Thursday, April 24, 2008

Running Journal from Royals Chapel

Today at Midwestern there was a special chapel service. It was a "Royals Chapel" with guest speakers Dayton Moore and Trey Hillman. It was a really interesting chapel and I took notes so that I could reflect on it here.

Dayton Moore is the Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations and General Manager of the Royals. He previously worked for the Atlanta Braves as an Assistant General Manager/Baseball Operations. He's originally from Kansas and was a graduate from George Mason University.

Trey Hillman is the Manager. Prior to this position, he spent five years managing the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters in Japan. He led the team to the 2006 Japan League Series Championship. He's originally from Texas and was a graduate from the University of Texas-Arlington.

The format of the chapel was an dialogue between Dayton, Trey and the president of the seminary Dr. Philip Roberts. Dr. Roberts would ask a question and then each would answer the question. Prior to the quesitons, we sung some worship music and also did a rendition of Take Me Out to the Ballgame and God Bless America

The first topic discussed was their backgrounds. Trey answered first. He talked about how he played college ball at UT Arlington. After college, he went undrafted. He prayed to God about this because he felt that baseball was his calling (he mentioned that coming out of high school he could have been selected in the 1st or 2nd round by the Pittsburgh Pirates but he got a scholarship). He ended up signing with the Cleveland Indians organization and spent three seasons reaching as high as Double AA. After seeking some council from some of the managers he played under, he took a position as a scout. He later spent 12 years working in the New York Yankees minor league system as a manager. He then spent a year as a player coordinator for the Texas Rangers before going to Japan as a manager. He also talked about how he came to know Christ. He grew up in a family that were believers. He would accept Christ as he savior at 13. He also mentioned how he learned to play the guitar (not very well) and that he helped lead worship in high school and college at Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) meetings.

Dayton talked about how he loved baseball. He went to junior college and after there he went to George Mason and played there as well. After college, he coached at his alma mater along with coaching summer ball. He then took a job as a scout for the Atlanta Braves (although initally he turned the job down). He worked his way up to the front office before coming to K.C.

They were asked next how they handle pressure of their jobs. Trey responded first by mentioning he takes things "one day at a time". He emphasized the importance of balance. Balance is something he talks about regularly with his players not just physically but also spiritually. He talked about how his experience in Japan helped him develop more patience. He then remarked about how his relationship was Dayton was important and how he's an encouragment to him. He used the analogy of when Jesus sent people out he did it in twos, he didn't send them out alone. He then shared about how at the first homestand of the year (while the team was doing great), they had their first baseball chapel and there was only two players that attended. He then said even though they got swept in Oakland, he was really excited on that trip because at the chapel held they had nine players. He also mentioned how he reads James 3 a lot and that he talked about how on that trip there was a team meeting and that he used a few "choice words" and was convicted by that. He said that Satan challenges him by trying to convince him that to make his message to his players stronger he should use those kind of words. The next day he apologized in front of the whole team.

Dayton first talked about stressing the importance of being the Word to help deal with the pressures. He mentioned how after the huge 15-1 loss, the first thing he did when he got home was saw his kids to bed then went downselves and prayed over them. He talked about how for him he needed to remimber his most important responsiblity is being a husband and father and to glorify God.

They then were asked to mention a passage in the Bible very important to them. Trey reinterated James 3. He also mentioned another favorite was I Corinthians 13 and in particular verse 13: "So faith, hope, and love abide, but the greatest of these is love" (ESV). He mentions how he uses that verse in talking to non-believers. He asks them this question: "Where would we be without faith and hope (if those two words didn't exist)?" He then commented how he wasn't afraid to get close to his players even though he's been hurt sometimes because of it.

Dayton spoke on how for him it's Philippians 2:3: "Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. (ESV)". He also mentioned about in Matthew it talks about how the greatest among you must be last. He stressed the importance about being humble and made the statement "When kings start acting like kings, there comes along new kings."

They were asked their most memorable moment while in baseball. Trey joked how one of his his "redneck friends" asked him if he "Googled" himself (which he said no). He said for him the most memorable moment (which supposedly is on YouTube) is when he was in Japan and was arguing through an interpreter to a Japanese umpire. He mentioned how he would have to pause in the middle of arguing and how it took steam out of the argument and that he would get madder because of it. He mentioned how he told his interpreter to try and use the same tone and reflection that he did. The funny thing was later Trey had to pull the interpreter off because he got too excited. The interpreter then told Trey "If you were Japanese manager, he wouldn't disrespect you like that!"

