Pastor Blake Williams
Missions & Outreach Pastor, Shiloh Community Church
As most of you know, I was a baseball player in college. When people ask what position I played, I often joke that I was a cheerleader. My first year was what’s known as a redshirt year where you don’t lose a year of eligibility but you’re still on the team. The idea behind it is that you get acclimated to the skill level of college baseball, your team, coaches, and a full 56 game schedule.
I did this not because I didn’t think I was capable of competing but because my brother had told me it was a good idea and he wished he would’ve done it. That summer I went back to play summer baseball in Colorado and ended up tearing my labrum in my second to last game of the summer. I went from throwing 89MPH in my second to last start to 80-82MPH in my last start. I lost almost 10MPH in one week and also had a lot of pain in my shoulder.
Going into my sophomore season we had 15 pitchers on our roster. For a college team this is a few too many for people to get a lot of work. For the first few weeks of the season I didn’t even get called on to warm up for a game, much less go in. Then I got the call. In our third game against #12 Georgia, we were going for the series sweep and it wasn’t going well. Everything that had allowed us to get the first two wins in the series was going wrong in this one. Each person we put on the mound was hit around like a piñata.
As I was warming up in the bullpen the first baseman for Georgia hit one of the farthest home runs I’ve ever seen in person. I’m fairly certain when they picked up the ball it had a flat spot on it. It was not exactly reassuring before going into a game.
But before I knew it I was standing on the mound at old cardinal stadium for my collegiate debut against the 12th best team in the country. In 11 pitches I managed to strike out all 3 hitters I faced and went back to the dugout floating on air. I felt no pain in my shoulder and thought that I might just be ok. In my head I thought I had arrived.
The following week in our opening game of the series our starter got in trouble early in the game. Coach Prado told me to go get warmed up and be ready to come in the following inning. My first few pitches felt fine, and then I went to throw my first changeup; a slower pitch used to mess up the hitter’s timing and the pitch I had used to strike out all three hitters the previous week. My catcher didn’t even come out of his crouch when I threw the ball a good 15 feet over his head. “What was that?” he asked. I didn’t know, that had never happened before. [Tried again. Same result.] I decided I would avoid that pitch for the day and hope that everything went ok. It didn’t.
The first batter I faced hit a home run off me. The next guy hit a ground ball to our 3rd baseman which he threw over our first baseman head for an error. Third batter hit a ground ball to our 2nd baseman that should’ve been a double play but instead went under his glove and into the outfield for a base hit. I got pulled.
As I looked down at my hand, I noticed it shaking and asked my trainer about it. He poked my fingers and asked if I could feel it. “Not really” I said. He then pressed on my forearm which sent shooting pains up to my shoulder and down to my hand. It was pretty clear I felt that. It turns out I had damaged the nerves in my throwing arm and my season. And most of my college career was over.
I threw twice more that season, sat out my entire Junior year, and then threw a grand total of 1 inning in my senior season. Most of my time was spent on the bench celebrating the successes of my friends and teammates, and there were a lot of them. During my senior season. we broke almost every school record there was and had a magical run to the College World Series. It was one of the most enjoyable experiences of my life.
I still love celebrating other people’s successes and even more so now because many of the people in my life are doing incredible ministry. My friend, Chris, in Nebraska is planting churches all over the state that are leading people to Jesus in droves. Our friends and partners in South Sudan are making the best of a terrible situation by planting 36 different churches in the refugee camps where they are living. Desert Springs Bible Church has a daycare that teaches hundreds of kids every year about Jesus. Heritage Church finally got into their new building and no longer has to do church out of a box. Bell Road Church is working with a community theater to bring people onto their campus. The list could go on and on.
The reason I share this is that we live in such a negative and jealous culture. It’s easy for us to look at what other people have or what they’re doing and get bitter or resentful that we don’t have those things or that we’re not doing things as big and cool as they are. But I’ve chosen to celebrate what God is doing in and through the people in my life. As I see these things I try to let the people know that I’m excited for them, thankful for what they’re doing, and ask if I can pray. Those simple things are a huge encouragement to anyone.
Who’s successes can you celebrate today?