Sweeney and a lot of other guys. (I could not believe The Star did not cut this part of the story. The secular news media usually do.)
“It felt easy to come over to this clubhouse and fit in,” Graffanino continued, “because people here are like I feel I am – a guy who cares about winning, about playing the game the right way, playing hard regardless of the score. Just do it right. Do it hard. And play to win.”
When I read that I wanted to shout. I was ready to charge out of my office and beat the New York Yankees by myself.
My love of baseball notwithstanding, perhaps there is another way to look at what Graffanino said, particularly from the perspective of the Christian faith.
Imagine what could be accomplished if 600,000 Missouri Southern Baptists exhibited the same attitude toward the cause of Christ as Graffanino does to the cause of the Royals.
Three qualities in Graffanino’s approach to baseball jumped out at me as I began to think about what he said in the context of Missouri Baptist life.
First, he clearly has a “passion” for the game. Do Missouri Baptists have a passion for Christ? Graffanino’s passion brought James 1:1 to mind: “James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Are we sold-out bondservants of God and His Son? The notion of such a thing in today’s culture is so foreign that the word “bondservant” has become virtually extinct. Take some time to study the term, “bondservant.” Pastors, it will flat-out preach.
Second, Graffanino is dedicated to winning, but not at the sacrifice of his integrity. Notice what he said: “Do it right. Do it hard. And play to win.” Notice what he mentioned first. Graffanino does not need steroids to succeed. His approach is to train and practice hard and give 100 percent when the opportunity arises. Do Missouri Baptists go about kingdom business, giving little thought to integrity? Do we short-change our Lord by not giving 100 percent to Him every day? Do we exhibit a pessimistic attitude? Christians ought to be the most optimistic people in the world; for we know how it all ends. As the great old hymn says, “Victory in Jesus my savior forever … .”
Third, he is glad to be a Royal because there are other Christians on the team and he realizes that there is strength to be gained amid the fellowship of the saints. Hebrews 10:24-25 says: “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”
Opening Day is approaching and I for one am glad that Tony Graffanino is a Kansas City Royal. I appreciate his approach to the sport for which God has equipped him and I find his willingness to openly discuss his Christian faith inspirational.
Let us ask God to raise-up a mighty team of Missouri Baptists who will “do it right, do it hard” and “play to win.”
March 18, 2004