Cover Story

Finding the strike zone

"Finding the strike zone" Continued...

Issue: "Agony and ecstasy," April 7, 2012

I asked Affeldt how he gets along with San Francisco's powerful gay contingent. Affeldt's goal is to "love them as my neighbor. Then hopefully in my love for them they will have a situation where they can find Jesus." He's "gotten to know a few people from the community, and they are in a lot of pain," in part because they "feel judged." He said homosexuality is a sin but he doesn't lead with that fact.

Listen to Marvin Olasky interview Justin Masterson and Jeremy Affeldt on WORLD's radio news magazine The World and Everything in It.

Father-son memories

Masterson said his dad "set a great example for me, as did my mother, of how to love Christ and love others."

I called Masterson's father to ask about bringing up Justin, who was "not a perfect child, but good." The primary parenting key, Mark Masterson said, was "trusting God." Second came involvement-playing catch, serving as an assistant coach-without making demands: no special traveling teams with extended seasons, just regular baseball. (Justin Masterson recalled, "It was never the 'you need to do this.' It was, 'you enjoy it, let's do it.'")

Dad and boy both told me about one favorite memory, a Bethel College tournament game. Bethel trailed 2-1. Justin was at bat with a man on. Mark yelled encouragement from the stands. Justin replied, "This one's for you, Dad"-and he hit a game-winning homerun. Justin: "It was the most incredible experience-just having my dad there and screaming it out and being able to do it at that moment. ... It has been a blessing to be able to play the game of baseball, and now I get paid to do it." - Marvin Olasky

Five favorite evangelical interviewees

Outfielder Andy Van Slyke was the first Christian major leaguer I interviewed two decades ago. The first two players up for the Los Angeles Dodgers in a March 7 Tempe training game this year were Tony Gwynn Jr. and Jerry Hairston Jr., both sons of major leaguers, but then came Scott Van Slyke, one of Andy's four children.

That brought back memories. On average, Christians in baseball are not more epistemologically articulate than the general populace-many belong to the "big man upstairs" school of theology-but some have thought through their faith and its implication. Here are comments from five who impressed me:

John Smoltz on why Christian schools are important-"Kids need the ability to differentiate between evolution and Christian understanding. ... They need the weapons to defend Christianity, to be able to understand and debate the differences between religions, to know what's happening in the world and how to compete." (See "Throwing heat and taking heat," Aug. 3, 2002.)

Mike Easler, a star hitter who became a Baptist minister and hitting coach-"My job is to mold a guy, teach him to be humble. I pray that God will work on him so he will change not just on the outside but on the inside." (See "The 'Hit Man' returns," Sept. 5, 1998.)

Harold Reynolds "Christians who play passively haven't gone deep enough into Scripture. Biblical meekness has nothing to do with weakness; you're meek before the Lord by glorifying Him, and that means using all the talent He's given you, and the only way to do that is by playing hard."

Curt Schilling, who professed Christ in 1997 but didn't talk about the change with reporters and fans until 2004-"I've learned that you should never hide your faith. I wasted seven years. People didn't know." (See "Public profession," March 19, 2005.)

Andy Van Slyke "Before I became a Christian my baseball life was such a roller coaster-good days, bad days-that it was wearing me out. ... But God doesn't save us because of our performance, and whether it's a good performance or a bad performance it's not going to threaten our relationship with God. That's a comforting thing to know." - Marvin Olasky

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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