Dayton talked about his most memorable moment came in 2001 when he was working with the Braves. He helped to oversee overseas scouting. He took a trip to Latin America as part of this. He said that it left an indellible mark on him to see the area and interact with the people there.

Dr. Roberts then threw out the question "Has a seminary professor made the pros?" The two laughed and Trey answered "No". He then shared the story about during spring training a friend of both his and Dayton's visited camp. His name is Tim Cash and he's a strong believer. Tim asked Trey about how he could pray for him. Trey then said about how he relates to umpires. Tim said that Trey should pray about that too. The second thing Trey said was he wanted to laugh more. Tim said he could help with that. The next day, a friend of Tim's came to visit the camp. It was Jeff Foxworthy who spent 20 minutes speaking with the team and had everyone laughing.

The next question asked was about family. Trey talked about how his wife is so important to him. She is the "super glue" of the family. He then talked about how his father is his mentor and how he still asks for his advice on things. He mentioned how it is always challenging to be the spiritual leader when he's separated from his family. He said how for him the times spent together as family as quality time. For the time being, his wife and kids are back in Texas and if and when the time comes, then he'll move them to Kansas City. (Dayton joked how he was going to use this summer when the kids visit to help them find a bunch of friend here along with getting a girlfriend for Trey's son).

Dayton as well mentioned how family is important to him. He talked about how his wife keeps him humble. He then talked about with his job now he gets to spend more time at home than when he was in Atlanta. He travels with the team 1/3rd of the time. He then talked about how he prays for Trey and his staff and their families because Dayton knows how hard it is for them to be away from their families.

Dayton then talked about how those who succeed the most in baseball are "those who manage failure the best." He mentioned the atmosphere in the clubhouse and how he's glad to have a manager like Trey who is open about his faith. He then talked about Brian Bannister, pitcher, and how he's becoming one of the leaders of the clubhouse and how his walk is a testimony to some of the other players.

They were then asked about their thoughts on the future of baseball. Trey mentioned how baseball is a resilient game and that though there will be a black mark on the sport, it will rebound. He said that he believed that there are direct parallels between the game of baseball and the game of life and also that "nobody is bigger than the game". He then talked about how he loves visiting stadiums, many of which are new to him. He said it was funny how reporters would ask him "So what do think about coming back to _______?" and he would be like "I've been in Japan for five years." He also mentioned how he would enjoy just sitting at the K for hours just looking at the field.

Dayton talked about how there is a unified effort with the players and management to deal with the issue. He then talked about how most of the world views America through Hollywood, which is of course not how most of America truly is. He applies this to how players are viewed. We expect more of them then what we expect of ourselves and that they're just as human as we are.

Dr. Roberts finished the questioning by asking how we could pray for them. The two each shared some requests and then we prayed for them. Afterwards, there were some giveaways. I ended up with a Royals T-Shirt and a refrigerator magnet.

It was a really refreshing to hear their testimonies. It was also really encouraging to me. I'm glad to know that they are in the postitions they are in and the influence that they have. I hope that they continue to reflect God in their words and actions and that their ultimate success is their walk with Jesus.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

"Air" McNair is Officially Grounded

Today as I was procrastinating (yes I do that) on a paper, I came across the headline that Steve McNair, great NFL quarterback, has called it a career. To me it is a sort of sad day. The reasoning he gave was that his body just wouldn't allow him to play anymore.

He will always be remembered as a tough quarterback. His great years were with the Tennessee Titans (my team of course). I watched him as the team moved to Tennessee from Houston become the starter and develop into a top QB. The Super Bowl season in 1999 was simply a work of art. Though they lost in that game to the Rams, one of the defining plays in his career came in that game. In the last minutes of the game, he rolled out and was trying to buy time for someone to get open. A Rams player tried to sack him, but McNair simply wouldn't go down. He wrestled away from the guy and threw a strike down the field and completed the pass setting up that final play. That play still amazes me.

