At 11:30 a.m. on Sunday, June 8, ten Angels sitting on folding chairs in an unadorned room beneath the stadium stands heard 12 good minutes of expository preaching from Baptist minister Chris Lane. At noon 15 Marlins in their family lounge heard essentially the same message, which concerned chapter two of John's first epistle. Mr. Lane critiqued superstition posing as Christianity, saying, "If you're coming to Chapel so you can get a hit, you're coming for the wrong reason." He emphasized the importance of confronting sin every hour and repenting when falling into it.
Mr. Lane urged his listeners not to become unduly weighed down by sin, since Christ has paid for it and when believers confess, they are eternally forgiven. The minister then offered a metaphor about maintaining balance: "If you're a good hitter you'll still be out 7 of 10 times, but you don't go up to bat and take three weak swings, thinking this is one of the seven. You think, I'm going to get a hit this time-but you're not crushed if you don't get one."
Players in major- and minor-league Baseball Chapels throughout the country were also hearing an exposition of 1 John 2 that Sunday-and some could make their own practical applications in regard to the epistle's emphasis on sin, repentance, substitutionary atonement, and mercy. Marlins closer Looper knows about temptation and tries to avoid it: "I pray and I also play-I carry PlayStation with me and play that a lot in the hotel, that keeps me out of trouble." Tim Salmon, the Angels's second Baseball Chapel leader, discussed visible problems like pornography in the clubhouse-"most places it's in the bathroom, and sometimes guys take it out and leave it around.... Seattle is the worst, with huge bins there."
But the thoughtful Salmon noted that subtler sins such as pride may be greater dangers, and he discussed the problem of balance: "My greatest periods of spiritual growth have occurred when I've struggled.... It was very bad in 2001 [he batted only .227] and I was praying, people in church were praying for me, but things didn't get better on the field. I did learn a lot about staying disciplined, continuing to try, not going sleepless ... I had praised the Lord for successes, but when you're praying to get through the next game, it's more intense." Last year Mr. Salmon was the Sporting News's A.L. Comeback Player of the Year.
Christianity, it seems, does not help players to get hits. It helps them stay balanced when they don't get hits.