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Labor Day

"Labor Day" Continued...

Issue: "Warrior class," Aug. 28, 2010

Susan and I saw determination even at the ballpark: Some older people could barely walk up the stairs, but the Brewers were so important to them that they still attend games. We also noticed a baseball work ethic: The prime slugger of the visiting Texas Rangers was Josh Hamilton, once a top draft choice and then a drug addict who fell out of baseball for three years. But, as Hamilton testifies, Christ changed his heart: He dropped drugs and got himself back in shape. That put him in a position to hit a homerun that was important in a game his team won 4-3.

Less sensational Ranger efforts also made a difference. George Will's Men at Work has a good reminder about the mundane: "In baseball, everyone cheers the batter who knocks in the winning run in the bottom of the 9th. But just as important to the win was the player who laid down a perfect bunt to move the man to scoring position, or even the guy who dutifully backed up a throw and prevented the other team from scoring an extra run earlier in the game."

The Brewers' top hitter in past years, Prince Fielder, had that chance to knock in the winning run. Fielder, a first baseman with 260 pounds of official weight who looks even larger, had already struck out three times. He came up with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the 9th-and he popped up. Maybe much of the weight is genetic-his dad, Cecil Fielder, was also enormous-but if he's not in the best shape he can be, he's stealing from his team and from the fans. Even in the Garden of Eden Adam did not lie around.

St. Louis's new Busch Stadium has a great view past centerfield of downtown buildings and the Gateway Arch. Among those who sat with us were Steve and Anessa Odum, parents of four children (see "Foreign relations," July 17). The game wasn't tense-the Cardinals drowned the visiting Seattle Mariners, 9-3-so the chatting was easy.

Steve Odum has been in the Air Force for 17 years and has flown 200 combat missions over Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Balkans-although he modestly doesn't like to call them "combat" because he was flying transport and cargo planes (still seems extraordinary to me). I asked him whether he felt "called" to this activity, and he responded, "In our culture 'calling' has such a ring of finality. . . . Until God tells me otherwise, I believe this is where He wants me right now, and thus it is my calling."

Major leaguers play with thousands and sometimes millions of eyes upon them. Even so, small details under­appreciated by most spectators-for example, a batter advancing a runner on second by hitting a ground ball to the right side of the infield-make a big difference. Odum noted that people in the military also learn the importance of not blowing off small things: "We use checklists heavily [because] failing to have attention to detail can be so costly. A few years ago, an F-15 crashed on takeoff because a mechanic crossed a couple of wires in the flight controls."

I quoted to him the comment by John Updike about those who play on losing teams before small crowds toward the end of the season "when the only thing at stake is the tissue-thin difference between a thing done well and a thing done ill." Odum replied, "We call it 'attention to detail' and it's tied in to concepts of professionalism, responsibility, and even integrity. It means caring for every small detail of a task while not losing the big picture; doing a job right and making such a habit of it that you do it that way every time even when no one else is watching and there is no chance of being found out."

Odum noted, "In the Air Force the best pilots I know do nothing brilliantly, but they do everything right. We have a saying, 'Superior pilots use their superior judgment to stay out of situations requiring them to demonstrate their superior skill.' Top Gun is a movie about Navy pilots, but it provides a great case study. I'd take the steady Ice Man over the mercurial Maverick character any day."

And what about those who serve at home? Hear Anessa Odum: "As for my calling . . . that would be raising and educating our four kiddos. The things that make the difference are the responses I make to the day-to-day happenings in our household: Do I lose my temper when I step on another misplaced Lego block, or when I find my 3-year-old dipping toilet paper into the toilet for fun?" Moment-by-moment responses make or break a home: "Do I fail? Often! . . . My children have wills of their own, which I pray God will bend to His will. And they are most times very gracious to their imperfect mama. And God is in control of all. My faith and hope are in Him and His perfect will for those who seek Him."

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