McNair was a guy who wanted to play in spite of injuries. During his career, he was labeled as a "warrior", as someone who continued to fight regardless of how he felt physically. I always admired him for his toughness and his ability to play and play well. I was sad when he was cut and signed with the Baltimore Ravens (cause people who know me, know I don't like the Ravens at all) but I still rooted for McNair.

In my mind, he is what you would consider a "professional". When it was time to play, he gave you everything he had. Is he perfect? No. He did have his problems off the field but he did own up to them.

His career to me is a testament to perseverance. It reminds me that even when times are hard or I'm hurting so bad, I just have to keep going and press on. As a follower of Jesus, there will be suffering and trials but the goal at the end is so worth it.

We will miss you Steve. You're a Hall of Famer in my book

Monday, April 14, 2008

First MLB Game of the Year...In Review

So I went to my first MLB game of the year this past Saturday. It was actually the second time I've went to a Royals game. The first was last year when I was in town for a campus tour of Midwestern.

I went with a friend from seminary to watch the Royals take on the Minnesota Twins. It was also Powder Blue Jersey Giveaway Night. For those that don't know or remember, the Royals used to wear powder blue jerseys on the road back from about the early 70s until about 1991. It was also during that time that they were really good. So they decided this year to bring them back (a little redesigned) as an alternate home jersey. And to commerate that, they had last Saturday be the debut with the first 20,000 fans getting a free Billy Butler powder blue jersey (he's their designated hitter).

The first pitch was at 6:10pm. We left campus around 3:20pm (it takes roughly 30 minutes to get to the stadium from campus. Now, Kauffman Stadium (known as "The K" to people here) is just outside the city in the same complex as Arrowhead Stadium (where the NFL team, the Chiefs plays). When we got there, we ended parking way on the other side of the complex and walked basically the length of the complex to get to The K. When we got there (around 3:45pm) there were already huge lines of people waiting to get in. The gates were set to open around 4:00 (roughly 2 hours before the game starts). I went over to the box office and stood in a fairly shorter line because I had to pick up the tickets at Will Call. When I finally got to the ticket booth and gave my ID to the lady, I hear this sound from behind me. I knew exactly what happened, they opened the gates. I got the tickets and made my way back to my friend who was already in the big line. After several minutes of marching forward without trying to get run over, we got inside and got the free jerseys. With that out of the way, we were able to go to our seat and relax.

The seats were in the outfield plaza area, basically right near left field by the foul pole. They were good seats. Now, here comes the comparison game. I spent three years in Seattle, so I got spoiled by Safeco Field. Here are some comparisons between the two stadiums (granted one is 30 something years old and is getting renovated as we speak and the other is only like 7 years old):

Safeco Field: in the city so one can find free parking after 6:00pm, food vendors are outside the stadium so one can pick up food on the way to the ballpark, two words: garlic fries, nice comfy seats with cup holders, not a bad view in the stadium

The K: only parking essentially is at the stadium complex, no food vendors outside so you either bring it with you or get it inside, no garlic fries, somewhat cramp seats if the stadium is full, no cup holders, not a bad view in the stadium (that I've noticed so far)

Now that the comparison is out of the way, they are remodeling the stadium with it supposed to be finished by the All-Star break of next year. The one key upgrade they do have in place now is Crown Vision, the huge 90 foot HD video screen they have in center field. I swear that thing is huge. You can see it outside the stadium when you're driving by on the freeway (I-70). That view doesn't do it justice when you're inside. It was simply just huge. So if the rest of the improvements compare with that video screen, it'll be a good thing.

Okay, onto the game. Needless to say, the weather wasn't baseball weather. It was like 40 degrees at first pitch and dropping. It felt more like football weather and I dressed the part as well with several layers of clothing. It ended up being a pitcher's duel and the Royals ended up on the losing end 2-0. There were several things that stood out during the game:

One, Twins fans when they come to Kansas City are a lot more rowdy and antagonsitic than they are when they're in Seattle. Mainly because it's a division rival. There were several fans that were just annoying and it didn't help that there were some Royals fans that were egging them on. Which brings me to...

Two, though the Royals haven't been as good as in the past, they have some rowdy fans. I think it might be that laidback Northwest mentality but Mariners fans aren't as easily beligerant at least when it comes to the other team. They will if pushed far enough, or if it's like the Yankees or the Angels. But otherwise they just cheer for their own team. And it may be it's just because it's a division rival but it seemed Royals fans can get a little rowdy. We'll see how the season goes and if that is a trend or not...

