Friday, April 20, 2007

My pastor is way-cool -- for a Cubs fan

“Dave, body of Christ, given for you. And don’t forget about the draft at 3:30 today.”

“Amen, Pastor. And I’ll be there.”

It’s safe to say that the liturgy from last week’s Holy Communion was amended slightly. But how cool is my pastor?

I knew Pastor Paul was an inspirational speaker and mentor before we formally joined our church three years ago. What I didn’t know was that he’s a huge baseball fan – which only makes him more inspirational in my household.

He’s a Cubs fan, but that’s OK because it’s not like Cubbies are ever a threat in our Mets-centric world. And clearly, the team isn’t favored from above because we pray for it each week and, well, it’s still the Cubs.

And Pastor Paul always has my back – sometimes a little too aggressively. Last year I was pitching in a coed softball game and I heard a voice riding the umpire something fierce.

The Man in Blue shot me a look that said, “You’d better quiet that guy down or I’m going to squeeze this strike zone so much that it’s narrower than the ball.”

I looked over and it was Pastor Paul, standing behind the backstop, arguing balls and strikes.

So I confess it was more out of loyalty than anything else that I joined a fantasy baseball league he founded last year.

Before you start mocking, there are some things you need to know. I’m a reformed rotisserie guy.

I was big into rotisserie baseball back in 1987 when it was actually cool. And I got a sense that it was important to maintain the activity when I was hired at the Flint Journal three years later.

I made this observation after a fair part of the job interview consisted of rotisserie questions. I like to think that my clips were so strong that the editors had already decided to hire me and were just filling time. But that’s probably not the case.

And, as Will and I learned, the old-timers liked when newcomers joined the league – but weren’t as keen when we win it three years in a row. This led to some unpleasantness and there were some other assorted issues, and I swore off fantasy baseball forever.

But Pastor approached me last year, and he was so excited that I couldn’t turn him down.

It’s not your typical fantasy league. We draft players and assemble lineups and rotations, and a computer program simulates games using stats from the previous year.

This eliminates those “Is it wrong to cheer for my guy when he hits a homer against my real-life favorite team” debates.

The program also allows us to add two Hall-of-Famers, and uses an average of the player’s seven best seasons.

I went into this with a pretty simple strategy: Draft as many Mets as possible and absolutely no Yankees. Goodness knows that Yankee taint can ruin even a pretend team.

Naturally, my two Hall-of-Famers were Tom Seaver and Willie Mays. And I was able to snag Carlos Delgado, David Wright, Tom Glavine, Paul LoDuca, John Maine, Jose Valentin, Darren Oliver, Lastings Milledge and even Scott Kazmir (who I pretend is still a Met).

I did get stuck with one Skankee, Bobby Abreu, who was still a Phillie when I drafted him last year. I also have Jimmy Rollins just for the sheer irony of it all. Consider it reaching out the unchurched.

Now, I don’t want you to think that I belong to some strange church that puts baseball before everything else. Pastor Paul is as passionate about reaching out to the underprivileged as he is to the Cubs, and I’ve never seen a minister so skilled at reaching out to young people.

His lessons bring the Bible to life like no one I've ever seen, and he's been so encouraging as I try to work with our church's youth groups and share with the teens the wonderful things God as done in my life.

And I don’t know how he does it, but he somehow senses when I’m feeling down and knows just how to lift me up again.

Unless, of course, I’m on the mound and behind in the count and an oversensitive umpire is behind the plate.


Anonymous said...

Your Pastor's compassion for the Cubs reminds me of a phrase I heard years ago: The World will end when the little bears form the Windy City take the Flag." Hope it's not true, after the Red Sox, anything is possible!!!

Anonymous said...

PS that was from T. Wild GB, owner of Unicorns and other assorted delusional friends!