Finally, three, in game entertainment is different between Seattle and K.C. At the game, they had a real easy hat game (you know, ball in hat, follow ball, pick which hat has the ball), a lawnmower race game on the big screen, a way easy trivia game, and one person picked the music for the next inning (kind of like they do in Seattle sometimes, only there it's done by texting on cell phones). They did have two cool things during the game. One was their traditional hot dog race. The other was on the big screen they had Garth Brooks (wearing a powder blue Royals jersey) lead everyone in "Friends in Low Places". I was disappointed that after the 7th inning stretch, there wasn't a fun song played like they do in Seattle (they play Louie, Louie).

Overall, it was fun. I hope to take in a few more games (preferably when the Mariners and Red Sox come to town) but we'll see. Here are some pictures from the game:

This is the view from my seat looking at the new Crown Vision (the HD video screen)

The grounds crew getting ready to take the tarp off the infield

The Twins warming up pre-game

Old 80s highlight of Harold Reynolds of the Mariners at the old Kingdome...about to get thrown out at the plate by the great Bo Jackson

The great Bo Jackson shown on highlights promoting the old Powder Blue jerseys

Royals getting ready for the first pitch in their new Powder Blue uniforms

The view of Crown Vision during the game. Crazy all the stats they have on that board (the other board that has the out of town scores is on the left field wall, it's a video wall as well)

The replay of the Hot Dog Race. Mustard took a spill (seen here) as Relish easily took the victory...

Garth Brooks as he's getting ready to lead the crowd in "Friends in Low Places"

Royals getting ready for the pitch

The Royals lost...but the fans won a free coke or coffee and a Snickers Bar at Circle K stores because the Royals struck out 6 batters

Here's me with my new free Royals jersey

So this is my first report from a game. I'll do these every so often on here. It should be fun.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Utility Player and the Ministry

As I was walking from chapel yesterday, a thought came to my mind. And of course it involved sports. There have been times in my life (this being one of them), where in a sense I'm "riding the bench" waiting for a spot to open up regarding a ministry position whether it be while I'm in seminary or waiting until I graduate. It reminds me a lot of a utility player.

For those who don't know, a utility player is a term that comes from baseball. It is a player who can play multiple positions but doesn't start. He usually is a fill in for a starter either because of injury or for rest. They are talented players because they can play multiple positions but they aren't in a place to be a starter at any one position.

There are times in our lives where we fill in where we are needed in the church until we find the right place where we fit and where we will "start". Sometimes that is a quick find, other times it may take years. It doesn't mean those that are "utility players" are any less important than the "starters". It means that we need to be flexible to what God has called for us while were in that utility role so that when the right "starting" position becomes available, we'll be ready for it.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Baseball and Hope

It's April and that can mean two things. It's spring and baseball season is here. After three "opening days" (one in Japan and one in Washington D.C. and then one for everyone else), baseball season has officially begun. The excitement of a brand new season is in the air. Every team and every fan encouraged and excited that this could be their year.

Growing up in a non-MLB team area, the anticipation and excitement surrounding a new season was a foreign concept to me. The closest teams were the Cincinatti Reds, the Atlanta Braves, or the St. Louis Cardinals, and those were hundreds of miles away. It wasn't until I moved to Seattle that I got to really experience it first hand. There is a buzz in and around the city. You watch commercials on TV promoting the team. You hear sports talk radio hosts giving their two cents on how they think things will be great for the team. When you get to the stadium, people are chattering about how good they feel about this team and the situation they're in.

Granted when I was in Seattle, the Mariners were not a winning ball club. My first two years there were hard to watch and my last year there was improved but they didn't make the playoffs then either. But every spring, there was hope. Hope that last season was history and this season would be the year.

Now, I'm in Kansas City, another MLB city. The team, the Royals, hasn't been a good team since I was in middle school. But as I listen to the radio and go around the city, I get that same buzz that I did in Seattle. That one of hope. That though things have been bad in recent memory, this year will be different. This year will be a good year.

It's a good reminder of me of what I ultimately hope in, Jesus. That no matter how bad things get here, that I have something better for me down the road. And better yet, it's guaranteed.

Hope, it's a good four letter word.